"To obey is better than sacrifice." - 1 Samuel 15:20
Do you remember what your child's first word was? My son starting speaking super young and his first word was definitely "Ma ma"! My daughter, on the other hand, refuses to say anything but "Da da". I was in denial about it for a while, but there's no mistaking it when my husband walks through the door and she beams at him saying "Da-dee!" I'm just glad her first word wasn't "no". It's always a bit scary when our babies learn that one, isn't it? But "no" is such an important word, and one we seem to forget how to use effectively as we grow into adults.
Why do we feel the pressure, even from infancy to always say "yes" and "okay", rather than "no"? Why are we taught that saying no is bad and saying yes it good? Why do we, the church, often push ourselves and each other to be ""Yes-People". Is this really what God wants from us?
I realize this is difficult topic because it addresses the issue of our motivation for doing the things we do. Why do we say yes to the things we say yes to? Is it to impress God? Earn His love? Impress others? Earn their respect? One way to better understand the idea of motivation is to look at the difference between "obedience and sacrifice" in the story of King Saul.
" ‘But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lord assigned me…the soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God.’ But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.’" (I Samuel 15:20-22)
Here’s a thought: The right action, at the wrong time and for the wrong reason, is the wrong action. That is the difference between obedience and sacrifice. In the verses above, Saul told Samuel the reason he let his men keep some of the plunder from battle was to give it to God as a burnt offering. That in and of itself was not a bad thing to do. However, in doing this, Saul disobeyed God's first command, which was to destroy everyone and everything and keep nothing. How does this relate to your life as a mom?
Saul said "yes" to keeping sheep and livestock for an offering to God when he should have said "no". Even though giving a burnt offering was a "good thing", the reason he did it was wrong. His motivation was selfish and his heart was rebellious to the Lord. In fact, right before this conversation with Samuel, Saul had just finished building a monument to honor himself, instead of God! And right after Samuel scolds him Saul says, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them” (1 Sam 15:24).
How often do we do the "right thing" for the wrong reason? Do you ever say yes to impress others and honor yourself instead of God? There is a difference between obedience (saying yes to God's voice and commands) and sacrifice (saying yes to what you/others deem to be "right" or "good" things). Sometimes it's actually better to say no.
Learning to say no is a skill God values. There was a time in my life when I didn't know how to say no. Every time I was asked to be involved, help out or volunteer I said yes. I felt I was a “good person” and a “strong Christian” because of this. Until I realized that by saying yes to doing all this good stuff, I was actually saying no to being with God. Is your yes to good deeds, inadvertently a no to intimacy with God?
As you chase your big dreams, raise your children, grow your marriage, there will be many opportunities to be involved in great things. It is so important that you remember the difference between obedience and sacrifice when these opportunities come up and to ask for God’s direction about each one. Though saying yes might make us look go on the outside, God is not impressed by our actions. He’s pleased with a heart that is first and foremost obedient to his voice. “This is love for God: to obey his commands." (1 John 5:3).