Sacrifices and Trades

Reviewing a TVO Big Ideas dicussion on Sunday some years ago, I was puzzled by a reference to the idea of sacrifice. I recall that the speaker had drawn attention to the fact that the meaning of sacrifice had become rather obscure to modern man. In order to clarify the significance of the term he tells his audience about how he likes to remind his students that they too have made sacrifices to attend university and receive its benefits. Curiously he uses this example of sacrifice as a lead up to the Genesis story about Adam’s and Eve’s sons Cane and Abel, a story about the sacrificial offerings of the two brothers. Abel, a livestock farmer gives his first born; Cain a grower of produce offers God someof his produce. Now although Abel’s offering is superior to Cain’s both are sacrifices or gifts to God. Unlike the personal pleasures given up for a university education by the speaker’s students they are not exchanges for something better but gifts to God simply for God’s pleasure as are all sacrifices. An example of this idea of sacrifice or giving God the best that one possesses is Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. Agamemnon wishing to succeed in going to Troy and returning his brother’s Menelaus’ wife Helen promises the goddess Diana that he will sacrifice the most beautiful creature born that year. Tragically this beauty is his daughter Iphigenia whom he inevitably sacrifices to fulfill his promise to Diana and to acknowledge her immortal status. And again in the Bible the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s behest confirms Abraham’s honour for God above all else even his love for his son and that sacrifice means infinitely more than giving up something to perhaps receive something better.


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