If you've ever had a teenage son, you'll know this answer. When a teenage boy gets home from school, what's the first question he asks? "What's for dinner?" Now one of our boys' unfavorite answers to that question was that dreaded "L" word - leftovers! That was especially scary after Thanksgiving, when we found it seemed like that turkey would never end. Now leftovers aren't too many people's first choice for a meal. Right? And the longer they've been left over, the more unsatisfying that choice becomes. I know I've never been to a restaurant who offered an item called "leftovers" on today's specials, or anywhere on the menu for that matter. Let's face it. They're second best - at best.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Repulsive Leftovers."
No one gets very excited about leftovers - including God. But when God asks many of us, "What are you giving Me?", our most honest answer would be, "Leftovers." In our word for today from the Word of God, God is telling His ancient people that they are showing contempt for Him, and these are people who are doing a lot of religious thins! He says they are disrespecting Him by bringing Him defiled offerings. He explains in Malachi 1:8. Remember, God called for the sacrifice of only an unblemished, perfect animal.
Here's what He says: "When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?...With such offerings from your hands, will God accept you?...Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on your altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord Almighty, and I will accept no offerings from your hands."
Imagine God saying, "Forget all your church meetings! All your Christian activities are useless. Close the church! Keep your offerings! You're wasting your time - I'm not accepting what you're giving." Man! Now that's God's reaction when His children offer Him the leftovers of their lives. His people in Malachi's day said, "Giving God this perfect animal is such a waste. I can get good money for an animal like that. I'll just give the Lord this blind one or this crippled one - I don't need them. I can't do much with those." And God says, "I'd rather have nothing than what you don't really need anyway - your leftovers."
Remember the day the religious leaders in Jerusalem were throwing their big offerings in the pot with great fanfare? Remember the only gift Jesus said impressed Him? The gift of a poor widow who quietly gave everything she had. It doesn't matter to Jesus how much you give - it seems to be how much you have left that matters to Him. One recent study shows that the giving of American Christians - the percentage of their income given to the work of God - has dropped by one-third in the last 30 years! The trend seems to be to spend more on ourselves and to give less to our Lord. I can't imagine He is any more pleased with us than He was with His children in Malachi's day.
God calls on His children to give the "first fruits" to Him. To a farmer, that meant real faith giving. Before he knew what kind of harvest he'd ultimately have, he brought to God right off the top. Now it's interesting to note that many Christian ministries say that one-fourth to one-third of their total income for the year comes in during December, especially as people are thinking about their income tax deductions. Could it be that some of us are waiting until after the harvest to see what we can "afford" to give to the Lord - our "last fruits?" See, it's the gift of faith that pleases God. A gift that involves little risk and little sacrifice is not a gift that means much to a God who sacrificed His one and only Son for us.
Our spiritual words and activities may not be the best measure of our relationship with God. It's often the sacrificial giving of our finances that most accurately shows how much we really love Him. Not how much you give, but how much you have left...not leftovers. Because your Lord says, in Numbers 18:29, "You must present as the Lord's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you."