What can we give to God? He is the Creator of all things. He sustains all things, too. In Him we find all that we need; He needs nothing from us. He has perfect community in the Trinity. He creates for the sake of delight and pleasure, not necessity. It's a strange thing to think of what we can and should give to God.
What is it that He requests from His children? God delights in our participating in a relationship with Him. He takes pleasure in our singing praises to Him. In the Old Testament, we see that burnt offerings were deemed as fragrant to Him. God desires a spirit willing to forsake our desires in place of His. He desires our very soul–that we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. But all of this seems a bit vague, and it can be a challenge to live out in practice.
2 Samuel 24:24 provides a vivid picture of the ways that we sacrifice to God. Chapter 24 gives an account of King David's sin, God's subsequent punishment for that sin, and David's successive repentance. We read about the rise of David's pride, seeing that he has quickly forgotten that God doesn't operate by using our own strength. Instead, He uses His strength, despite countless instances in which God's hand has carried Israel to victory against strong adversaries notwithstanding their small, scrappy stature. David, forgetting that God is the source of Israel's success, resolves to find security and pride in his kingdom's numbers and soldiers instead.
David eventually comes to realize the error of his ways. The king confesses this sin to God and pleads for mercy through a prophet named Gad. But sin cannot go without punishment, and three days of pestilence fall on David's earthly kingdom, 70,000 men losing their lives.
In seeing God's wrath on the land of Israel, David finally turns from simply pleading for mercy. Instead, he earnestly repents, begging that the wrath be poured out on himself rather than on his people. God, through the prophet Gad, then instructs David to raise up an altar on a threshing floor belonging to a man named Araunah. When David meets this man, Araunah gifts the threshing floor and anything else the king might need for free. But David insists on paying him, saying, "No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24 ESV).
Out of reverence for God, David asserts that he must pay something. He knew the blame was his to bear. He knew that recompense was his responsibility. David proceeded to offer burnt and peace offerings on the altar, and God was pleased with this. The plague then ceased.
David refused to give God something with diminished value from being common and inexpensive. We should not be satisfied either in doing less than that. The sacrifice is not the focus here; the cost is. We cannot afford to give to God that which costs us nothing.
I think it is easy for us to find luxury in giving to the Lord. "Sure, God, you can have my three dollars in pocket change. I wasn't going to use the silver anyways." "God, I'd love to give my life to missions, especially some place warm, and tropical." "I will gladly share the gospel with my neighbors, God, but only the ones who look and sound like me."
Don't mishear me–God took delight in the widow's mite, as He would also be bound to do for those three dollars. There are lost people in warm, tropical places who need the Word of God and who need willing believers to preach the gospel to them. And sharing the gospel with your neighbors is a good thing–a thing commanded of us. But what I am trying to convey is that there is an intersection where the cost of our actions meets obedience to the Lord–do we give because it's convenient, or do we give because we refuse to offer to God that which costs us nothing?
We learn from David's refusal to take advantage of a gift for sacrifice to the Lord, but there is also much to ascertain from Araunah. Upon a rare sight of seeing his own ruler face-to-face, Araunah willingly gives up his possessions–his livelihood–to be used for an offering to God. He desired no payment from David. Instead, he preferred what was pleasing to God at the price of his own belongings. He counted the cost and knew that the reward was greater in God than in his possessions. While David chose to forgo his gracious gift and insisted on paying for these things, there is no depletion of the importance of cheerfully and graciously giving so that God might be pleased.
We give to God because He is deserving. We give to God because He has first given to us. We give to God because He sent Christ to suffer in our place and for our sake. Lastly, we give to God because it is a witness to a broken world that there is something more lovely than what earth offers–Jesus Christ.
So, what should we give to God, specifically? We've come full circle to that strange, old question. And sadly enough, I don't necessarily have an answer for you. Rather, I've got more questions. What does it look like to count the cost in your life? What might be worth sacrificing to God–something that would cost you far more than nothing? Does counting the cost of a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord look financial? Does it look like changing your college major? Or maybe spending time with your elderly parents or grandparents in willing and joyful service?
Sharing the gospel can cost friendships; it can cost societal status. The cost of a missionary's life is high–isolation and reviling are likely a part of everyday life. And I don't have to remind you that giving financially has a literal cost as well; giving money necessitates that you can't store that cash up for yourself and your own pleasures. However, there is far greater joy, satisfaction, delight, pleasure, and gladness in sacrificing to the Lord than what that money, location, or time could benefit. Sure, there is a cost to pay, but the satisfaction in serving God is far, far better than $100, time spent on your phone, or staying in that safe and secure hometown until you're old and gray. We don't have anything to give to God that He doesn't already have. But what we can do is give Him something that costs us greatly–our lives.
Will you commit to counting the cost of sacrifice as excellent as David did? Will you pledge to abundantly and graciously give like Aruanah?