Monday, January 6, 2014

Giving God our Leftovers

I love leftovers.  I mean, I think it's great at the holidays when I (or someone else) cooks enough for such a feast, that the next day no cooking is necessary.  For two or three days after Christmas, between the three meals I cooked, our family was able to just eat lasagna, turkey, and roast to our heart's content.

I suppose the reason I love leftovers is because of how easy they are.  Once I have them, I don't have to wonder what the next meal should be.  I know all we have to do is reach into the fridge, reheat it, and dinner is served.  No more dishes get dirty than the ones we eat on.  My kitchen stays fairly clean.  And everyone's hunger is sated.  For all practical purposes, eating leftovers is as good as eating a freshly prepared meal.

But not so with the things of God.  God is not interested in being served my "leftovers".   Throughout the Bible, we see a pattern of God requiring the "first fruits", the best of our labors and lives, as our act of worship to Him.  God wants the things that we give him to demonstrate our faith, our trust in Him.

And why should we expect any differently than this?  He is the God of the universe.  He created us, and gives us breath.  He loved each of us enough that He gave his only son, Jesus,as a demonstration of His love toward us.  From the beginning, he told Abraham that He would use his line to bless all the nations of the earth, so we know it was always His plan to atone for our sins with the work of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.  In essence, God only wants our best, because he himself demonstrated this kind of sacrificial love toward us first.  Our salvation has already been paid for; we have only to believe and receive it by faith.  So we don't give the best of our lives to Him to earn anything, but rather as an act of love toward Him, a kind of recognition and gratitude.
All of this was mulling around in my brain during my Bible time this morning.  Since the start of the year, I have been following the reading plan in my planner, which would get me through the whole Bible in a year.  I am counting what I read last year (the gospels, Acts, and Romans) as already read, though, so I can go at a slightly less rushed pace, and by the end of this year I will have read the whole Bible in two years.  Anyway, I have been in Genesis again.  Today I read Genesis 25-28.  This is the part of Genesis where Esau and Jacob are born, and Jacob steals the blessing and gets the birthright from Esau.  But this verse is what caught my eye today in Genesis 28:8-9:

So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father,  Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth.

Now bear with me, here.  I am oversimplifying a little, to get to the point I am making.  Suffice to say, there is a lot of drama and deception going on, but I don't want to lose my point in the midst of it.  Previously in the story, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau's mom, had said that she loathed the Canannite women.  So they send Jacob, who is unmarried, to Rebekah's brother's family to find a wife.  This was a precedent set by Abraham when he sent his servant to get a wife for Isaac from his people, because this was seen as preferable.  I am not clear on why, but I get the sense there were God ordained reasons for this.  At any rate, Esau has already disregarded his parent's opinions by rejecting this idea and marrying from the Canaanite women.  But at this point, he sees that he has displeased his father.  So what does he attempt to do to please Him?  He goes and gets an ADDITIONAL wife from another side of the family.  He doesn't get rid of the other wives; he just adds in another one. 
Now, don't get me wrong. I am NOT saying the right answer for Esau is that he should have divorced his other wives, just because Dad didn't approve.  Not at all.  Actually, this story to me in this instance, though I believe the situation is true,  is more like a metaphor, and perhaps a warning to the rest of us who wish to serve the Lord.  

Adding in the things of God ON TOP of everything else, is really not a good way to live the Christian life.  In fact, it's not even a CHRISTLIKE way to live the Christian life.  With God, it's always all or nothing.  Often, I think trying to do this, as Esau did, is probably WORSE than doing nothing, because of the message it communicates to unbelievers around us, about the way we perceive God. If we don't value our relationship with the creator of the universe enough to order our lives around him, then why would we ever expect them to care anything about knowing more about our faith?  Saving faith is life changing faith.  It's faith that moves mountains.  And sometimes, the biggest mountain we move is the mountain of our old life, our old ways of doing things.  

Jim Elliot, a missionary who gave his life to share the gospel with the Huaorani people of Ecuador, said it best when he said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
This type of thinking should be the sentiment of every true believer, not just missionaries in foreign countries. We should give God the best and first place in our lives, and never expect the lover of our souls to be satisfied with leftovers.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

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