“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Greater Than Sacrifice, by Randall D. Kittle


Across the body of Christ in America the cry continually goes forth for sacrificial giving, sacrificial serving, sacrificial prayer, etc. It seems as though every call to action and plea for help requires the adjective “sacrificial” to be inserted before it. At times, it looks as if the New Testament church has more sacrifices and is more focused on them than in the Old Testament.

One reason for this is that the word “sacrifice” appeals to our egos. Not only does it make us feel better about serving, it also causes us to be more willing to become involved. Any person can make an offering, but we feel heroic when we give a “sacrificial gift.” Many people could help instruct the children at church, but who are those sold-out enough to serve sacrificially?

We like the idea of sacrifice, especially when it is packaged so conveniently as simply writing a check or volunteering once a month. It has a certain innate appeal that is nearly universal, because the idea of sacrifice appeases our pride. “I am willing to sacrifice … I’ll pray sacrificially” … we can almost hear our names being added to
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. When I sacrifice, I feel like I have somehow advanced the kingdom of God by my effort. But remember, “I” is always at the very center of pride.

This is one reason the Lord is not as impressed or desirous of sacrifice as we are — because it often originates from the place of pride. While we might love the whole idea of sacrifice, and heroically see our service and giving to the Lord in the light of the martyrs of old, the Lord does not esteem sacrifice nearly as highly as do we. Jesus Christ has already paid the ultimate sacrifice, and anything we do is slight and small in comparison.

We need to renew our minds until what we value becomes the same as what the Lord highly esteems. In the Bible, there are many things God tells us He desires more than sacrifice. The Lord treasures each of these far more than any sacrifice we could make, and they are the jewels we should seek to have adorning our lives.

It All Begins With Love
The New Testament makes it clear that all we do for God must be done out of a relationship with Him, and in love. In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that at the end of the age many will testify of how they prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles in His name. But since these things were done not out of a relationship with Him, His response to them will be, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23). God is not impressed by or drawn to the supernatural because He is supernatural, and all these things originate with Him.

Not only must we minister out of relationship with God, all that we do must be done in love. Repeatedly in the Scriptures we are commanded to follow the way of love as we walk out our salvation. The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians shows us the importance God places on loving others. Look at what it tells us in the third verse,
“And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” You might give sacrificially to feed the poor and even be a martyr for the gospel, but unless you first and foremost have love it is all worthless. To the Lord of Heaven and earth, love is far greater than sacrifice.

Love God & Love Others
In the twelfth chapter of Mark, Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment. He answered, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29–31).

Having heard Jesus’ declaration, one of the scribes replied,
“Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:32–34). Our Savior found the scribe to be wise and commended him, for he had discovered the truth that loving God and others is more precious to God than any sacrifice we could make.

In the eyes of God, true love that is expressed to Him and toward others is the principal thing, far sweeter than any sacrificial act we could do or gift we could bring. That is why Jesus taught us in Matthew 5 that being reconciled with others is more important than any other offering we could bring to the altar (see Matthew 5:23–25).

Obeying The Lord
Another attribute that is far greater to God than sacrifice is obedience. The Bible tells us this clearly in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Any person can make a sacrifice for the kingdom of God, even those who are not part of it. But continued obedience to the commands and teaching of Christ reveal His lordship in our lives.

To be a martyr means that someone was willing at a specific point in time to die for the Lord. But to walk in obedience to the Lord’s teachings means that we must be willing every day, at all times to die to our self-will and heed His lordship. Obedience pleases God because it fulfills His requirement that those who follow after Him would die daily to self-rule.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). God also delights in obedience because it is a practical demonstration that we truly love Him. “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching” (John 14:23).

To the Lord, obedience is far greater than sacrifice because it is a characteristic He created His spiritual sons and daughters to have. God is not longing for you and me to do some great, sacrificial act for Him. He is seeking to find a people who will walk in obedience and by this show that they are set a part for Him — His own special treasure.
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5–6).

Having A Thankful Heart
Thankfulness is an attribute overlooked and undervalued in America, even in the Church, but it is highly esteemed by God. Psalm 69:30–31 tells us that God values thanksgiving far greater than sacrifice. “I will praise God with a song; I will proclaim His greatness by giving Him thanks. This will please the Lord more than offering Him cattle, more than sacrificing a full-grown bull.”

While sacrifice may spring forth from a prideful heart, true thanksgiving always comes from a heart that is humble, for it appreciates what others have done and denies its own place of preeminence. The Lord esteems thankfulness as more precious than sacrifice because it has all the surrender and giving attributes of sacrifice without any of the self-elevating “martyr complex” attached to it. In fact, according to God’s Word, thanksgiving is the kind of sacrifice the Lord is truly seeking.
“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:21–22).

Let us ask the Lord to renew our hearts and minds, so that we can become His own special people — the jewels in His crown.
Lord, we repent of seeking after doing sacrificial things for You when You have called us to so much more. Renew our minds with Your Word until what we value becomes the same as what You value. Teach us to treasure love, obedience, and thankfulness like You do. We desire these characteristics to adorn our lives, that we would be altogether beautiful in Your eyes.

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