Saint Paul exhorts us to “continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name (Hebrews 13:15).”
Huh? How can praise be a sacrifice?
Rooting around in Jewish sources, I discovered that the word “sacrifice” may have lost something in the translation. To the Jews of Paul’s time, a sacrifice wasn’t something, like doing the dishes, that you don’t want to do, but do because you have to. The Hebrew word qaravan means sacrifice or offering.
The 19th c. rabbi and linguist Solomon Hirsch explains it this way: “The driving force for us to bring a sacrifice or offering to God is to bring us closer to God.”
One writer likened this kind of “offering” to a husband bringing flowers to his wife. The offering is from the overflow of his heart and is meant to bring them closer to each other in love.
What’s in it for me?
It’s easy to forget that everything we are commanded to “sacrifice” for God is not for God’s benefit, but for ours. In fact, it’s not really a question of “gain” either way—it’s a question of love. Praising God enlarges our heart to love, which makes us more like the God who is Love—in whose image we are created.
If growing in love is the reason for making a “sacrifice of praise,” it reinforces the truth that we are human-beings, not human-doings. It’s not actions themselves that prepare us for heaven, but rather that following God’s will makes our hearts more like the heart of Jesus.
Ways to be a human being
Putting more emphasis on “being” than “doing” means a slap-down with our to-do list. The way to win that one is to put praise on our to-do list. I’m getting better at “scheduling what’s important”—putting “walk in park” or “adoration” on my calendar and then treating it as an unbreakable appointment with God. Once God’s on the calendar, it’s harder to say, “Oops, sorry, God, I really need to do Facebook now.”
What brings you out of white-knuckle mode and makes your mind free just to soak in the beauty of God, praising him (with or without words)? Music? Watching the clouds? Contemplating a picture in your house? Sitting by the lake? Whatever enlarges your heart to praise God, I challenge you to put it on your calendar and practice living as a human being who, by praising God, is getting closer to him.
Today, let’s offer praise to God, so that our heart will increase its capacity to love as he has loved us. It brings so much joy, it won’t seem like a “sacrifice” at all!