“The king answered Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for twenty ounces of silver.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Sometimes a verse of Scripture means something obvious in its context, but at the same time points forward toward a broader, deeper truth that is foundational to a life of successfully following after Jesus. This is one of those verses.
The exact context is uncomfortable and hard to get our minds around. David does something to gain God’s ire and so He steps back a bit to let David give it a go on his own. This gap gives Satan an opportunity to slip in and tempt David into pride resulting in a pretty harsh punishment from God. God reveals to David that in order to bring a halt to the punishment and atone for his sin he needs to offer a sacrifice at the threshing floor (a place where they processed grain) of a certain man in Jerusalem named Araunah.
David goes there without the man knowing anything about what was going on. When Araunah discovers David’s intent, he insists on simply giving it to David to contribute to the cause. David refuses his offer and insists that he will not give anything to the Lord that costs him nothing.
Here is where we land on this broader, deeper truth. David refused to give God anything that cost him nothing. In other words, he wasn’t going to make a sacrifice that wasn’t a sacrifice. Why? Let’s think for a minute.
What can you give the person who has everything? That’s a common question at this time of year. Everyone is on a search for the best Christmas present for their loved ones. The more stuff a person has, though, the harder it is to buy them something meaningful. In those cases, the very best gifts are often not ones that necessarily cost a lot of money. Rather, they are the ones that create an experience or an opportunity or deepen a relationship. In order to give that kind of a gift you can’t just give something, you have to be ready to give yourself.
The same kind of thing applies to our relationship with God. We can’t give God any thing that’s going to be meaningful to Him. The reason for this is simple: He owns everything. He created the world and everything in it and it all belongs to Him. Anytime we give something to God we are simply giving Him back what is already His.
The only thing we can give God that He doesn’t already have is ourselves. We alone were created and then set free to make our own meaningful and consequential choices. If we are going to give God something that means anything to Him, we’ve got to give Him ourselves.
So, how do we do that? Well, we can’t literally give God our bodies, so we have to think about it a bit differently. Paul actually tells us to do that very thing as a living sacrifice in light of everything He’s done for us (Romans 12:1), but again, he’s speaking metaphorically. So what does it look like?
Here are two solid suggestions. First, we may not be able to give God our bodies, but we can give them to other people in acts of service. Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of these we are functionally doing for Him. So, one way to give God something meaningful is to do something meaningful for someone else around us. The more lopsided the difference between our situation and theirs is the better too. The most meaningful acts will be done for those whose need is the highest. When we serve those who cannot return the favor in like fashion (that does not at all mean they can’t teach us something; if we don’t go in to our times of service expecting to be students as much as we are the teachers, we will have an attitude of arrogance that will not ultimately empower them to rise above their circumstances which is not the loving way to serve), we are giving God a gift.
Second, we give God something of great value to us. More specifically, we give God something we would otherwise believe we can’t live without as an act of trust and devotion. What we are doing in these times is not merely parting with some money (most often), but giving Him a gift of commitment. We are saying to Him we are more committed to Him than we are to whatever it is we are giving. Indeed, when we merely give Him something disposable or unnecessary in our lives, we aren’t doing anything at all except ridding ourselves of junk and who does that help? God’s not a recycling service.
If you want to give a gift to God, these are two ways to guarantee you do just that. Service and sacrifice. Don’t give God anything that costs you nothing. If you do, you won’t really be giving Him anything at all.