Offering the Leftovers: God deserves more than our leftovers.

I press a button, and the door to the microwave swings wide open. After setting my plate inside, I close the door and push another button, waiting to open it until the microwave beeps or until the food starts to sizzle. As a sub-par cook, I have learned to appreciate the quick and easy meal of yesterday’s leftovers. It’s quick, simple, and economical. 

However, there are a few key deficiencies to leftovers: quality and flavor suffer. For instance, you discover that the leftover chicken parmesan from last night’s restaurant outing has gone stale and tough while the French fries went limp and soggy. Or, you bite into some leftover homemade soup, only to notice that the microwave heated some parts scalding hot and others surprisingly cold.

Leftovers are fine for a quick dinner at home, but they’re not something you would choose to serve to a distinguished guest. However, the book of Malachi records that the Israelites were doing just that—offering their leftovers to God. In a series of questions and answers between God and His people, a problem emerges. Despite God’s love and favor, His people despised His name.

“Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible,” Malachi 1:7 records. The passage continues in verse 8 where God asks, “And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.”

God brings other charges against Israel. They sacrifice a corrupt thing yet keep the whole to themselves. They wet the altar with their tears and fill the temple with their cries yet cause others to stumble in His law. They claim they have kept close to God yet have robbed Him of His tithes and offerings. They pretend to praise His name yet cast doubt on His character. They offered God the leftovers of their lives.

As we sit safe and sure in our chronological superiority, it’s easy to cast blame on the Israelites. Why did they offer God the leftover lamb? Why did they keep back the good for themselves? 

However, modern-day Christians are just as tempted to offer God our leftovers. We squish our spiritual life into our schedule yet clear the calendar for our favorite hobbies and activities. We tithe our income yet stop before it puts us in a place of dependency on God.  We show up tired and weary at church yet spend Saturday evenings watching one too many television episodes. We offer God the leftovers of our lives.

In response, God offers us a challenge. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). In other words, God is calling our bluff. He knows our tendency to hold back some areas from His control. When Jesus commanded us in Luke 14:33 to forsake all that we had to become His disciples, He meant it. However, in surrendering all we have to Him, we find that He more than meets our needs. After challenging the Israelites to bring their tithes to Him, He continues in Malachi 3:12 by saying their reward shall be a blessed name and a delightsome land.

In closing, I am reminded of the story of the widow with the olive oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7. Her husband is dead, and she fears her children will be sold to pay off his debts. Desperate, she goes to the prophet Elisha. He commands her to gather empty containers and pour her last bottle of oil into them. Miraculously, her oil is enough to fill all the empty containers, enabling her to sell them and pay her debts. 

What if the widow had gotten bored or distracted? What if she did the bare minimum and only gathered a few leftover containers? She wouldn’t have had enough room to receive the blessing of God. Instead, I pray that I will offer Him a sacrifice that is holy, clean, and pure. I pray that instead of offering God my leftovers, I will offer something worthy of the One who receives it.

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