In 2016, my debit card was stolen. If this has happened to you, join me in a moment of silence for all the time you lost sorting that business out. As if feeling violated isn’t enough, you also have to endure the headache that is updating your brand-new, shiny card number at the countless online banking places you were using your old one.
This same year, there was a reoccurring charge that I forgot to update. For, like, four months. Okay, I’m just going to say it: it was my automatic withdrawal for my tithe. I’ve gotta be honest, that was a little hard for me to admit out loud! When I realized how long I had gone without noticing my oversight, I was upset with myself and more than a little embarrassed. How could I have been so stupid to forget that? And, more importantly, how had I gone so long without even realizing I hadn’t been giving?
I wanted to give, didn’t I? I had been giving so long, without thought behind my automatic payment, that I realized in that moment that, while I was faithfully giving to the Lord, I certainly wasn’t aware of the sacrifice I was making. So much so, that I was able to go four whole months without even realizing I wasn’t making it.
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is an obscure one found at the end of 2 Samuel, chapter 24. King David is preparing to make an offering to the Lord on another’s man threshing floor. When David tries to buy the land to make the offering, the man, Araunah, says to the king:
…“Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.”…
— 2 Samuel 24:22–23
This man knows about a sacrifice! Not only does he try to give away the land, he also attempts to provide David with the animals and even the wood! Then there is David, who made a lot of mistakes in his lifetime but, in this moment, he responded with a simple, but profoundly wise, phrase:
…“I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”…
— 2 Samuel 24:24
That’s the thing about a sacrifice: it is costly. It requires effort, planning and, sometimes, it requires upkeep. When I realized that my sacrifice was not a sacrifice, I spent some time praying about my tithe. I had questions I needed to settle between the Lord and me. I left that prayer time with a challenge from the Lord to increase the percentage of my tithe. I had been giving the same percentage for my entire adult life, but it was no longer a sacrifice. I remember wincing a little when I updated my card number and my new monthly debit amount. For the first time in years I felt the sacrifice I was making to the Lord.
But man, what a simple way to give back to a God who gave us everything, who did not weigh out the value of his gift. Can you imagine if Jesus had prayed to God and said, “Are you sure this is worth it? It is going to cost me a lot. Will I ever see any return for this?” Or where would we be now if God just forgot about giving to us for around four months? I mean, he is busy and has a lot to keep up with. Who could blame him for letting us fall off his radar?
It’s so ridiculous sounding because, of course, God will not forget to give to us. And obviously Jesus did not weigh the cost of the cross. He made the ultimate sacrifice, both because it is his nature and his desire to give all of himself for us.
Discussing giving to God is a risky move around the holidays. The children in my life have already made their wish lists and let me tell you, they were not too shy to ask for basically everything they have ever even wanted a tiny little bit. But man, what a great opportunity to examine our hearts! We could be like Araunah and make a sacrifice without even thinking, or we could be like David and acknowledge that we are making a sacrifice, despite the cost. And both of these options are made available to us, because we serve a God who counted no cost as he entered the world as a helpless baby, who would one day carry his cross to Calvary, no questions asked, no hesitations given, and with no time lost, in order to give us everything he had.