What is Sacrifice?
“Sacrifice” means giving up something despite the love for it - for God or someone else.
Why is Sacrifice important?
Sacrifice can help us have a better relationship with our Creator, and with each other. Sacrifice is necessary for us to become vessels through which our love can be shared to others. Through acts of sacrifice we help to benefit both ourselves and others using the blessings that we have been granted,; enabling us to form more happy environments, more satisfying relationships and more functional societies which are not driven by 'ego' and 'greed.' Through acts of sacrifice we create a strong platform for others to be more creative and more 'true to their soul purpose.' Sacrifice is essential if we want to develop and grow as individuals from a spiritual perspective. It helps our hearts to unite in acts of love and peace and kindness and therefore to stay 'connected' to the source of Life and to one another.
How can sacrifice help us?
Sacrifice can help us in many ways. It can help us to show our gratitude and appreciation to God for what we have by sharing it with others who are less fortunate. It can help us to feel more worthy of His Forgiveness and therefore more likely to turn to Him in sincere repentance, if we have sinned after knowledge has come to us. It can help us to feel closer to Him, and therefore more likely that we will benefit from His Beautiful Attributes and incorporate these into our lives, take responsibility and use these attributes to help and benefit others in his Way. Those who love others as they love themselves, through acts of sacrifice become able to prove through their deeds that truly do believe, by treating others how they themselves would want to be treated.
Sometimes we may be driven to 'giving' to help someone else in order to get a 'return' or because we believe we ourselves will benefit from it. Sometimes people do good to others in order to be 'liked' by them which makes them feel better about themselves for example. Or perhaps doing an act of kindness in order to feel 'appreciated and valued by others.' Or giving charity in public to make a better 'name' for oneself. Many are driven by acts of sacrifice because they believe this will enable them to become more 'successful' in one way or another. Let us ask ourselves- is this act of 'sacrifice' driven by ego and greed or is it led by selflessness? Acts of sacrifice in order to get a 'return' are still good if the act of sacrifice helps others. However when we expect and get a return for what we believe to be a sacrifice- we could argue that this is not actually a true sacrifice- because our intentions are not based upon giving something up completely for someone else. It is driven by love for ourself rather than by the love for others. When we 'give' in order to return in this world life, we place an expectation upon others to 'appreciate' what we do for them- and this can cause them to feel uncomfortable, and if they fail to return the favour, or if we do not get what we expect back, it can have a negative affect on our relationships with others and make us less likely to continuing helping others.
Some of us may be driven to 'sacrifice' with the pure intention of love for Our Creator and because we want to 'prove' our love for Him. These individuals tend to be driven by love for Him and devotion and longing to be closer to Him, and become therefore willing 'servants' where they may even be prepared to sacrifice their lives in His Cause. When we study Scripture that the servants of God are invited to serve humanity, and to take responsibility for their behaviour by contributing to society and the benefit of others through integrating His attributes into their behaviour. They become vessels for His Light to shine onto the rest of humanity and through their devotion to Him often struggle and face hardship in His Way. These individuals are prepared to sacrifice the worldly physical pleasures and give up their worldly blessings and pleasures in exchange for the perception of the spiritual Presence of their Creator, and invite others to do the same.
Scripture teaches us that 'sacrifice' can help to 'purify' ourselves from sin. In the past, and according to Scripture, people used to offer burnt offerings to The Lord, and were asked to give up of what they love and offer as a 'sacrifice to Him. Until the time of the second Temple in Israel, many believed that only through animal sacrifice could sins be forgiven. Many people still offer prayer and fasting and charity purely to Please their God- and sacrifice animals to Him eg. during pilgrimage in Mekkah- but let us ask ourselves- why is it that God asks such a sacrifice from us to Him? Does He 'need' our prayers? does He 'need' our sacrifices? Does He 'need' us to fast and worship and pray and sacrifice these things for Him? The more we study Scripture- the more we understand that God is 'Free of All Need' and it is 'ourselves' that these sacrifices benefit, and it is the benefit it has on us which Pleases our Creator. Through sacrifice we 'show' and 'confirm' our love and devotion to Him and for others. Through the piety of sacrifice, and proving our devotion to Him, we get closer to Him, and the acts of sacrifice help us to feel more worthy of His Presence. When we feel more worthy of His Presence, we feel more able to turn to Him for Forgiveness and believe that He will accept our repentance. Many believe that good deeds cancel out bad deeds and that through acts of sacrifice we are therefore 'cleansed' of sins. According to Scripture, God is All-Forgiving and Most Merciful and forgives those who sin our of ignorance and repent and mend their ways. However what about those who sin while knowing that what they choose to do or say is 'wrong' and displeasing to Him? The shame of one's guilt after sinning while knowing, can sometimes prevent the soul from asking for forgiveness because they may feel themselves that they are not 'worthy' of His Forgiveness. Therefore acts of sacrifice such as prayer for others, fasting, charity and giving of what we love to help others, and sacrificing of our blessings in order to benefit others can help us to take 'responsibility' for our actions, and to confirm in our hearts that we truly are grateful for the blessings that we have been granted, and that we truly are repentant, and that if we turn to Him for Forgiveness, we are deserving of it. Our deeds of sacrifice for Him are like deeds of 'struggle' in His cause, and this way it enables us to become vessels of love where we can shine His Light and love upon others.
