Giving God the Leftovers
By Chris Rathbone
As a boy growing up here in the Western North Carolina Mountains, there was never a time that we didn’t have animals around our house. We definitely didn’t have a farm but we did have a few farm animals. My family at one time had a milk cow. Many people say they really love fresh milk but I beg to differ! To me, one could ruin a bowl of cereal by pouring that milk over it, blah! It was too rich for my taste buds. Mammie however, would churn butter from it and we sure enjoyed that butter on a fresh cake of cornbread!
A few years we even raised some hogs for eating. It wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable chore when it was my turn to “slop the hogs”. Some of you older folks know what I’m talking about. There were also some chickens around. The old barn that used to stand down in the “holler” below our house seemed to be a mile away. We kept the chickens in the barn, for the most part, to keep the stray dogs and wild animals from getting to them. The chickens were for eggs but every once in a while Mammie would have one killed for the meat. She had a red laying hen that was “her hen”. The hen roosted and laid eggs in an old large milk container that was placed in the fork of the cherry tree. The hen allowed no one else to get her eggs but Mammie. If you tried it, you suffered severe flogging!
The most memorable animals were our pets. My apologies to you cat lovers, but I’m not fond of cats at all. My sister Kim would try to take in every ole stray that would show up. I feel like I’m getting a hairball just seeing a cat! Now my favorites were the dogs! Our dogs were mostly what I call Heinz 57 breeds. We very seldom had any kind of purebred dog unless it was for coon hunting. There was Smoky, who lived to be very old. We had one we called, “Lucan the wolf dog”. Don’t ask me how we came up with that name. Kitty was a female Doberman. I liked her; she kept all the cats away! Rufus was a huge dog that kept the UPS man on his toes. My last dog while living at Daddy and Mama’s house was Sonny. He was a Redbone hunting dog. I bought him with my own money. Sadly he got loose one day and got too close to the road and you can probably guess what happened.
Times then were very different. We didn’t keep our pets in the house. We figured that was why God put hair on them. The reason a lot of pets can’t stay outside is that we have conditioned them to stay indoors. Nowadays people carry little dogs around in a pocketbook. Think about it, if cold weather killed animals, they would be laying around everywhere after a cold snap. Now before you start animal rights protest against the preacher let me share something. When we had our dog Bobo, he slept in the basement next to a wood stove on a soft pillow bed. So I’m not all cold-hearted about the critters!
Also, we didn’t often buy bags of pet food from the store. This was mostly for financial reasons. Money was pretty tight most of the time so the food was for human consumption! When our family was doing a little better financially, Daddy would buy a bag of dog food, but for the most part, the pets ate the “scraps” or what we called the “leftovers”. By “leftovers”, I mean what was “leftover” on our plates or in the pots after a meal was finished. All the leftovers were put on a single plate or in a pot and that would be the dog’s meal. When I walked outside, I would hit the spoon against the plate or side of the pot. Wherever the dog was, it would come running. The sound of the spoon hitting the plate let the dog know that he was getting something to eat. Now let me tell you something, they were excited about leftovers! They seemed to be able to hear that sound from about anywhere and would come as fast as they could run. Jumping up and down, wagging their tails, barking, etc. That lets you know that they really appreciated those leftovers. This works well with the critters, but not so much with the Lord.
Let me share with you something that all of us are guilty of doing. We are giving God our leftovers and it’s not working too well!
There is no doubt that we are living in busy times. We become so consumed in our careers, our hobbies, even running our kids to and fro that we have very little left when it comes to our relationship with God. We are so intent on having all the best in life that we spend our money without even considering what we are giving to the Lord and His kingdom. By the time most people get through spending trying to build their own kingdom, they have little or nothing left for God’s.
Believe it or not, I’m going to give you a little homework. Set aside some time one day soon and read the book of Malachi. Let me briefly explain the context of the book. The children of Israel were living in a time of relative peace. The temple had been restored along with the worship and sacrifice to the Lord. What happened over many years is that the people have become so used to the blessings of the Lord and their freedom to worship that they grew very complacent and not very reverent in their approach to the Lord, in their service to Him, and what they brought to sacrifice. Instead of bringing the first and best to offer to God, they were bringing the “leftovers”. The priests as leaders were accepting these “leftover” offerings and the people were glad to bring them. They were glad to keep the best to themselves and give God whatever was left. This irreverent approach to the Lord, to His offerings, to His service, eventually led to sinful behavior. That’s the way it usually begins. If one cares nothing about how they are to give God their best in worship, tithes, and offerings, they will care nothing about how they live their life for Him.
Are you giving God your “leftovers”? Do you go to worship if you have any “leftover” time? Do you serve the Lord only if you have time “leftover”? Do you only give your tithes and offerings if you have money “leftover”? I’m afraid that we often give God our leftovers, whatever it may be. Folks we can scrape the plate of our spiritual leftovers all we want, but I don’t think God will come running as we expect.
When we chose to give God our first and our best we honor Him with what He so richly deserves. Let us search our hearts and commit to Him our best and not our leftovers.
P.S. Don’t forget your homework!
Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.
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