We talked a little about serving God leftovers on Monday’s blog. Today we’ll dig deeper into this troubling theme. Here is a true story that sums up the condition of the heart of every child of God from time to time, reported by radio commentator Paul Harvey years ago.
The Butterball Turkey Company setup a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The representative told her the turkey would be safe to eat, but did not recommend eating it because the flavor would have deteriorated. The woman caller replied, “That’s what I thought. Okay then, we’ll just give it to our church.”
Serving leftovers to family and friends can be one of the best things we can do. When I make lasagna, it always seems to taste a little better served as a leftover. This is true for a number of foods. There really is nothing like home-made soup served again on the second day. But there is nothing good about serving leftovers to God, which has become the norm for far too many Christians. It is nothing less than idolatry.
On Monday we talked about the “Three T’s”—Time, Talent, and Treasure. Here are a few other common leftovers.
- We serve leftovers to God in our worship when we consistently show up late and pray for the preacher to “land the plane” so we can get on with our day.
- We serve leftovers to God in our careers when we give less than our best effort, thinking, “Well, if this is all they pay, this is all they should expect!”
- We serve leftovers to God in our relationships when we find more satisfaction in our relationships with others than we do in our relationship to God.
The menu of leftovers is all but endless. Make no mistake, when we consistently remove God from first place in our lives, it is not long before He has virtually no place in our lives.
So . . . where in your life have you been serving leftovers to God?
The Scriptures provide several examples of the people of God offering Him leftovers. None is more damning than the rebuke Malachi delivered to Israel’s priests. They knew what the Law of Moses required for the animal sacrifices they offered to God. All animal sacrifices were to be without spot or blemish, for two very good reasons. First, God Himself is without spot or blemish. And second, these unblemished animals were a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice that was to come in Jesus Christ.
So what did the priests do? The right thing? Or the convenient thing? Hear the Word of the Lord:
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, “How have we despised your name?” By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, “How have we polluted you?” By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. (Malachi 1:6-7)
The priests chose the way of convenience and decided to give God less than their best animals. They gave Him their leftovers and kept the best for themselves. Their goal was to make worship what they wanted worship to be: convenient, comfortable, and cost effective. They were thinking, “Why not get rid of the animals we really don’t want anyway? They’re just going to go up in smoke!”
And we do exactly the same thing today when we give God less than our best. Designed by God for God, we are to make Him our first priority. His purposes are to be our purposes. His plans are to be our plans. His passions are to be our passions. This is how we make sure we are giving God our best . . . and not just our leftovers. When God said He is a “jealous God,” He was making it clear that He would tolerate no rival. He demands exclusivity, and that is exactly what He deserves—not so much for what He does for us, but simply for who He is. He is God, our Abba Father, and He is worthy of our absolute best.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for our race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!