“But the King said, “No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” – 2 Samuel 24:24
Near the end of David’s reign as King he makes one of his worst mistakes. In a moment of arrogance and pride David orders that the troops be counted. He wants to know how many soldiers he has in his army. At face value this doesn’t sound like a bad idea. As many wars as David fought in it’s always a good idea to know how many troops you have. However, God had specifically told them not to count the troops, because it didn’t matter how many troops they had. Israel did not win wars based on the size of their army. Israel won wars because the LORD God was fighting for them. David’s census was wrong because it was about personal pride and placing trust in self instead of God.
As punishment for his sin David is given a choice of consequences; and he chooses a curse from God on the land for three days. God sends an angel of destruction to go through the land and 70,000 people died. But God chooses to show mercy and stop the plague before the appointed time. When this happens the angel of destruction is at Jerusalem over the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David, recognizing his own sin and seeing the mercy of God goes to Araunah and asks to buy his land so that he can sacrifice burnt offerings to the LORD at the very place where the destruction stopped. Araunah offers to just give the land to David for free as well as the animals for the burnt offering, but David refuses the gift. Instead David says, “No, I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”
There are many different lessons that can be learned from this episode in David’s life, but as I encountered the story recently I couldn’t help but be convicted by David’s words about refusing to offer something to God that cost him nothing. Sacrifice must have a cost. And if something is worth giving to God it must cost us something. However, if I’m honest, I must confess that far too often I am content to take the easy way out. I’m content to give to God that which cost me nothing instead of making a real sacrifice. And as I look around I can’t help but think I’m not alone.
The easiest place to see this connection is in giving. Many Christians are quick to point out that the New Testament never requires a tithe (which is true) yet monetary giving in churches is abysmal. While some of these statistics are old, George Barna reported a few years ago that the average adult in American churches gives $17 dollars a week. Another study around the year 2000 put the average giving of families as 3% of their total income. It seems that in many ways we are content to give the Lord that which cost us nothing. I’m not saying we should go sell all we have and give to the poor, but there has to be some place in between giving away all and $17 dollars a week that is a faithful and worthy sacrifice to God.
Although not as easily tracked, this can also be seen in commitment. It has become easy to become less committed to church and to God. Many of us have discovered grace and no longer feel the burden to be at church activities every time the doors are open. This is a nice change, and yet we may be in danger of going the opposite direction. It seems that for many, especially those in my generation, we try to find excuses not to go to church activities or be involved. We’ve learned how to say no and not overburden our families, yet it seems that instead of saying no to sports or music we say no to religious activities. But shouldn’t our sacrifice to God cost us something? If Jesus is Lord should it not cost our lives? How did grace become so cheap? Is our lack of involvement a sign of our lack of commitment?
Obviously in many ways all the questions raised here can only be answered on an individual basis. Circumstances of different families and communities determine the answer to the questions. However, I pray the words of David convict us all. And may we, as those who belong to our Lord and Savior, refuse to offer to God a sacrifice that costs us nothing.