And what, you might ask, is a sacrifice that costs nothing? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Don’t all sacrifices cost something?

David used a phrase something like the one in the title of this article. He wanted to offer a sacrifice just outside Jerusalem on the land of an Israelite named Arunah. To his credit, Arunah offered the king all the resources needed for a sacrifice. Here they are, he declared, the wood, the oxen, the fire. That’s when David used the phrase, “a sacrifice that cost me nothing.”

“But the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.’” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Now I may be wrong, but he seems to be implying that people in his day might have viewed their service to the Lord in that way: “How much can I get away with? In order to receive God’s blessing and protection, how little must I do?” I am reminded of the student who asks, “How little do I have to do to get a ‘B’ in your class?”

This reveals a sort of Bargain-rail approach to serving God. The problem with the Dollar stores is that although the price might look good, the quality and the return you receive is lacking.

We understand what a sacrifice is: A millionaire might donate some money to give scholarships for bright students, but a single mother will sacrifice her own life by working two jobs and raising her kids, so that she can pay for their college.

You recall the story about a fundraiser where the chicken volunteered to donate some of her eggs, and the cow offered some milk, and the pig offered to give some bacon for a good cause. After several minutes of discussion, the pig was heard to say, “It’s all very well for you to be generous but I am committed!”

Throughout scripture, this is a consistent theme. When we give to God, it must be a sacrifice. The root meaning of the word “sacrifice” has to do with surrendering something to God of great value, in an effort to demonstrate our seriousness in serving him.

            The answer to our question, of course, is that there is no such thing as a sacrifice that costs nothing. If it is a sacrifice, then it was very, very costly. The real question, when it comes to our service for God is this: When we give to God, is it a donation, or a sacrifice? The way you answer that question will say everything you need to know about your relationship with God.