Last week we talked about what it meant to intentionally live a life of simplicity and modesty, so you can do more in service to God. The spiritual discipline of frugality is all about training your desires to see that you do not need as much as you think you do and to be responsible with the resources God has chosen to bless you with. This week’s discipline seems to follow nicely because now we will be giving up something we actually do need, in order to train our focus to rely completely on God.
Often we hear talk about making a sacrifice to God. The Google Dictionary defines sacrifice as “an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.” So clearly a sacrifice is to permanently give something that we feel we need, or holds significant value, to God. A sacrifice is not something that we are lending to God (as if we could do that anyway). But rather something we relinquish complete ownership of. But how can this be a spiritual discipline? How can we give something up that we need God’s help to give up?
“Nothing of spiritual significance comes without sacrifice. Your spirituality will always be measured by the size of your sacrifice.”
— Jerry Falwell
One common version of this would be in the practice of tithing. Tithing, in our modern sense, is for us to take our gross income, cut off the first 10% and give it to our local church. We do this for some Biblical reasons, but it is also a way for us to recognize that God has chosen to bless us with an income in the first place. By taking the first part and giving it back to Him, reorients our thinking from “my money” to “His blessing.” This qualifies as a sacrifice because once you have given your tithe, you cannot receive it back, and you should not expect to. Many people need God’s help to do this because they will have to give up some other necessities or comforts in order to give their tithe. If tithing is a spiritual discipline you would like to pursue, take a look at your budget and try to find things that you can cut in order to give God your first 10%.
“God doesn’t need us to give Him our money. He owns everything. Tithing is God’s way to grow Christians.”
— Adrian Rogers
Another spiritual discipline that goes with sacrifice is fasting. Fasting is different from sacrifice because you are temporarily abstaining from an otherwise, perfectly normal activity, in order to pursue great spiritual activity. Most commonly people fast from food when seeking this activity. I had a professor explain fasting as intentionally saying “no” to our needs in order to say “yes” to the things of God. It is a reorientation away from our physical natures and towards our spiritual. Of course, fasting as a spiritual discipline must be done for spiritual gain, and not for health concerns. You can do fasts that are not eating such as: social media, television, or demands on your time. Instead of doing whatever it is you are fasting from, it is best to spend that time in prayer or Bible study or some other activity that brings you closer to God.
“… fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, and confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”
— Andrew Murray
Spiritual disciplines are hard. I often find that the people we look up to spiritually, usually are great practitioners of spiritual disciplines. Usually people scoff at the idea of doing anything like them. This is no more apparent than talking to people about sacrifice and fasting. They are hard, and do not make sense. You mean I have to give up something that is mine, or stop doing something that isn’t wrong? Yep, I do. But only if you choose to do it. The great thing about these disciplines is that no one is requiring them of you. Christians, throughout the centuries, have been performing them to get closer to God. The only true question is, how close do you want to be?