Our Balsa Wood Crosses

How expensive has your faith been to you?  We regularly speak of following Christ as a costly endeavor, in terms of time, choices, finances, or relationships.  But how many of us have made any real sacrifices to follow Jesus?  We can say we've "taken up our crosses," but often those crosses are made of balsa wood, having the appearance of heft, but, in reality, having not much to them.

Certainly there are those who give, and give greatly, for their faith.  They are the ones who give up comfort, safety, and financial stability to love other people sacrificially.  But I'm pretty sure they are the exception rather than the rule.  The American church is not too much into sacrifice.

One of the fears I've heard repeated time and time again throughout my life, is the idea of the wasted sacrifice.  As a child, I'd be warned about giving homeless people money - because they'd spend it on booze or drugs.  You should buy them a sandwich instead, which no one ever did.  So there was no need to give, if you suspected the gift would be wasted.

Is this how Jesus looked at sacrifice (putting aside the question of whether a few dollars out of my pocket counts as a "sacrifice")?  He knew when he gave his life for humanity, that most of humanity would waste his gift.  He knew that he would be rejected by the ones he was giving his life for, but he didn't decide just to buy them a never-appearing sandwich.  He offered the sacrifice, and let them decide what to do with it.

Jesus doesn't call me to give to the needy if I'm reasonably sure they'll use my gift how I want them to.  He calls me to love them and sacrifice for them as he did for me.  It's not my responsibility what they do with my gift.  If my gift is a sandwhich, I need to make sure I give it.  Fear of misuse is not a valid reason to reject the command to give.  We should give wisely*, but we should give well.  

American Christians are sitting on immense resources (ask Joel Osteen about it), but we like comfort, and we're pretty bad at sacrifice.  As we go into Easter, let's keep in mind that Jesus wasn't afraid of sacrifice, and for that I am eternally grateful.

*Giving wisely means giving in ways that will help, not hurt.  I would not give an addict a bunch of money, but maybe a place to live or some time in rehab.  The sacrifice, on my end might be the same, but it has to be given wisely.  There is nothing wrong with buying a guy a meal instead of giving him money, but if your inner struggle is between giving him a few dollars, and giving nothing for fear that he'll waste it, I think the Bible is pretty clear that we are to give.

Jeff Hyson