The City to Come and the Sacrifice of Service
Would it surprise you to know that God-pleasing praise is not merely an issue of singing but also of serving? Continue reading . . .
Would it surprise you to know that God-pleasing praise is not merely an issue of singing but also of serving? We know this from what we read in Hebrews 13:15-16 –
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb. 13:15-16).
The sacrifice of praise is more than a song. It’s also rigorous work, heart-felt generosity, and true compassion for those who are hurting and in need. God loves to see that as much as he loves to hear the other. We see this clearly in v. 16 where the doing of good and the sharing of our possessions is also referred to as a “sacrifice” of praise to God.
The point is that you can’t worship God in a way that pleases him if you continue to greedily clutch your money and time and turn your back on the needs that exist in the body of Christ.
But how is it that doing “good” and in particular being generous with our money is an act of worship? Worship is obviously all about making God look good. The sacrifice of praise is designed to make known the preeminent value of God. We worship in order to magnify him as our greatest and most highly prized treasure. So how does financial generosity do that?
Is it not obvious? When you make generous and sacrificial use of your wealth to help others you are declaring that your treasure is in heaven, not on earth. To do good to those in need and to give abundantly to the work of Christ in and through the church shows that you are living not for this world or this city but for the city and the world that is to come. It is your way of saying that your greatest joy isn’t in what your money can purchase for you in this present “city” but in what it can do to promote the glory of God in that “city” that is to come. To obey Hebrews 13:16 proves the truth of 13:14 has actually made a difference in your life.
When we live and give sacrificially for Christ’s sake we make him look more valuable than stuff. If your heart is set on seeking the city that is to come, you are set free from bondage to material wealth and you will gladly give generously as yet another act of praise to God. To be stingy with your time, energy, or money is definitive proof that you have no idea what v. 14 is all about!
When our hearts are supremely satisfied in God, they won’t look for satisfaction in the material wealth of the cities of this present world. When we set our hearts on the Creator rather than the creation, when we trust in all that God is for us in Jesus rather than in what worldly comfort and opulence can supply, we honor him, we magnify him, we declare that he and he alone is of supreme worth and value.
The point then is that when our hearts are abundantly full of the presence of Christ and the pleasures that he imparts they will overflow in the sacrifice of praise, lips that proclaim his beauty and his transcendent superiority to anything we might own or enjoy in this city. And that verbal praise will not terminate with itself but will stir our hands to work for the good of others and to give to alleviate their suffering.
So ask yourself this question: “Does the way I live show that Jesus is more precious to me than possessions? Does the use of my time, energy, and money show that my heart is set not on this present city but the one that is to come?”
What are some of the “good” things he has in mind? Well, he’s actually already told us earlier in Hebrews 13. Back in vv. 1-3 he talked about acts of hospitality and brotherly love and ministering to those who have suffered for the cause of Christ. Sometimes that requires the commitment of our finances.
And all of this, he says, is eminently “pleasing to God” (v. 16b). Why? Because it magnifies the worth of his Son, Jesus Christ and is a blessing to the very people for whom he suffered reproach and shame and death outside the camp.
There’s another reason it’s pleasing to God. Back in Hebrews 13:5 we were exhorted to keep our lives free from the love of money and to be content with what we have because God has promised always to be with us and never to leave or forsake us. If you love yourself and your money inordinately you will find every excuse possible not to obey v. 16. If you love money you will trust it to bring you happiness rather than the presence of God. If you love money you will cherish it and strive to obtain all this present “city” can provide instead of seeking the spiritual treasures of the city that is to come.
And the way you keep your life free from the love of money is by trusting God’s promise that he will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, every time you offer up the sacrifice of doing good and sharing your wealth you make it clear to all concerned that you aren’t dependent on money for your happiness but on God and all that is for you in Jesus and all that he has promised to provide for you in the city that is to come.