I’ve been thinking about what it means to live sacrificially, mostly because I feel that I’ve been living somewhat selfishly lately. I’ve been working on my house and spending money on things that are ultimately just cosmetic. I made a cool cabinet for my kids’ art stuff, but it wasn’t a necessity. We could have made do with what we already had. I have a hard time spending money on things like that when I know that other mothers are struggling to feed their children. Yes, the cabinet was cheap within my cultural context, but does that make it okay? I’m not sure. The more I learn about the developing world, the less able I am to justify some of my expenditures.
I believe that Christians are called to live sacrificially, meaning that we are supposed to give and to love even when it’s inconvenient and impractical. Sometimes I wonder if we will be held accountable for every dollar we spend- every Starbucks latte, every pair of shoes, every new dress for a party when we have a closet full of dresses. I can stress myself out wondering if I am being a good steward of my income. How often is too often to buy a latte? When is it okay to buy a new dress? I struggle with these things.
Living sacrificially involves sacrifice. It’s supposed to hurt, or at least sting a little. I feel like many American Christians give lots of money but never make a sacrifice. They never see any decrease in their standard of living to raise that of someone else. Many people give because they have plenty and giving doesn’t hurt. What would it look like if more Christians gave sacrificially? What if we moved out of our giant houses and lived more modestly? What if we drove minivans instead of Suburbans, because they’re cheaper and use less gas? What if we purposefully lived well below our means and gave the overage away? Imagine the orphans that could be adopted into families, the street kids who could have a place to stay. Imagine the safehomes we could build for girls taken out of brothels. How many ministries and NGO’s are struggling to meet real needs while the cash register at Starbucks just keeps on chingin’!
Most of my quest to live simply is caught up in that vision. Living simply is good for the earth as well, but for me it’s about the fact that it’s good for other people. I can’t bear the thought of a mother somewhere who doesn’t know how she will feed her children tomorrow, a mother who eats one meal a day so her children can have two. There are girls in Cambodia, little girls, who sell themselves into brothels because their parents can’t afford to feed their brothers and sisters. I couldn’t sleep at night if I wasn’t doing something about that. I don’t have the answer to ending global poverty, but I know of some people meeting immediate needs and I want my money to be a part of that.
It isn’t just about money. I have a friend who, with her husband, adopted a sibling group of four children out of foster care in Georgia. FOUR children! And they’re in their 40’s with three children of their own! Goodbye retirement account, goodbye swanky vacations. Hello snotty noses and speech therapy. Now THAT is living sacrificially. Do you know how many people told them they were crazy and impractical and trying to do too much? They ignored every bit of what some would call good advice and welcomed four children into their home. What is the Gospel if not welcoming the fatherless? What if every family who has ever considered foster care or adoption made the leap and at least went to the informational seminar? If we would let our hearts be broken, let go of our retirement account security blanket, do something hard and inconvenient and eternally valuable, maybe more people would be interested in Christianity. Maybe then there would be a difference between the church and the world.
I’m on a journey to figure out sacrificial living for my family. Each family’s path is different. Some are called to more radical or extreme paths than others. I have another friend who is about to move to Ukraine with her husband and four children to care for handicapped orphans. I know that’s not my path. But just because I’m not supposed to move to Ukraine doesn’t mean I get a pass on living sacrificially. My family has to find where we can give, what we can do here within our context.
I know I’m supposed to be advocating for girls in the sex trade in Cambodia. That’s my “thing” like handicapped orphans are my friend’s “thing.” My husband doesn’t even want to visit Cambodia, much less move there, so I know that my path is to work here in America to educate people about child sex trafficking and how they can help end it. I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I want to get better at it- more emboldened, compassionate, broken-hearted and loud. I want to know what it feels like to live sacrificially. I want to experience for myself that it’s better to give than to receive. If everyone is on a journey and we’re all at different points along the road, my prayer is that my road would be away from selfishness and into sacrifice.