The Law of Sacrifice

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Last month, James “Jimmer” Fredette was selected in the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings. It was a moment that capped off a breakout season for Jimmer. In his senior year, Fredette captured national attention with his dazzling three-point shooting and led the Brigham Young Cougars to a record-breaking number of wins and the school’s first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in thirty years.

The moment also represented the fulfillment of a contract his older brother had drawn up and Jimmer had signed a few years before:

Jimmer hung this contract in his room and looked at it every single day. “It reminded me of what my goal was,” he said, “and if I didn’t want to work hard or practice that day, I would look at that and think, ‘You have to work as hard as you possibly can and do things other kids aren’t doing in order to be the best and reach your goal.’”

The things the other kids weren’t doing were drills like “The Gauntlet,” in which Jimmer would dribble down a pitch dark hallway at church, as his friends jumped out of classrooms in an attempt to throw him off his game. He also played pick-up games at the local prison, where he learned not to be intimidated by trash talk and extremely tough play.

When college recruiters didn’t come around, having deemed him too white and slow to be a viable prospect, he just kept on practicing and honing his game at one of the few schools to offer him a scholarship: BYU. In the summer after his junior year, he attended predraft camps with NBA teams in order to find the weak spots in his game that needed improvement.

The work paid off when he got to don the Kings’ cap and hoist a NBA jersey on June 23rd. He had made the necessary sacrifices to reach his goal.

What Is Sacrifice?

When we hear the word sacrifice, we often think of completely selfless acts in which someone does something for another entirely for the other person’s benefit. The image of a soldier sacrificing his life for his comrades frequently comes to mind.

But sacrifice isn’t purely altruistic. The best definition of sacrifice is this: “To forfeit something for something else considered to have a greater value.” (American Heritage Dictionary, emphasis mine). Sacrifice does not mean giving up something for nothing; it means giving up one thing for something else we believe is worth more.

This does not at all take away from the virtue of sacrificial acts. Instead of locating the merit of sacrifice in unselfishness, we can find it in a man’s chosen value system. The man who lays down his life for his family or for his comrades has chosen to place more value on their lives than on his own. What is more praiseworthy than that?

The Law of Sacrifice

So if that is the definition of sacrifice, what is the law of sacrifice? The law of sacrifice says that you cannot get something you want, without giving up something in return. In order to attain something you believe is of greater value, you must give up something you believe is of lesser value.

Society today tries to deny the law of sacrifice at every turn, promising people that they can fulfill their desires without having to forsake anything at all. “Lose weight without giving up your favorite foods!” “Get ripped without long workouts!” “Get rich without having to work hard!” The denial of the law of sacrifice is at the heart of things like our soaring credit card debt (US citizens currently hold $886 billion of it), not to mention our national debt. The fantasy that you can have whatever you’d like without ever paying for it is an incredibly seductive fantasy.

But it is only a fantasy. There is always a price to pay.

If you want to lose weight, you have to give up junk food. If you want to get ripped, you have to work out regularly. If you want the nice things in life, you have to work hard and save your money.

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