I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. [Hosea 6:6 (NLT)]

And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” [Matthew 25:40 (NLT)]

little blue heronA 2013 United Healthcare Group study found that volunteering is linked to better physical, mental and emotional health. Apparently it reduces stress, brings people together, promotes personal growth and self-esteem, strengthens our sense of community, and helps us learn new skills. Something their study did not mention is that volunteering is an act of worship and sacrifice. A sacrifice is an offering to God and every time we sacrifice time, talents, or resources by doing for His Kingdom, we are worshipping Him.

Because Jesus was the perfect and final sacrifice when He died for our sins, we no longer bring pigeons or sheep to God’s altar. Rather than dead animal sacrifices, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, not to atone for sins but to worship our Lord. When we drop that envelope in the offering plate, give a dollar to a street person, write a check to a charity, or bring groceries to the food pantry, we’re really not giving to the church, homeless, Red Cross, or the hungry; we’re giving to God. When we lift a hammer at a Habitat home, sort clothes at the charity resale shop, pack lunches for the migrant workers, give someone a ride to church, visit the ill or assist at Sunday school, we are worshipping God with our service. Our sacrifice of resources, time, and talent is as much an act of worship as singing hymns or offering prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

The Old Testament often spoke of God being pleased with the aroma of a sacrifice. While our New Testament sacrifices are not burned on an altar and have no aroma, I think God finds them just as pleasing to His senses. When those ancient sacrifices were not the first and best or were accompanied by a bad attitude, God found a stench to them. It would seem to follow that when our Christian sacrifices are offered begrudgingly or we fail to give the best we can, our hypocrisy will cause them to stink, as well.

Let us worship the Lord with our hearts and hands as well as our voices! Let us joyfully worship Him with service as well as with song!

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. [Romans 12:1 (NLT)]

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. [Hebrews 13:15-16 (NLT)]

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