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?