Many people believe the way you make God happy with you is through sacrificing something. Now, I’m not talking about an offering on an altar, or a gift on a shrine, although that is how many people understand sacrifice. Rather, I am referring to the idea of sacrifice as something that one gives up in order to give to another. In this example, that “other” is God.
Spiritual people understand that sacrifice is a significant part of our ongoing relationship to God; we understand that the lesser always makes way for the greater, who in turn provides for and protects the lesser. In a somewhat similar way, this is how it works with kids to parents, or employees to bosses. We give up things we prefer (our time, our right to speak, our comfort, etc) to show our superiors we realize the status of the relationship. It’s not equal; its tiered.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, God demands sacrifice from His subjects in specific ways and at specific times. These sacrifices were largely external, such as an offering of livestock on an altar. After the ultimate “sacrifice” of Christ, things changed in the way God related to His followers as seen in the New Testament. But even in the New Testament, God specifies how we are to give up certain things, things we naturally want, and instead pursue things which are spiritual. The concept of sacrifice permeates the Scriptures.
Interestingly, the Proverbs tells us there is something God desires more than sacrifice:
“To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3
Righteousness and justice. Two sides of the same coin. Neither can exist without the other. A necessary duo.
We might ask ourselves: why did Solomon mention a hierarchy of what God really wants? Remember, the Lord mentions over and over and over He wanted sacrifices and only in certain ways. So why come back and say there is something more desirable than sacrfice, even to the exclusion of sacrifice?
I believe the prophet Isaiah clarified this thought perfectly when he said this:
“Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote…” Isaiah 29:13
God was looking at the heart intentions, and not merely the external performance. And He could see the people’s hearts were far from Him, even though they fastidiously executed His instructions. Which, in God’s view, makes the sacrifice anything but a sacrifice. It instead becomes a curse:
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” Proverbs 15:8
A person who religiously performs the duties of their faith but with a false heart is not righteous, but wicked. When someone lives a hypocritical life, sanctioning sin and law breaking, and then performs some flashy act of giving to God, be it verbal recognition or even a material offering, the result is worse than if they had done nothing at all.
God isn’t looking for perfect people – there are none of those – He is looking for sincere people, who genuinely desire to please Him in all their life, and not just when they are on stage or performing some public duty. He is more than willing to bless and provide for those who sacrifice, but sacrifice with righteousness and justice, with truth and sincerity.
In those things He delights!