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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).
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
I’ve always hated when pastors say, “Give God a clap offering.” I’ve only ever met one pastor whom I believed when he said that; all the others, I always felt like they just wanted to walk out to applause, and that was the way to get it from a church audience.
What would a clap offering even be? What are we really giving God? What are we sacrificing, other than a minuscule amount of bodily energy?
What, exactly, is the nature of sacrifice?
Let’s start from early on. Why was God’s portion 10 percent? Why didn’t He just say, “Everyone give me x many bulls and x shekels?” Why, in fact, did He choose something proportional, even in specific sacrifices: if a family couldn’t afford a bull, they would sacrifice a goat; if they couldn’t afford a goat, they’d sacrifice two doves?
This tells me that God is often not looking for any one thing, but rather a certain value in the heart. To a man with a thousand bulls, the sacrifice of a goat is nothing; while to a man with nothing, a goat is more than he has. But to the rich man, a hundred bulls might be of the same value as two doves to the man with nothing.
We honor God with a sacrifice when we give Him something we value highly.
And that is what sticks me about the idea of a clap offering. Somewhat.
I mean, I do highly value praise for myself. Too much so, in fact: I covet it. But I don’t covet applauding other people. It’s just what’s done when it’s appropriate. I’m personally uninvested.
But that’s me, and I don’t think anything conclusive will come of this, so let’s move from the clap offering to the sacrifice of praise. What exactly is that?
The very same verse says what it is: “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Why are the words (the fruit of the lips) of believers so valuable?
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
Compare that with:
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you (Ps 5:8-10).
On the one hand, a righteous person, from a good heart, produces good, and the words of their mouth—the fruit of their lips—is good. On the other hand, those who oppose the Lord, their throats are open graves and their hearts are destruction.
The sacrifice of praise is the overflow of the heart of a righteous person, speaking life to God and to people. It is a sacrifice because it is something valued so highly; though it doesn’t take much effort, it is the person’s value of God Himself. It is of unparalleled value.
So maybe there is room for a clap offering, if it stems from a right heart.
And it is the heart of the person that produces the sacrifice. This is the nature of sacrifice. Sacrifice isn’t just giving up something: it has to be something you actually value for it to be a sacrifice.
For many people, it is no sacrifice to live where they do. They like where they live, or at least don’t hate it. It is what it is, and they can take it or leave it. Or they love it. There’s no sacrifice there.
I live far from my family. Most of my friends have moved away. I really don’t like this city, either. For me, living here is a sacrifice I make to God, laying down what I want to serve Him where He wants me to be. And I remember the words that immediately precede Heb 13:15: For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
I gladly do this because I love God. It’s not always pleasant, but again, that’s the nature of sacrifice. I am glad to do it because it is what God wants, and that’s of far more value.
Are you giving to God sacrificially? Do you have a sacrificial nature? Do you gladly give to God not just the minimum, but what you value so highly? What are the things—good things—that you value so highly you won’t let go? Are you prepared to give them to God if He asks?
Seek out opportunities to give sacrificially! Not grudgingly, but gladly—joyously!—knowing that there is little more pleasing offering to God!
And do not neglect the sacrifice of praise! Give God the fruit of your lips, growing from a righteous heart! Praise God sacrificially, with every fiber of your being!