C.S Lewis, author of many encouraging spiritual quotes that are still widely read and appreciated today, once said that, "No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice."
C.S Lewis, author of many encouraging spiritual quotes that are still widely read and appreciated today, once said that, "No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice." In American society, it's easy to forget that sometimes acting in your own best interest is not the primary order of business. There are a myriad of people out there who claim to be deeply religious, spiritual people, who go out and do horrible things. Fundamentally, they are not thinking of God's will, but of their own. They have forgotten that the nature of religion is giving of one's self in the support of the Lord.
But is sacrifice really a part of religious service? Christianity makes up fully one-third of the world's population. Christianity began with the martyrdom of Christ on the cross. The majority of saints are also martyrs for their faith. While this is going above and beyond the call of duty, the lay-person is expected to sacrifice their own wishes to serve the will of God. In Romans 12:1, Paul says: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service to worship." In short, you are no longer simply yourself, but a living conduit of God's will.
However, if one-third of the world is Christian, that means that two-thirds are not. The field of religious worship is vast, and addressing sacrifice in every context would be a task that would take weeks to read, so for brevity's sake the example of Thelema, founded by 19th-century esoteric thinker Aleister Crowley, will serve as the opposite end of the spectrum. In the holy books of Thelema, to demonstrate the difference between Thelemic and Christian practice, there is a passage which declares: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." Naturally, there is complexity to the meaning of 'wilt' in the context of the statement, but the rule can be fairly said to be the opposite in meaning of "follow the will of God above all else." Yet, in the Book of the Law, chapter III, Ra-Hoor-Khut demands sacrifice of animals to show the Thelemite's devotion. To avoid any confusion: most, if not all, followers of Thelema do not practice animal sacrifice. Other, less literal sacrifices are preferred, but the exact method of fulfilling Ra-Hoor-Khut's demands are made on a per-person basis.
Sacrifice, however, means the same thing in all contexts: giving up something that is desired for the sake of something else. When Paul explains that God wants His followers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, it is implicit that performing God's will is inherently in some ways not going to exactly match the will of each and every follower, and that when God works through man, though His reasons are not always clear to man, it is not our place to question.
When Ra-Hoor-Khut demands animal sacrifice, he is demanding that men give up some of their most important resource, food, to prove their devotion. In general, if it seems like it could be a good idea on the face of it, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is not sacrifice.
How, then, can sacrifice be worked into religious service in the modern day? For many people, the idea of giving up something that is genuinely important is terrifying. It should be scary. The idea of missing a child's play to help the poor, even though it is almost certainly God's will to help the poor, is unthinkable. In the end, that is what God has asked of you. However, He also understands that you are only human. Even the most devout people have time to themselves to engage in their hobbies. As a guideline for when sacrifice is appropriate, keep constant check on the idea of "want" or "need." You need to support your children; you want to eat a candy bar.
God never calls for Christians to sacrifice their relationship for His sake. Christianity is fundamentally about love, and if you are damaging your loving relationships while trying to prove your religiosity, then you can safely bet that this is not what God wants or needs from you.
Giving up other needs can sometimes be necessary in hard times, but, when it comes to everyday sacrifice, try just giving up one or two things you want and can easily have. In that way, you can serve God better by showing Him that you are willing to give not only petty things, but of yourself. Making these small sacrifices can help to make you happier as well, as it can help you to simplify your life and center yourself spiritually.