Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christian Sacrifice as Good Business (Part 1)

The modern distillation of Christianity seems to be “Don't be selfish, be selfless.” We create a dichotomy between ‘selfishness’ and ‘selflessness’ and put all the righteousness on the selflessness end. The things that “I want” need to be eliminated for the things that “God wants.” My desires are sinful, and I need to sacrifice my desires to God.

This is more or less what we hear in Sunday school and growing up. But is it true? I recently saw a 1950’s interview with Ayn Rand and her philosophy, based on self-interest, disgusted the Christians I was watching it with. She characterizes sacrifice as evil and says that, “The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.”

We generally define sacrifice as giving up something for nothing. In the proper Christian sense, sacrifice is an exchange. It is the selling of something less valuable to get something more valuable. And usually, far more valuable. The merchant sold all that he had to buy the pearl; the man sold all that he had for the field with the treasure. And it is not just humans which make exchanges. God, too, constrains Himself and follows these principles. These parables work bi-directionally. Did not God also sell all that He had to obtain the Gentile gem, the pearl, or the field of the world containing his treasure, the Church? Not even the most 'selfless' act of the Crucifixion was giving up something for nothing; it was an exchange.

Is there every something we can ‘sacrifice’ to God that will truly impoverish us? How many of us, standing before the Pearly Gates, will have that nagging feeling that we probably helped one too many orphans? Will we regret any hour ‘sacrificed’ to pray? Will any of us deem the Kingdom for which we give our lives not good enough?


  1. David, this is a very interesting topic. I had been thinking about this idea for a while now. I think you're right when you say that there a gain for self-sacrifice (whoever will lose his life will gain it). From the Christian perspective, we are being conformed to the image of his Son, our "will" and definitions/convictions for what we see as good and gain will also change to become more like His (i recommend Romans 8--i love this passage, it never gets old!). But both Christians and non-Christians are still imperfect and sinful people, and as human beings, I would suspect that all of us have our limitations as to how much we want to and sometimes end up giving up. This may seem somewhat repetitious, but I think it's worth mentioning since I have learned again how true it really for me--the idea that is probably implicitly mentioned in your blog post is that in light of the reality of our human condition, it's the knowledge of Christ's sacrifice and the truths behind that message (e.g., the unchanging knowledge that God is good and He loves me, and the depth of which we can at least slightly understand when we see that He did not withhold but willingly gave everything), it's the experience of this truth in our lives that makes us grateful for the things we have been given and that gives us to ability to lay down everything. If someone did that for me, it would challenge any doubts of God's character and love, regardless of how much life might stink, and would make me feel so foolish about holding anything back. But because we are only human, I think it requires a daily, thoughtful meditation on the truth of Christ's sacrifice for us to truly "take up our cross and follow him." Thanks for making me think! Hope you are well.

  2. You're absolutely right. I think our lack of really believing what we "believe" keeps us from making good decisions, Christians and non-Christians alike.

    And you're welcome for making you think! :)