Throughout Scripture, we find stories of sacrificial giving. The men and women in these stories demonstrated a type of generosity that was not easy or comfortable. And it is these uncomfortable stories that help us understand the type of generosity God desires of us. Each story provides lessons from which we can learn.
Let’s look at three uncomfortable stories found in the Bible. As you read the stories, put yourself in their shoes. Feel the discomfort and sacrifice, and learn from their actions.
Uncomfortable Story #1: Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)
In Genesis we find Abraham, the man through whom God promised to make a great nation more numerous than the stars, commanded to do the incomprehensible—“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2, ESV). Abraham waited for one hundred years to have Isaac, and now, God told Abraham to sacrifice his treasured son. Undoubtedly, the command agonized the father.
But Abraham was swift to obey. He followed God’s command, having Isaac carry the very wood upon which he was to be killed. When Isaac asked about a lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham simply responded “God will provide.” The father then lay and bound his treasured son on top of the altar. With a knife held high, Abraham was about to slay his son.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:12, ESV). The words came from an angel. The angel directed Abraham to God’s provision—a ram to be used in place of Isaac. God did provide.
But God did not just provide a ram. Because of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, God blessed Abraham. Through Abraham would come the ultimate provision from God—another sacrifice. But this time, it would be God’s Son, the true lamb sacrificed for all.
The lesson from Genesis 22:1-19: God blesses uncomfortable sacrifice. God does not ask us to give our treasures because He is heartless or loves to watch us agonize. He sometimes calls us to sacrifice that which we treasure to make us lean more into Him instead of the treasure. And when we do this, he blesses us in ways that our treasure is incapable of doing.
Uncomfortable Story #2: The Widows Mite (Luke 21:1-4)
Jesus and his disciples were outside the temple treasury, the place where people delivered their gifts to God. Jesus watched as the wealthy brought their large gifts to the treasury. The disciples were likely doing the same.
Jesus called the disciples over. Was he going to celebrate the large gifts given by the rich? Was he going to tell the disciples the wealthy’s gifts were indicators of their love to God? Was he going to tell them that, because these large gifts were provided, God was finally able to do something truly significant?
No. He pointed to the person the disciples and everyone else likely missed. While the wealthy gave their large gifts, a widow had stepped on to the scene. Numerically, she had very little to give—two coins. The amount would not have impressed anyone in the temple treasury that day.
Except for Jesus.
Jesus knew something about this woman that others did not. This woman’s gift represented everything she had. Jesus also knew something about the wealthy that others did not. They were giving out of their excess. The wealthy’s gifts were comfortable. They would return home and life would be no different than when they left. The widow’s gift was uncomfortable. She would return home and life would be significantly different.
Jesus told his told his disciples that the widow gave more than anyone else in the temple treasury, more than the wealthy. Why? Numerically, she gave little, but sacrificially, she gave much. And it was the latter that mattered in God’s Kingdom.
The lesson from Luke 21:1-4: In God’s economy, amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given.God is not impressed with big gifts. The numbers don’t matter to him because he already owns it all. He’s not after your wallet, He’s after your heart. He wants a heart that fully trusts him, and uncomfortable, sacrificial giving is a visible demonstration of a life that has placed their hope in Him.
Uncomfortable Story #3: Elijah and the Widow (1 Kings 17:7-16)
A drought had struck the land, and Elijah found himself by a dried-up brook. God told Elijah to travel to Zarephath where he would meet a widow who would provide him food. Elijah did as he was told and saw the widow who God mentioned. Elijah asked for some water and bread.
The widow revealed her grim future—“As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die” (1 Kings 17:12, ESV).
Elijah encouraged her not to fear but to trust in God’s provision—first preparing food for Elijah and then for herself and her son. The ask was uncomfortable. The ask was sacrificial. Yet, the widow did as Elijah requested. She provided Elijah with water and bread before making bread for her and her son.
And God thwarted her plans.
While the widow assumed this would be the last meal her and her son who consume, God assured a different outcome. The jar of flour and jug of oil did not run empty. God continued to fill both with the necessary means to bake bread. Those who thought they would starve had their stomachs full.
The lesson from 1 Kings 17:7-16: In times of little, we can and should still trust God. There are moments when our financial margin is thin or nonexistent. There are more bills than income. During these times of little, we will be tempted to set aside God’s plan for our finances, giving God our first and best. But such a decision would be a mistake. It is during these very times when we can’t afford not to give, putting our trust in the one who can provide us whatever He so desires. God delights in our obedience when obedience is not comfortable.
Demonstrations of uncomfortable, sacrificial generosity are woven throughout the Bible. But God does not simply tell us to give sacrificially. He leads us in it by sacrificially giving his one and only Son, Jesus. God doesn’t just say, “Go do.” Instead, God says, “See, I did.” We give sacrificially because God first gave sacrificially to us.