Obedience is better than sacrifice – Elizabeth Kamba, Assistant Professor, Department of English

What is better, obedience or sacrifice? One is often faced with this question in real life issues. This week’s article carries us through this question with examples and illustrations from the biblical character Saul with insights for practical application.

Obedience is better than sacrifice 

At the very outset, I acknowledge myself as someone very ordinary to write on a topic which is very much Biblical and deep in theological understanding. I am neither a preacher nor theologically trained to quote from the Bible but, it is simply an inspiration as the phrase caught my attention. Therefore, I take this opportunity to bring out an article and put into writing as the topic capture my heart in the process of writing.

‘’Obedience is better than Sacrifice’’ is a direct quotation from the Bible (1 Samuel 15:22), where Saul the king of Israel was confronted by Prophet Samuel on his disobedience. The king did not carry out the way he was commended for total destruction of the Amelekites. The general understanding of obedience is willingness and acting according to what is instructed, while on the other hand Sacrifice means the fact of giving up an object, desire and dream, which is dear to you in lieu of greater happiness. Biblically, obedience is  submitting to authority and Sacrifice on the other hand, is done as an   offering to God.

Obedience is the being of what you are and Sacrifice is what you can do. Obedience is the state of heart but Sacrifice is the state of position. Every individual is equal in the eyes of God. But as stated in the word of God,   God looks at the human heart and not the outward appearance and position (1 Samuel 16:7).  In the oracle of God,  Samuel was used to bring forth the prophecy of God to  Saul who prophesized that God will punish the Amelekites.  Therefore, he must go and attack theAmelekites and totally destroy them and everything that belongs to them; not to spare anyone and anything but to put to death all men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camel and donkeys etc. Henceforth, Saul the king attacked Amelekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the East of Egypt but he took  Agah the king of Amelekites alive while his   soldiers spared the best of the sheep and cattle; the fat calves and lamb  for sacrificial act. Indeed, the king and his soldiers brought the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the God of Israel (1 Samuel 15:15) but the question here was, did  the Lord instructed them through Samuel to spare the best animal for sacrificial act? No, the Lord told them to destroy everything.  But the king Saul of Israel disobeyed the Lord’s command and went his own way to please the Lord by sparing the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice which is an act of outward attitude showing what one can do in the state of position. Although the intention of the king and his Soldiers were for good reason but the approached action that they have taken was not in the way God told them to do. Therefore, the Lord said “To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel15:22).

Similarly, in the relationship between King and his citizens, parents and children, teachers and students; to obey by keeping the instruction is better than the gifts of ring and bracelet of diamonds; a heart  willing to obey is better than the heart of unwilling gifts of luxurious car. From the oracle of God to Saul, we can clearly see that Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is something that deals with the willingness to abide by the rules and regulations and following the instruction with a willing heart; but sacrifice is an outward appearance in order to please the other, just as king Saul did in the oracle of God. Reflecting back the attitude of King Saul and his soldiers in which they rejected the Lord’s command we can analyze through this example in our daily activities where we intend to please others rather than pleasing God.

Therefore, the phrase ‘Obedience is better than Sacrifice’ is justified as God does not look at the outward appearance of a person as man does but looks at the heart. Obedience implies heeding to instruction  with positive attitude while sacrifice is an act of what one can do  even if it is without any moral obligations. Both the leading words Obedience as well as Sacrifice have a strong sense in each perspective. Obedience stands for loyalty, while sacrifice stand for giving up for better cost but here Obedience is more important than sacrifice since Obedience is  doing with a willing heart unlike sacrifice. In our  society, often the desire to put up a lofty show, the sacrificial donations to construct a bigger church, the fear of displeasing a more powerful body or person etc. can become a bigger concern than that of listening and obeying what one really believes to be the truth. This is where the question of obedience or sacrifice gets separated by a thread-bare line.
However, one should understand that obedience is not a forced entity, neither is sacrifice. And when force gets in, it disrupts the essence of both. Coercion is never the intended will of the Lord. Obedience need not be blindly following instruction irrationally and impulsively. In fact, when obedience is taken in that context, the reaction becomes undesirable. Also, self-glorification should never be the basis of sacrifice. The foundation for sacrifice must include sincerity, dedication and genuineness.

To conclude, there is greater honour in obeying than in sacrificing since sacrifice can be easy and sometimes embedded with ulterior motives but obedience in the true sense demands real sacrifice and is the ultimate call of a disciple.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email:dot@tetsocollege.org.

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