In Genesis 13, even though the promise of the land was to Abram, he allowed Lot to choose the best part of the land, showing uncommon and unnecessary generosity. And Abram lived less well because of this choice. Lot took the fertile and well-watered land of the Jordan valley, and Abram took the steeper, more difficult land. Choices of unnecessary generosity do come at a sacrifice. Similarly in the New Testament: in Luke 3 when soldiers and tax collectors repent and ask how to put that repentance into action, John the Baptist replies:
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
Luke 3:10-14, ESV
Tax collectors made their money by levying extra collections, demanding more taxes than Rome had actually authorized them to take – and who could stop them? It was an easily – and almost always – abused power situation. Soldiers could easily – and often did – require bribes and extort money. So what would happen if a tax collector collected only the authorized amount or if a solider were content with his wages. Simply put, that tax collector or solider would live below the standard of living of his peers. Following the gospel does create a financial sacrifice.
Sally Carlson, who lives in Hong Kong and works in hedge fund management, discusses this dynamic in her vocational world:
Where is God calling me to live below the standard of my peers for the sake of the gospel?
Images: FreeImages.com/jello fishy. Video posted by The Fellows Initiative.