Sacrifice (part 5) – Self Giving
I’ve decided it will be easier to make a ten point post with brief scripture references and then write a follow-up to put some flesh on the bones, give it context and provide more completely what I believe the bible says about the subject. I believe everything that I write here is derived from scripture and I believe that my understanding of it is consistent and follows a thread right through the bible.
- Every morning I pray the prayer from Proverbs 30:7-9
“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
- We treat nothing as our own.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)
This means that we won’t ever buy anything that we aren’t willing to lend to someone else or share with someone else. Because it’s all God’s anyway and he was generous enough to let us use it in the first place, so our generosity follows His.
- We are very careful not to waste anything
There’s an old saying “whatever you have more of than you need, you tend to waste.”
Its true and that’s why I follow point 1 so consistently. This point is a double-edged sword! Sometimes in preventing waste, you can create waist and that’s still waste, just spelled differently! This applies to money, time, possessions, food, words and thought. The only things I think you can’t waste are love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. I’m really bad at wasting time, when I have more time than I ‘need’, I will often waste it on all sorts of things that I could and should cut out. As for money, food, possessions etc. I’ve managed to discipline myself much better than with time. Kate is much better with time and in reality, she wastes very little if anything of anything else.
- We live by the simple rule “Give, Save, Live on the rest”
Give: Any income to the family has 10% taken off immediately and given away.
Save: Put some money aside to cover unexpected expenses or some saving for the occasional treat (e.g. holiday / meal out together)
Live: Whatever you have left is what you can live on.
If you switch that rule around (as many many people do) you end up living on as much of your income as you possibly can, then if you get a bit left over, making provision for a storm by saving and then if there are any dregs, they get given. The problem with that comes if interest rates increase or the cost of living goes up and your salary or bonus doesn’t follow!
- We have always given away the first 10% of any income immediately
This is a discipline that helps to break the connection between money and greed. It also refers back to point 2: none of our money is our own anyway, it is all God’s money so our job is to honour him with all of it, the first 10% is given off the top as a way to prevent us getting greedy and to provide for the people that don’t have enough.
This discipline, matched with my abysmal mathematical skills also led to us giving away between 26% and 31% of our income in the years 2007 to 2010. God still provided what we needed to get by and we never went without anything we needed. We took a sensible look at our finances at the end of 2010 with a skilled mathematician and have since scaled back that unsustainable giving to about 12% to 13% which will prevent us going into debt or becoming in need of charity ourselves!
- Debt is not allowed (with the exception of a mortgage)
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
Whilst this is not strictly speaking a ‘sacrifice’ or a ‘sacrificial discipline’, it is a discipline that adds another layer of protection against rampant consumerism. We use one credit card and the balance is paid in full at the end of every month. Aside of the stupidity of paying the credit card company extra money for the ‘benefit’ of having a balance on the card, It’s all too easy for debt to mount up and get out of control.
- If we can’t afford it we don’t buy it
This follows the previous point. If we have cash to buy something or know, guaranteed that we have the money coming in, only then will we buy it. It’s sacrificial because we can’t immediately have everything we want when we want it. Often by the time you do have the money spare to buy something, it’s no longer that appealing and you can be freed to give the money away to some better cause (or to save it).
- We rarely buy things we don’t need
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
This one is pretty obvious, we don’t have a lot of storage space anyway and if we can avoid extra stuff we aren’t using hanging around that’s better for everyone.
- We Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
It’s a bit of a tired cliché but it works. We try to consume less to begin with, what we can we re-use or pass on to someone else that can use it and the rest gets recycled (which sometimes means re-using anyway). It’s not going to keep the wheels of consumerism turning, but I have serious concerns about companies that deliberately design products to break within a time-frame that makes people replace them without losing faith in the company. We will repair to the point of things wearing out before we replace them. Perhaps it is because both of us are fairly tight fisted, possibly because we started with very little when we were first married, but you should see (actually, maybe you should try to ignore or at least never make comment) some of Kate’s jumpers under the arms.
We don’t buy clothes regularly, in fact our clothes tend to wear out before we replace them. Kate often suggests I don’t wear a certain pair of jeans because of where I need to repair them, I just need to make time to get the sewing machine out! We have 2 duvet covers that were bought as wedding presents in 2001 and you can almost put the duvet in from either end (no kidding); another one for the sewing machine (though Kate’s lovely parents bought us some time on that by giving us one duvet cover for Christmas)!
Our family car is over 10 years old, it works ok so there’s no need to replace it. (Having a second car that is a classic – 39 years old, might be classed as a luxury or indulgence were it not for it actually saving us money compared to a newer second car.)
- We treat others as more important than ourselves
This leads to us saying ‘yes’ to requests probably more often than is sensible and definitely more often than is convenient. We will give freely of our time because we value people, relationships and community more than we value solitude, privacy or things. Our house is always open, we will entertain anyone who drops in, we won’t turn anyone away. If someone needs a bed or food or just someone to speak to or a shoulder to cry on, our door is open. When you want to let it all out and vent your spleen or if you just want some peace away from the storm and stress, our house is your house. I guess all this comes from point number 2, but in putting other people first, we often sacrifice ourselves, our time, our stuff, our peace and most commonly our comfort or convenience.
But in doing that, we gain so much more. We gain trust, relationships, community, love, joy, contentment, loyalty, friendship, commitment, laughter, fun… Why would you not want that over selfishness and privacy?
We haven’t got it all ‘right’ by any stretch of the imagination, we’re on a journey and we are always tripping over and messing up, accidently hurting each other or other people. But, as part of a local and a church community, we help each other up, we get moving again and try to love as Christ has loved us.
Maybe I find some of this easier than other people would, I know that some of it is hard for me and some of it will always be a struggle, but I also believe that as in the second letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 8v1-4), where God gave the ‘grace of generous giving’ to the church in Macedonia, God has graced me with a generosity that is sparked by His love for me and mine for Him and that makes a lot of these points so much easier, to the point where most of the time it doesn’t feel like sacrifice, it just feels like my expression of joy. For that reason, I cannot be praised or lauded for anything I achieve in sticking to these ten points, it’s only evidence of God living in me.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16
There is nothing good in me but Jesus. And because Jesus is living in me I do good, If you observe me living at all like Jesus you are seeing Jesus living through me.
Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)