We are reminded in Scripture that the intention of our hearts is most important when offering sacrifices to Our Creator. Whether or not our sacrifices are 'accepted' and therefore beneficial for our souls, depends on the intention behind it- does it truly come from love for others? and longing for His Presence?
How can sacrifice help others?
Sacrifice for others: This is when we sacrifice our own happiness and give of what we love for the benefit or happiness of others. Those who love others as they love themselves, or even more than they love themselves are more likely to engage in these acts. True sacrifice for others is when we give without the expectation of return. There can be different levels of sacrificing for others- for example giving to those we love from our family and friends and seeing the benefit it has on them can give us happiness because we can 'see' how our sacrifices are helping those we love. The next level would be to give in secret, to those who we do not know, who are not of our blood family, who do not even know who we are when we give to them. When we sacrifice for others- the intention in our hearts tends to be 'for the benefit of others.' When we sacrifice ourselves because of the compassion and love we have for others,
How and what should we sacrifice?
There are different types of sacrifice. Sacrifice can include giving up of 'time' or 'food' or 'money' or 'clothes'- anything which involves giving from ourselves, with an intention of pleasing or thanking God or benefiting someone. Here are some examples of sacrifice:
Prayer for others
Feeding the hungry
Looking after an orphan
Giving up time to 'listen' to others and helping them through their struggles
Giving up time to be there for others in their hour of need
Looking after someone who is suffering from a health condition
Giving up time and putting effort into sharing our knowledge with others
Putting time and effort into standing up against oppression against our fellow human beings
Helping a blind person to cross the street
Feeding a hungry animal
Providing warmth and shelter to another individual or creature
Helping a traveller
Smiling to make others happy
Sending our Peace and Blessings unto one other
Controlling our desires and emotions for the benefit of another individual
Taking responsibility of our speech and behaviour in order to avoid causing unnecessary harm to others
...anything which involves 'giving' of what we love, with an intention to Please God, or benefit someone else or another creature can be considered an act of sacrifice. The more we have been blessed with of wealth and knowledge, the more we are able to share with others and according to Scripture, the more we have the more we should give as an offering or sacrifice as a way of showing our appreciation and in serving God and humanity. On the other hand, the less we have to give and share with others, the less will be expected from us, and 'no soul is tasked beyond its capacity.'
And let us remember- God is in no need of our sacrifices- it is us ourselves that need it, and it is ourselves and the societies we live in which benefit from it, in order to establish a better connection with our Source, and have a better relationship with each other.
