Man Up Musings - Man Up Adventures

False Sacrifice

Nathan Thompson

"I’m too busy man. I just can’t make it happen. I’ve got a lot going on right now; I’m just swamped. I’ll be there next time. I promise."


If I had a dollar for every time I heard that excuse coupled with that same empty promise I could afford to buy Donald Trump a new haircut.

As a man whose greatest passion is to incite today’s Christian man to be a force to be reckoned with for the good of his family as well as the kingdom of God, part of my job involves getting men to step away from their present reality – the comfortable routine that their daily life has become – and into the wilderness; a place free from the distractions of work commitments, television, stress, and duty; a place where God has a chance to speak loud and clear.

Sometimes – to be honest – it’s downright exasperating.

“I’m too busy.”

My exasperation doesn’t stem from the idea that there is any untruth about this excuse. No, I believe that there is almost always an air of legitimacy to the “I’m too busy” excuse. The legitimacy lies in just that: You are too busy. We’re all too busy.

But too busy doing what? Things that matter? (It depends on where your heart and your treasure are.) Things that add real value (instead more stuff) to a family? Busy doing things that carry eternal weight? What are you “too busy” doing?

The most common (and defensive) answer that I get when I get brave enough to press a man with that question can be summed up with one oh-so-noble word: WORK.

The conversations that usually ensues (and the facial expressions that normally accompany those conversations) elicit pictures of utter martyrdom: “Oh, I just wish I could!” one man wistfully told me when I urged him to join one of our Adventures in the Black Hills, “It would be so nice, but…” his excuse trailed off as his face twisted into a look feigning absolute helplessness. Some men would have you thinking that their world would literally crumble if they stepped away from the office for more than a lunch hour. Not even the President of the United States is that indispensible.

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I think this would be a good place for me to remind you that I am aware that God has “a work to do” for every man. After all, we must recognize that work was not a punishment that resulted from the Curse in Genesis 3 - much to the contrary. Genesis 2 shows us that even in the perfect state of a sinless Eden that the man Adam was tasked with caring for and maintaining the Garden. If it was God’s will for mankind to work while in the perfection of the sinless Eden, how much more so today?

While work is part of God’s plan for every man, I grow concerned when I see it chipping away at the foundation of the more important things in life like God-relationship, family, church attendance, and opportunities to grow in the areas of life that matter most. Like a fast flowing river at flood stage, work and duty seem to be eroding away all of the healthy margin in the life of the average North American Christian man; margin that’s crucial to maintaining long-term stable spousal and familial relationships; margin that affords a man the ability to fulfill necessary religious commitments and obligations; margin that offers opportunities to for a man to pause long enough to invest in himself so that he can, in turn, be an asset to his family, friends, church, and community.

Such are our tendencies as men. Push it to the limit. Bend but not break. Does this ring true?

I have a very close friend who constantly reminds me that it doesn’t matter how flashy, capable, or fast an Italian sports car is – if it’s out of gas it’s useless.

Translation: When you become too busy to stop and take time to be invested in, you’ve crossed a very dangerous line. Although you may love God and feel like you’ve got your world well-ordered, you’re pushing the gas gauge beyond E and are risking diminishing your potential for real effectiveness in the realms of life that truly matter most. It’s just a matter of time. You’re no good to anyone without gas in the tank.

It’s a given that most men feel a very strong obligation to provide for their families. Men are hard-wired to carry around a sense of duty to their loved-ones that allows them to be downright sacrificial in many arenas of life. (It’s this sense of duty that drives men to sacrificially give their lives for family, country, and cause.) I think most of us would agree that this is a good thing. However, a good thing taken too far will always end up backfiring.

What happens when a man takes his God-ordained duty – his work – beyond healthy limits? He loses sight of other important areas in his life that hold equal (if not more) importance in God’s eyes.

Through many conversations and much observation, it’s become clear that most of the men that I’ve encountered who are just “too busy” to stop and take care of their own needs are driven to this point under the guise of “sacrifice.” They truly believe that it’s their selfless duty to continuously power through the stop signs of life for the sake of everyone else, at their own cost. It’s a noble, but foolish thought.

Can the mighty redwood live without water? Men are capable of sacrificing themselves right into the ground. How many times does Scripture record Jesus slipping off to a wild place to spiritually recharge? If the Messiah stopped to be invested in, who are we to think that we’re the exception to the rule?

When this self-sacrificial creed is adhered to for lengthy periods there comes a point when a man crosses a threshold and passes over into the land of complete ineffectiveness. His sacrifice no longer has meaning. It’s no longer life-giving, but life-taking.

I call this “False Sacrifice.”

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There is a point when a man’s sacrificial actions (actions which previously were a benefit to his family) drop below the line of overall profitability and are no longer beneficial because they’ve reached a threshold where they’re actually hindering him from being the man his family needs him to be. I’ve dubbed this the “Point of No Return.”

The Point of No Return is just that - the point where the man no longer is seeing an overall “rate of return” on his sacrificial actions because, when contemplating the big picture, those actions have ceased being beneficial and are now presenting a major setback to the forward momentum of his family. Until something changes, this man will be the weakest link in his family unit and if nothing is done to correct the situation, the damage caused by the end result will outweigh the good of the initial sacrifice.

On the surface, False Sacrifice looks and feels like noble action, but the results over time can be crippling.

Allowing yourself to be at work (when you really don’t need the money) during the weekend of a men’s conference is False Sacrifice. What could be spiritually gained through the fellowship and preaching of the men’s conference far outweighs the “call of duty” you feel to your job. Missing unique opportunities like these leaves a gaping hole that is hard to fill elsewhere. Your family suffers more when you miss opportunities like these than you’d care to know.

Remember that God has commissioned you to be a spiritual leader to your family before anything else. Also remember that obedience is better than sacrifice.

Never leaving home to attend events like men’s retreat or a Man Up Adventure because you feel a sense of obligation to never leave your family is False Sacrifice. When you weigh the two options, the end result says that you’ll be a greater asset to your family in the long run if you take a break, rub shoulders with some other iron, and recharge your spiritual batteries. (It’s the exact same scenario with pastors and their churches. "Sabbatical" is a term we pastors need to reacquaint ourselves with.)

Consider a two-year period of time. Are all the extra hours you spend at work away from your family really worth that brand new car that you want to buy your son or daughter when they turn sixteen?

The sixteen year-old might argue, “Yes!” but the middle-aged men that have wept around our Man Up Adventures’ campfires as they talk about the absent dad who was never at home long enough to take the time to offer them what they needed as a son would argue otherwise.

Your False Sacrifice will not go unnoticed. It carries a steep price; a price that sometimes doesn’t surface for years. Broken relationships, bitterness, father wounds, generational curses… False Sacrifice over time will take a definitive toll on a family.

So the next time you find yourself dangerously close to the Point of No Return, stop and consider making a wiser investment. Next time you have an opportunity to recharge your batteries think twice before you decide that you’re “too busy” to invest in yourself, because that “too busy” could ultimately be a vote against the wife and kids that are relying on you to lead them spiritually.

Remember that you live in a reaping and sowing world, and that no man can escape his own actions. Remember that little is much when God is in it; you can stop striving. Remember that John wrote that his greatest joy came from the knowledge that his children walked in truth; your family is your greatest treasure. And remember that you’ve been commissioned to spiritually lead your family, and obedience is always greater than sacrifice – especially False Sacrifice.



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