My neighbor and friend Bruce is fond of saying “a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless it’s a sacrifice”. The point is that unless it hurts it is hard to call something a real sacrifice. I think there is some merit to this idea. This post is about what constitutes sacrifice in our lives today.
When you ask what a sacrifice is in a Mormon Sunday School class you will often get a variation on this answer: Sacrifice is giving up something good to get something better. An example might be that it is a sacrifice to pay tithing but that sacrifice is worth it because there is a spiritual reward that is more desirable than the money given up. Of course the problem with this definition is that it really describes any commerce transaction as well. I mean $5 is a good thing; so when I give it up for something better – like say a fish taco combo meal – have I then sacrificed? Hardly.
We could amend that definition to say we give up something good expecting nothing in return. But then we read King Benjamin’s sermon where he makes it clear that whenever we give something to God he pays in full. Plus the Lord tells us that every law we obey has an inevitable blessing associated with it. So then how is sacrificing to serve God fundamentally different then me buying fish tacos?
One could say that it is a sacrifice if we must delay our reward. When I obey God I must exercise faith that someday it will pay off, even though I don’t know when. Does that delayed reward make it a sacrifice? Well if it does then anyone who invests their money in things like mutual funds is living the law of sacrifice because there are all sorts of delayed reward monetary transactions too.
How then do we sacrifice? What is sacrifice? I’m guessing sacrifice means we do something right even when it hurts. If that is the case then Bruce is right with his saying: A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it’s a sacrifice. It also means that sacrifice for us today is really a variation on repentance. We repent enough for it to hurt. We give up our greed and selfishness just quickly enough for it to be somewhat painful. We work at our church calling enough to push ourselves. We give enough to the poor in our fast offerings for it to sting a little. We do right things that we really don’t feel like doing just because they are the right things.
Yes, we will be repaid by God. But since when is that such a bad thing?