How many of you like meatloaf?
Go ahead. Raise your hands (I know I’m not there to see it, but I am in spirit). I love it. Meatloaf is one of my favorite things to eat. I have lots of good memories about it. And of course, no one makes meatloaf like my mother. Isn’t that true? Aren’t there just some dishes your mom or dad makes that no one else makes just like them? Meatloaf is one of those dishes for me. When I go to a new restaurant if they have it on the menu, I usually order it so I can compare it to the one I used to get at home. It’s sort of my barometer for restaurant quality. If the meatloaf is good, the restaurant must be good. If it’s not…well, I probably won’t be coming back. But meatloaf is one of those dishes where there are always leftovers. It’s a leftover dish. And I like it that way. As a kid, I used to love making it into sandwiches for lunch. It was one of the fringe benefits of having meatloaf. Put a big chunk of it in-between two slices of bread with some mayonnaise on it. Yum. The funny thing is even though it’s good enough for me, I would never serve leftover meatloaf to a girl I was dating. Or anyone for that matter. And it’s not because of what it is or how it tastes because obviously I love it. It’s because it’s a leftover.
Now, leftovers might be okay for us, we might even like it, but would you ever serve leftovers to someone who was a guest in your home? Someone you were hoping to date? Would you serve leftovers to your boss? There’s something about leftovers that people associate with being “not worthy of my time.” Leftovers are for “other people” once we’re done eating what we want. Leftovers go in the “doggy bag.” Think about it. The “doggy bag.” Because it’s leftover scraps of food that goes to the dog. Before the invention of the doggy bag, most people wouldn’t even THINK to take the leftover food home. It was considered in poor taste even as late as the 1970’s. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love leftovers, too. But there is something about leftovers that people associate with unworthiness. So the question needs to be asked, “Are you giving God your leftovers?”
When we give to God, we’re supposed to give from our “first fruits” meaning the first portion of our crops. This idea comes from the very beginning of the Bible in the story of Cain and Abel. In that story, God was very pleased with Abel’s offering because Abel gave of the firstborn of his flock. God was not as happy with Cain because Cain withheld his best from the Lord. Cain only gave “some of the fruits” to God compared to Abel’s “fat portions of the some of the firstborn of his flock.” Apparently, Abel gave to God first and only then took some for himself while Cain seemingly did the opposite. It didn’t matter to God that Cain brought fruit and Abel brought meat. Each brought as he was able. What mattered was their attitude and trust in God – Abel had it and Cain didn’t. Abel recognized that without God he would have nothing and so he first gave back to God the very best. He trusted that even if he gave it away, that God would provide for him. Cain, however, did what many of us do. He held back. Either Cain didn’t recognize God as the one to whom he owed everything or just wanted to keep the best for himself figuring that God didn’t need it and he did. Cain didn’t trust that God would give him enough. And so he took portions for himself first. The stress on willful giving is found throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. The story of the widow’s mite comes to mind or Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Having the proper attitude is more important than the amount you give. Too many of us give God the leftovers.
Whether you give to your local church or to the Red Cross or to the homeless guy on the street, give of your firstfruits. Designate a portion of what you make each month to God and give it away quickly to where you feel God is leading you. Don’t hold on to it “just in case.” Put your faith in God and God will look after you. Giving after all is a sign of thankfulness and in this season of giving thanks we should remember to give thanks first to the one who made our lives possible.