Learning to see my ‘less than perfect’ as ‘for’ something

I wonder if this is the difference between asceticism and sacrifice.

Asceticism = “stuff is bad”

Asceticism is the view that stuff is pretty much always bad, and self-denial is pretty much always good.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a rise in ascetic approaches to living (in the world and in Christianity). It seems like an instinctive response to the rampant materialism, consumerism, and hedonism which is so obviously not helping the human condition. We humans tend to swing wildly between extremes, so I’m expecting to see a rise in asceticism. Not that it will take over from consumerism — there’s not much money to be made in self-denial.

But the Bible doesn’t teach asceticism. It says that the world full of good things, and enjoying it is a gift from God (1 Timothy 4:4).

But this needs to be balanced with a healthy doctrine of sacrifice.

Sacrifice = “not this stuff FOR this other stuff”

The word ‘for’. That’s the difference between asceticism and sacrifice. Asceticism says ‘self-denial is good’. Sacrifice says ‘self-denial for a good cause’ is good. The difference is what the self-denial is ‘for’.

When there’s some other good that you seek in the process of self-denial — that’s what makes that act of self-denial good and noble.

When your ‘less than perfect’ is for something

I suspect this attitude helps with contentment. It gives meaning to the areas of your life that are less than perfect which you could fix, but don’t.

You don’t have the best phone, not because the best phone is evil, but because you have decided to sacrifice that for being more generous to the poor.

The word ‘for’ makes sacrifice more meaningful and therefore more fun than asceticism, and more useful.

“Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had — all she had to live on.” (Jesus, Mark 12:41–44)
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