(Above writing is based on reflections of Dr Lale Tuncer)
Scripture quotes on Sacrifice
'And if his means do not suffice for two turtledoves or two pigeons, he shall bring as his offering for that of which he is guilty a tenth of an ephah of choice flour for a sin offering; he shall not add oil to it or lay frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering.' Leviticus 5:11
'They are to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the wrong they have committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven.' Leviticus 5:18
'And if he be poor, and cannot get so much; then he shall take one lamb for a trespass offering to be waved, to make an atonement for him, and one tenth deal of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, and a log of oil;' Leviticus 14:21
'And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.' Exodus 19:22
'And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.' Exodus 25:8
'Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.' Genesis 2:15
'Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.' Genesis 9:3
'When the LORD your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘Let me eat meat,’ because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires.' Deuteronomy 12:20
'Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.' Hebrews 13:16
'To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.' Proverbs 21:3
'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.'John 15:12-14
'He said, “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
'And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams'. 1 Samuel 15:22
'For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.' Psalm 51:16-17
'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.' Leviticus 17:11
'In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.'Psalm 40:60
'Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.' Mathew 9:13
'For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.' Hebrews 10:26
'And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’ 1Kings 13:2
'Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.'John 15:13
'For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve...' Mark 10:45
'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.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.'2 Samuel 24:24
'Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.' Genesis 8:20-21
'Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.' Exodus 13:2
'For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.' Luke 9:24
'And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.' Mathew 12:7
'And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.' Mathew 10:38
'So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.' Genesis 46:1
'And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.' Daniel 9:27
'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.' John 10:11
'If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; but he shall bring his compensation to the Lord, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.' Leviticus 19:20-22
'Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.' Isaiah 53:10
'The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.' Proverbs 15:8
‘Say, ‘My prayers and sacrifice, my life and death, are all for God, Lord of all the Worlds..’ Quran 6:162
‘You shall never attain righteousness unless you spend from what you love. Whatsoever you spend, God is fully aware of it.’ Quran 3:92
'And recite thou to them the story of the two sons of Adam truthfully, when they offered a sacrifice, and it was accepted of one of them, and not accepted of the other. 'I will surely slay thee,' said one. 'God accepts only of the godfearing,' said the other.' Quran 5:27
‘Believers! Do not nullify your acts of charity by stressing your benevolence and causing hurt as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen by people and does not believe in God and the Last Day. The example of his spending is that of a rock with a thin coating of earth upon it: when a heavy rain smites it, the earth is washed away, leaving the rock bare; such people derive no gain from their acts of charity. God does not set the deniers of the Truth on the Right Way.’ Quran 2:264
‘Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness. And do not assist each other in acts of sinfulness and transgression. And be aware of God. Verily, God is severe in punishment’ Quran 5:2
‘If you give charity openly, it is good, but if you keep it secret and give to the needy in private, that is better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds: God is well aware of all that you do.’ Quran 2:271
‘Indeed, the men who practice charity and the women who practice charity and [they who] have loaned God a goodly loan - it will be multiplied for them, and they will have a noble reward.’ Quran 57:18
‘And those who strive in Our (cause),- We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily God is with those who do right.’ Quran 29:69
‘Go forth, light and heavy! Struggle in God's way with your possessions and your selves; that is better for you, did you know.’ Quran 9:41
‘Among the believers, those who stay at home without a good reason are not equal to those who strive for the cause of God in person or with their property. To those who strive for His cause in person or with their property, God has granted a higher rank than to those who stay at home. God has promised that everyone will receive his proper share of the reward but He will grant a much greater reward to those striving for His cause than to those who stay home (for no reason).’ Quran 4:95
‘When Jesus found them denying the truth, he said, "Who will help me in the cause of God?" The disciples replied, "We are the helpers of God. We believe in Him. Jesus, bear witness that we have submitted ourselves to His will."’ Quran 3:52
‘Believers, be the helpers of God just as when Jesus, the son of Mary, asked the disciples, "Who will be my helpers for the cause of God?" and the disciples replied, "We are the helpers of God." A group of the Israelites believed in him and others rejected him. We helped the believers against their enemies and they became victorious.’ Quran 61:14
Then when he was old enough to accompany him, he said, "O my son, I see in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so see what you think." He said, "O my father, do as you are commanded to do. You will find me, God willing, of the patient ones." Then when they both submitted, and he placed his forehead on the ground, We called him, "O Abraham, you have believed the vision!" Indeed, We thus reward the good-doers. This was a clear test indeed. We made a concession for him in place of a grave slaughter. And We preserved his history for those who followed. Peace be upon Abraham. We thus reward the good-doers. He was one of Our believing servants.’ Quran 37:102-111
‘And for all religion We have appointed a rite [of sacrifice] that they may mention the name of God over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. For your god is one God, so to Him submit. And, give good tidings to the humble [before their Lord]’ Quran 22:34
‘So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone].’ Quran 108:2
‘We have decreed the animal offerings for you among the rites of God.’ Quran 22:36
‘Neither their meat nor their blood reaches God, but it is your reverence that reaches Him.’ Quran 22:37
...’And for the one who is ill or suffering a head injury, is given the 'fidya' (concession) of fasting or giving to charity, or by observing a worship ritual.’ Quran 2:196.