“God loves a cheerful giver.”
1. What sort of sacrifices do many individuals make, and why?
PEOPLE willingly make sacrifices for the things that are important to them. Parents give their time, money, and energy to benefit their children. While their peers play and have fun, young athletes who aspire to represent their country in the Olympics spend several hours every day strenuously practicing and training. Jesus too made sacrifices for things that were important to him. He did not seek luxuries, and he did not have children of his own. Rather, he chose to focus on the advancing of Kingdom interests. (Matt. 4:17; Luke 9:58) His followers likewise gave up much to support God’s Kingdom. The advancement of that Kingdom was of primary importance to them, and they made sacrifices to have as full a share as possible in supporting the Kingdom. (Matt. 4:18-22; 19:27) So we may ask ourselves, ‘What is important in my life?’
2. (a) What sacrifices are fundamental for all true Christians? (b) What additional sacrifices are some able to make?
2 Certain sacrifices are fundamental for all true Christians and are essential to our cultivating and maintaining a good relationship with Jehovah. Such sacrifices include devoting personal time and energy to prayer, Bible reading, family worship, meeting attendance, and the field ministry.* (Josh. 1:8; Matt. 28:19, 20; Heb. 10:24, 25) As a result of our efforts and Jehovah’s blessing, the preaching work is accelerating, and many continue to stream to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah.” (Isa. 2:2) To support Kingdom activities, many make sacrifices to serve at Bethel, to assist with building Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls, to organize conventions, or to do relief work in the wake of natural disasters. This additional work is not a requirement to gain life but is vital to supporting Kingdom interests.
3. (a) How do we benefit when we make sacrifices for the Kingdom? (b) What questions should we consider?
3 The need for active support of the Kingdom has never been greater. It is a joy to see that many are willingly making sacrifices for Jehovah. (Read Psalm 54:6.) Such a generous spirit brings us much joy as we await the coming of God’s Kingdom. (Deut. 16:15; Acts 20:35) All of us, though, should examine ourselves closely. Are there ways in which we can make additional sacrifices for the Kingdom? How are we using our time, money, energy, and abilities? What cautions must we consider? Let us review a pattern that we can imitate for making such voluntary sacrifices, thus increasing our joy.
SACRIFICES IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
4. How did the Israelites benefit from making sacrifices?
4 Offering sacrifices in ancient Israel was the basis for receiving forgiveness of sins. Sacrifices were necessary for the people to enjoy Jehovah’s favor. Some of these were required; others were voluntary. (Lev. 23:37, 38) Whole burnt offerings could be made as voluntary offerings, or gifts, to Jehovah. An outstanding example of offerings was seen in connection with the inauguration of the temple in Solomon’s day.
5. What provision did Jehovah make for those with limited means?
5 Jehovah lovingly understood that not everyone could give the same amount, and he required from each one only according to the individual’s ability. Jehovah’s law stipulated that the blood of the animal be shed, which was to be “a shadow of the good things to come” through his Son, Jesus. (Heb. 10:1-4) However, Jehovah was not rigid in the application of that law. For example, God would accept an offering of turtledoves if the person could not afford an offering from the flock or the herd. Thus, even the poor could joyfully sacrifice to Jehovah. (Lev. 1:3, 10, 14; 5:7) Though the animals sacrificed may have differed, there were two things that were required from each person making voluntary sacrifices.
6. What was required of each person when making sacrifices, and how important was it to follow those requirements?
6 First, the person had to give his best. Jehovah told the nation that any offering had to be a sound one in order “to gain approval.” (Lev. 22:18-20) If there was a defect in the animal, it would not be viewed as an acceptable sacrifice to Jehovah. Second, the person giving the sacrifice had to be clean and undefiled. If a person was in an unclean state, he would have to make a sin offering or a guilt offering to restore his standing with Jehovah before making a voluntary offering. (Lev. 5:5, 6, 15) This was a serious matter. Jehovah stipulated that if someone in an unclean state partook of a communion sacrifice, which included voluntary offerings, he would be cut off from God’s people. (Lev. 7:20, 21) On the other hand, when the person making the sacrifice had a good standing with Jehovah and the offering was without defect, the giver could rejoice with satisfaction.
MAKING SACRIFICES TODAY
7, 8. (a) What joy do many receive from making sacrifices for the Kingdom? (b) What resources do we have at our disposal?
7 Today, many are likewise willing to expend themselves in Jehovah’s service, and Jehovah finds pleasure in this. Working in behalf of our brothers is rewarding. One brother who shares in building Kingdom Halls and assisting those affected by natural disasters states that it is hard to describe the satisfaction he receives from serving in these ways. He says, “Seeing the happiness and appreciation of the local brothers and sisters after they stand in their new Kingdom Hall or when they receive assistance after a natural disaster makes all the work and effort worthwhile.”
8 Jehovah’s modern-day organization has always looked for opportunities to support Jehovah’s work. In 1904, Brother C. T. Russell wrote: “Each one is to consider himself as appointed by the Lord the steward of his own time, influence, money, etc., and each is to seek to use these talents to the best of his ability, to the Master’s glory.” Though we reap many blessings, it costs us something to make sacrifices to Jehovah. (2 Sam. 24:21-24) Can we make better use of the resources we have?
