A Pleasing Sacrifice
Here is an amazing notion when you pause to consider it: you are able to bring God pleasure.
It is a mind-blowing thought: that our Creator would be pleased by our actions. Yet Scripture encourages us to see that this is a reality. As Christians, we strive to live under the smile of our heavenly Father. One of the great biblical motivators for obeying God is that the way we live can “please God … more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1)—and one of the ways we can do this is through our generous giving, which is “a sacrifice pleasing to God.”
Paul described the giving of the Philippian church in terminology that reflected the Old Testament practice of animal sacrifice. When God’s people in the Old Testament brought their burnt offerings, the burning of incense accompanied these sacrifices. Therefore, the sacrifice produced an attractive smell. In some sense, this represented the acceptability and sweetness of the offering in God’s sight. In the same way, God says to His people in the first century and in the twenty-first, When your giving comes from a heart that is in tune with Mine, it produces a beautiful aroma, and your sacrifice brings Me pleasure.
When considering this kind of giving, we should not pass over the word “sacrifice” too quickly. Sacrificial giving is not necessarily the same as generous giving. It is quite possible for us to be generous—as, in fact, many believers are—without feeling an impact on our lives or circumstances.
In making this same point for His disciples, Jesus drew their attention to a poor widow as she was putting her tithe into the offering box in the temple. As He watched this woman deposit two copper coins, which were worth next to nothing, and compared them with the gifts of the rich people near her, He said, “This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:2-4). The wealthy were generous; the widow was sacrificial. She gave up in order to give away. And her Lord noticed and was pleased by what He saw.
We are not by nature sacrificial givers. But the whole Christian journey—in receiving and in giving, in caring and in sharing—is filled with grace from start to finish. When we give sacrificially from a heart that desires to please God, He promises to “supply every need … according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). It is reflecting on all that God has given, and all that God is giving, and all that God will give, that unlocks our hearts and enables us to give both sacrificially and joyfully. And when we do so, we bring God pleasure.
The Philippians’ actions, and their bank statements, showed that they truly believed this. To what extent do yours?
A Life Pleasing to God
1Finally, then, brothers,1 we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification:2 that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body3 in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
9Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
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