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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What Is Sacrifice?

“Hey, Rose. What does sacrifice mean?”


I looked in the rearview mirror. How did the conversation with my granddaughters move so quickly from counting cows in the pasture to defining sacrifice?

“Where did you hear that word, Baylor?”

“Choir. We were singing a song yesterday and it said that word.”

“We hear the word ‘sacrifice’ at church a lot. We read it in the Bible, too. The Bible tells us Jesus was a sacrifice for us because God loves us so much.”

Four-year-old Baylor scrunched her nose. “But I don’t know what that means.”


“OK. What if you and Sissie made cookies. You took some to the neighbors then came home for a tea party. You both ate one cookie and one was left on the plate. Both of you wanted the cookie.”

“We could just split it in half.” Baylor put her hand under her chin. “But I think I would want the whole thing.”

“You looked over at your sister. You knew she really wanted that cookie, too. And you love Sissie so much. So your love for Sissie makes you say, ‘Sissie, I know you want that cookie. I love you so much I’m going to let you have it.’ That is what is called a sacrifice. You gave away something you really wanted because you loved Sissie so much.”

“Oh, so I sacrificed the cookie.”

“That’s right. There are many different types of sacrifices. But if we can understand the simple ones, it will be easier to understand the harder ones.”


Even adults struggle with sacrifice—to give something up that you really love for someone else’s benefit. If you are a student of the Bible, you know that during those times, sacrifice was a way of life.


In Genesis 22:1-2 God instructs Abraham:

“Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
 (NIV)

Abraham had loved God for a long time and trusted Him. He took Isaac up to the mountain intending to carry out God’s instruction. We know the end of the story. God provided a sacrificial ram and spared Isaac. But Abraham proved his total love for God and willingness to sacrifice even the son for whom he had waited years.

Later in the Old Testament, we learn Jephthah, the Gileadite, made a promise to God as he advanced against the Ammonites.

“If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Judges 11:30-31 (NIV)

When he returned home, Jephthah’s daughter, his only child, came dancing from the house to greet her father. Jephthah was beside himself with grief but stayed true to his vow. Even though it meant the sacrifice of his daughter, Jephthah kept his word.
 (Judges 11:34-40)

Other sacrifices appear throughout the Bible, but, of course, we know best God’s sacrifice of Jesus. God loves us so much that He sacrificed His Son. One of the first verses we memorize as children is John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
 (NIV)

God was willing to sacrifice His Son for us. His only Son. For us. Is there something in your life He is asking you to give to Him today? Why are you waiting?

Copyright © 2019 Linda J. Gilden, used with permission.

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