Where Discounts Don’t Apply
We are at a time of the year when everyone is looking for discounts. Maybe you got up super early on Black Friday and fought the crowds, or perhaps you scoured the Internet on Cyber-Monday endeavoring to snag one or more gifts at a deep discount. Everybody loves getting a great deal on gifts, don’t they?
I was recently reminded, though, that in certain cases, discounts may not be the right thing. Allow me to explain. On our recent tour of Israel, we were able to visit a site that is seldom visited by tourists. As a matter of fact, our Israeli guide had never taken a group to this location in more than eighteen years of leading tours, and he had only been there one time personally. The place I’m referring to is in the West Bank city of Hebron. When we arrived, there was not a single tourist bus, nor did we see a single tourist in the area.
Our destination was a magnificent 2,000 year old building erected by Herod the Great over the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are buried. When Sarah died, the Bible tells us that Abraham mourned and wept for her, and that he requested to purchase a place for her burial. The people of Hebron told Abraham that he was an “honored prince,” and that whatever property he desired would be given him freely.
Abraham showed the deepest humility and reverence, bowing before the people, and twice he insisted on paying full price for the cave and the land. Consider his statements:
Genesis 23:9, NLT
I will pay the full price in the presence of witnesses, so I will have a permanent burial place for my family.
When they still insisted on giving it to him for free, Abraham responded:
Genesis 23:13, NLT
No, listen to me. I will buy it from you. Let me pay the full price for the field so I can bury my dead there.
Over time, Abraham would also be buried beside Sarah in the cave of Machpelah, along with his sons, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives, Rebekah and Leah. Some may fault Abraham for not driving a hard bargain in order to get the best deal possible, but for Abraham, there was a sacredness involved in this, and he did not want to cheapen it.
David and the Threshing Floor
We see the same type of thing happening when King David purchases the property that would eventually become the location of the Jewish Temple. A devastating plague was ravaging Jerusalem, and David was instructed to build an altar and to offer sacrifice in a specific location. This plays out in a fascinating way.
David said to Araunah, “Let me buy this threshing floor from you at its full price. Then I will build an altar to the LORD there, so that he will stop the plague.”
1 Chronicles 21:22-26, NLT
“Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, and the threshing boards for wood to build a fire on the altar, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give it all to you.”
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the LORD. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” So David gave Araunah 600 pieces of gold in payment for the threshing floor.
As with Abraham, David declines an opportunity to have the piece of property given to him—he insists on paying the full price.
Later, we read, “So Solomon began to build the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the site that David had selected” (2 Chronicles 3:1, NLT).
This gives us another clue as to the value David may have seen in this particular threshing floor—it was on Mount Moriah—the very place where Abraham offered his son Isaac up to God (Genesis 22). Of course, the angel stopped Abraham from harming his son, but that act of faith prophetically foreshadowed the time when God would offer up his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of the world.
As we traveled around Israel, I found myself thinking often of these stories. I was reminded that Abraham and David weren’t the only ones that insisted on paying full price. God paid full price for us when Jesus died on the cross—truly the debt of our sin was paid in full. God received no discount on our souls; Jesus paid the ultimate and absolute price for us. This is something we hear often, and we should. But I found myself wondering, “Is the ultimate price Jesus paid for us something we should simply receive, or should it also evoke a certain response from us?”
In pondering this, I thought of two simple lines from an old hymn:
Jesus paid it all.
All to him I owe.
Are these two lines contradictory or complementary? I suppose if someone interprets it as “I’ve got to pay Jesus back for what he did for me,” there is an intrinsic problem. We could never “pay Jesus back” for what he did for us. Our efforts could never touch the inestimable, infinite, and eternal value of what he did for us. In one sense, we must simply receive, with humble hearts and great thanksgiving, the sacrifice he made on our behalf.
Yet, in another sense, what Jesus did for us should certainly evoke a response in our lives that involves consecration, faithfulness, and obedience. Jesus called us to do more than receive; he called us to follow him faithfully. The New Testament teaches more than just receiving salvation, it teaches discipleship as well. Jesus articulates this so powerfully in Luke 14:26-27 (NLT):
If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Then, after giving a couple of illustrations about the importance of “counting the cost,” Jesus says, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (Luke 14:33, NLT). I have actually heard ministers (who deceptively think they are profoundly enlightened) mock these verses as though they no longer apply today. Such thinking is tragically ignorant!
Practically speaking, does Jesus want every believer to liquidate everything they own and give it all away? No, but every believer—every disciple—should be willing to do that if the Lord were to ask. No thing should be more important to us than him, and anything we place before him or hold more dear than him is actually an idol.
Consider these insightful statements:
“Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Jesus never concealed the fact that his religion included a demand as well as an offer. Indeed, the demand was as total as the offer was free. If he offered men his salvation, he also demanded their submission.”
– John R. W. Stott
“We have suffered from the preaching of cheap grace. Grace is free, but it is not cheap. People will take anything that is free, but they are not interested in discipleship. They will take Christ as Savior but not as Lord.”
– Vance Havner
The Bible says much about sonship. As sons, we freely receive all that God has provided through Christ. However, we are not merely to receive the Father’s mercy; we are also to respond to his mission. In responding to his mission, we do not lose our sonship or its privileges, but we embrace servanthood and its responsibilities. That is why Paul says, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise” (Romans 1:14, NKJV). Later, Paul tells the same church, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another” (Romans 13:8, NLT). We should never seek to give “discounted” love.
Jesus addresses our giving up everything to follow Him, and Paul speaks of our debt and obligation to love others. These are areas where we can learn something from Abraham and David, who insisted on paying full price. Let us not seek a cheap, discounted, or bargain type of Christianity, seeing how much we can receive from God and how little we can give him. May we honor the sacredness of our calling by giving God and each other the very best of our time, our talents, and our treasures.