(Reprinted from Bread Upon the Waters: Columns From The California Farmer [Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1974], 9–10.)
We hear a great deal nowadays about the necessity for sacrifices, and it all sounds noble and good, but the more basic question needs to be asked: sacrifices to and for whom? Generalizations sound good but can be dangerous. Love is fine, and wives should be loved, but the love of evil is wrong, and if it is your neighbor’s wife you are loving, you are in trouble with God and man.
David taught us something about sacrifices. He and his men were in a stronghold, and the Philistines had captured his hometown, Bethlehem. The water in their fortress was poor drinking, and David, on drinking it one day, longed for the good waters of home, saying, “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” Three of David’s loyal soldiers broke through the enemy lines, crept into Bethlehem and drew a canteen of water from the well. The next day they gave it proudly to David, who was deeply moved. “Nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? Therefore he would not drink it” (2 Sam. 23:14–17). In other words, while David was greatly moved by the devotion of his men, he felt that only God could be the object of such a sacrifice and risk, and he poured out the water as a religious offering to God.
This fine sense of proportion and faith is lacking in our modern talk about sacrifice. Does any politician have a right to ask sacrifices of us which only God can ask? When necessary for the defense of our country, God’s law does call for military duty and protection, but the extent to which the civil government can ask us to sacrifice ourselves does not go beyond that. Too many politicians are asking more of us than God asks.
What a man sacrifices for above all else, that is his true object of worship and his god. Whenever a politician, reformer, business executive, husband, wife, or anyone else demands sacrifices of us above and beyond the due service God requires of us, he is playing god. The idea that we are not really living right unless we are miserable and are sacrificing ourselves for and to everyone under the sun is ridiculous and anti-Christian. While ungodly prosperity is condemned, godly prosperity is given as the worthy object of prayer by the Bible: “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord I beseech thee, send now prosperity” (Ps. 118:25). The Bible says to the believer that “the whole duty of man” is to “Fear God, and keep his commandments” (Ecc. 12:13). Thus, when anyone asks sacrifices of us which only God can rightly ask, we can with justice and true holiness respond: we will do our duty under God, but more than that, you cannot ask. The Lord alone is our God, and we offer sacrifices to none other.