As I type this, I am eating leftovers. I made a big pot of beef stew the other night, and we’re making another meal out of what was left. Some things, like beef stew, often taste just as good (or even better) warmed up again. And it’s very convenient not to have to make a new meal from scratch. We like leftovers, and I am very thankful that we are able to have an abundance of good food. But today’s leftovers started me thinking…
Did you know the Bible has something to say about leftovers? I’ve been reading in Exodus and Leviticus lately, and as God was giving instructions for the Passover Seder, the gathering of Manna in the desert, and the priestly sacrifices, He spoke about leftovers. During the Passover, all the meat was to be eaten on the night of the Passover Seder. Any meat left over was to be thrown away. Several families could share a Passover meal, in order to avoid waste, but the meat was to be eaten in one meal. Similarly, Manna was to be gathered and eaten for a single day (except over the Sabbath). No leftovers! The priests were allowed to eat leftover meat for a single day after the sacrifice, but no more than that.
So often, the “rules” of the Old Testament seem strange to us– arbitrary and even harsh. But in context, they paint a picture of God that we would do well to study. So what do the rules about “leftovers” teach us about God and our relationship to Him?
- First, God knows what we need. We may often plan too much or too little, or use more or fewer of our resources, but God knows exactly what is necessary. And if we are listening to and trusting God, we can be sure that His plans and resources are sufficient!
- Secondly, God PROVIDES what we need. Our tendency to store extra food and other resources “just in case” may be motivated by a sincere desire to help our neighbors in times of trouble– there’s nothing wrong with that– but often we are motivated by fear or pride, instead. We fear not having enough, instead of trusting God to provide. Or we pride ourselves on our ability to provide, rather than acknowledging that our resources and abilities all come from God.
- God’s ways are NOT our ways. God sent the entire nation of Israel into the wilderness. They had all their animals with them– but no place to plant, grow, or harvest wheat or other grain. God could have ordered them to slaughter their animals for meat, or sent them with huge stores of harvested grain, or led them through areas with gardens and orchards. But instead, He sent Manna and quail for them to eat. He provided in ways that they could NOT.
- God’s mercies (and provisions) are “new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) God doesn’t give us the “leftovers” of His abundance. He lavishes us with Love and Grace. Every day!
- God isn’t impressed with my “leftovers.” My leftover offering; my leftover time spent in prayer or Bible Study; my leftover interactions with others, my leftover discipline.
And that brings me around to prayer and giving. Do I give God my “leftover” praise and thanks? My “leftover” confession (after I’ve pouted and argued and justified by actions to myself)? Do I lift up “leftover” requests–those things I think I’m “supposed to” pray about, but not those I judge unworthy of MY time or attention? After all, would I want God’s “leftover,” absent-minded help? Would I want His half-hearted blessing? Do I give “leftovers” to my family, friends, and neighbors? Or mere scraps to those in need?
The other day, I was on Facebook, and one of my friends requested prayer. It was something I felt was a trifling situation, and I scrolled past her post. But then I realized that I was scrolling past an opportunity to join God in what He would do for my friend. It might not have felt like a big deal for me, and certainly it wasn’t beyond God’s ability to work in that situation. Why did I hesitate? Did I feel I had the right to judge either my friend’s motives or her situation? Did I think I could lift up a “leftover” prayer– “God, help _________. Amen.” I stopped, scrolled back and took a moment to lovingly lift her up, and pray that God would intervene in her situation and forgive me for presuming to judge.
Leftovers are not “bad” or “wrong” in and of themselves. They are blessings. But we should not live on “leftovers”– especially when it comes to our relationships with God and others! Like God, let our mercies be “new every morning,” and let us share gladly from the abundance God has given, not grudgingly or half-heartedly.