This year, I have been learning so much about who I am and who God is. I’m also taking a good, hard look at the things that we value here in the United States and how those values affect what we say and do. America is a thoroughly individualist country—everything we do is centered around the individual. We see ourselves as unique and distinct, and we don’t view ourselves through the lens of the group. This has tremendous benefits but, in the middle of a massive public health crisis, it can also be to our detriment.
My country teaches me that I should look out for myself, not my community. The idea of laying down my preferences or my personal freedoms for another is absurd to many living here. Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus teaches us to do. His words often focused on laying down our lives for the least of these. He spoke of giving up what we have so we can follow him. He provided a perfect example of what living a sacrificial life looks like.
In Matthew 19, a man approaches Jesus asking him how he can inherit eternal life. He says that he has kept all of the commandments since he was young and is still wondering what he is lacking.
“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:21-23 (NIV)
I had always read these verses and focused on the money aspect: this man loved his wealth more than he loved God; what a tragedy! But I think Jesus was using this rich man as an example of a deeper problem—human nature is selfish, but when we live supernaturally we live sacrificially.
When Jesus lists out the commandments for this man to follow, he ends with “love your neighbor as yourself,” a phrase that I’ve been contemplating a lot over the past few months. The truth is that we can’t love our neighbors if we’re not willing to sacrifice something for them. It can be as simple as not blaring your television if you live in an apartment with thin walls or not leaving your dishes in the sink if it bothers your roommate. We can choose to lay down our preferences for the benefit of another because we know that the world doesn’t revolve around us. We can give our money, possessions, and time to organizations in our communities that do work that’s at the heart of God.
The Kingdom is filled with sacrifice. It’s rarely easy, almost never glamorous, and certainly stretches us out of our comfort zones, but sacrifice can also be immensely joyful. When we live sacrificially, it looks foolish to the world but is pleasing to God. After all, Jesus paved the way by offering the ultimate sacrifice—his life—so that we could be welcomed into his family.
Let’s go out of our way today, laying down our preferences, our wants, and our desires to serve someone else. Let’s live sacrificially, just like Jesus did!
What does a “sacrificial life” mean to you?
How can you serve someone else today?