9. When it comes to our use of time, what principle from Jesus’ instructions found at Luke 10:2-4 can we apply?
9 Our time. It takes much time and effort to translate and print our literature, to build places of worship, to organize conventions, to assist in disaster relief, and to engage in many other necessary activities. We have only a fixed amount of hours in a day. Jesus provided a principle that can help. When sending out his disciples into the field, Jesus told them not to “embrace anybody in greeting along the road.” (Luke 10:2-4) Why would Jesus give such instructions? One Bible scholar states: “Salutations among the Orientals did not consist, as among us, of a slight bow, or extension of the hand, but [were] performed by many embraces, and inclinations, and even prostrations of the body on the ground. All this required much time.” Jesus was not encouraging his followers to be rude. Rather, he was helping them see that they had a limited amount of time and that they needed to make the most of it to care for the more important things. (Eph. 5:16) Can we apply this principle so as to have more time to assist with work in behalf of the Kingdom?
10, 11. (a) What are some ways that our donations to the worldwide work are being used? (b) What principle stated at 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 can help us?
10 Our money. Significant funds are needed to support Kingdom activities. Each year tens of millions of dollars are spent caring for the expenses of traveling overseers, special pioneers, and missionaries. Since 1999, over 24,500 Kingdom Halls have been built in lands with limited resources. Yet, nearly 6,400 additional Kingdom Halls are still needed. Each month some 100 million copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines are printed. This is all supported by your voluntary donations.
11 The apostle Paul provided a principle to follow when considering donations. (Read 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2.) Under inspiration, he encouraged his brothers in Corinth not to wait until the end of the week to see what was left over but, rather, to set aside funds at the start of the week in harmony with what they could do. As in the first century, brothers and sisters in our time plan ahead to respond generously according to their circumstances. (Luke 21:1-4; Acts 4:32-35) Jehovah treasures such a giving spirit.
12, 13. What concerns may cause some to hold back from giving of their energy and abilities, but how will Jehovah help them?
12 Our energy and abilities. Jehovah supports us in our efforts to use our energy and abilities for the Kingdom. He promises to help us when we tire out. (Isa. 40:29-31) Do we feel that our skills are inadequate to assist with the work? Do we reason that there are others who are better qualified? Remember, Jehovah can enhance anyone’s natural abilities, just as he did for Bezalel and Oholiab.
13 Jehovah encourages us to give our best and not hold back. (Prov. 3:27) During the rebuilding of the temple, Jehovah told the Jews in Jerusalem to meditate on what they were doing in behalf of the building work. (Hag. 1:2-5) They had become distracted and had lost their focus. We do well to consider whether our priorities are aligned with Jehovah’s priorities. Can we ‘set our heart on our ways’ so as to have a greater share in the Kingdom work in these last days?
SACRIFICES ACCORDING TO WHAT WE HAVE
14, 15. (a) How are we encouraged by the example of our brothers who have limited means? (b) What should be our desire?
14 Many live in areas where hardships or poverty are the order of the day. Our organization endeavors to “offset” the deficiency of our brothers who live in such countries. (2 Cor. 8:14) Yet, even brothers with limited resources value the privilege of giving. It is pleasing to Jehovah when the materially poor are impelled to give cheerfully.
15 In one very poor country in Africa, some brothers mark off a small section of their garden and use the funds from the sale of the produce from that section to support the Kingdom work. In that same country, a building project was scheduled for a much needed Kingdom Hall. The local brothers and sisters wanted to assist. However, the project was to be undertaken in the middle of their planting season. Still determined to have a share, they worked on the Kingdom Hall project during the day and then went into the fields in the evening to make sure that they got their crops planted. What a self-sacrificing spirit! This reminds us of the brothers in first-century Macedonia. They were in “deep poverty,” yet they begged for the privilege of helping with the project at hand. (2 Cor. 8:1-4) May each of us likewise ‘give in proportion to the blessing that Jehovah has given us.’
16. How can we make sure that our sacrifices are acceptable to Jehovah?
16 However, a word of caution is needed. As was true of the ancient Israelites, we must make sure that our voluntary sacrifices are acceptable to God. We have to maintain our balance so that we care for our primary responsibilities in connection with our families and the worship of Jehovah. The giving of our time and resources in behalf of others should not cause us to neglect the spirituality or physical welfare of our family. Otherwise, we would, in effect, be giving from what we do not have. (Read 2 Corinthians 8:12.) Additionally, we must maintain our own spirituality. (1 Cor. 9:26, 27) Be assured, though, that when we live up to Bible standards, our sacrifices bring much joy and satisfaction to us, and they are “especially acceptable” to Jehovah.
OUR SACRIFICES ARE OF GREAT VALUE
17, 18. How do we feel about all those who are making sacrifices for the Kingdom, and what should all of us consider?
17 Many of our brothers and sisters ‘pour themselves out like drink offerings’ through their work to support the necessary activities of the Kingdom. (Phil. 2:17) We sincerely appreciate those who have demonstrated such a giving spirit. The wives and children of the brothers who take the lead in Kingdom activity are also to be commended for their spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice.
18 Much hard work is needed in order to support Kingdom interests. May all of us prayerfully consider how we can have as large a share as possible. You can be confident that the rewards are great now and will be even greater “in the coming system of things.”
See the article “Making Whole-Souled Sacrifices for Jehovah” in the January 15, 2012, issue of The Watchtower, pages 21-25.