One of the things I found when I took apart my mother’s house immediately following her death was a collection of family recipes. Before we all had personal computers, cooks hand-wrote their recipes on 3-by-5 lined note cards and kept them in small boxes in their kitchens. If you served a particularly tasty entrée, salad or dessert, your guests respectfully asked if they could copy the recipe and take it home. 

Not only did I find my mother’s boxes, but my grandmother’s were stashed way in the back of the pots and pans cupboard. 

What treasures!

In addition to the usual categories, the women in my family had a section labeled “leftovers.” This is where they perused a few days after Thanksgiving. You know what I’m talking about — the stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and most of the green bean casserole are gone, but there is still too much turkey to throw it out even though everyone is thoroughly sick of eating it.

The “leftovers” recipes were guidelines for disguising the taste of turkey while being thrifty with the grocery budget. 

There were some doozies — turkey jambalaya, turkey soup, turkey casserole (it also included the remaining green beans,) turkey tacos and turkey hash.  

While considering all the people and experiences for which I am thankful this year, I began to wonder about my “spiritual leftovers.” Do I make God first in all things and thank Him from my heart? Or are some of my offerings relegated to afterthoughts like turkey chili, turkey tetrazzini, turkey pot pies and turkey noodle soup?

In the book of Malachi, God scolded the Israelites because they were bringing “defiled” food to His altar. In the Old Testament worship system, people were required to offer animals to God, after which he forgave their sins. 

This may sound crass to us today, but consider that people were dependent upon the health and welfare of their animals. They lived close to the land and had relationships with their flocks. To give up a sheep, goat or dove was the equivalent of surrendering a friend on whose life they depended. 

The law was very specific about the quality of the animal. 

“But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 15:21). The animal had to be healthy and without any impurities. 

Yet in Malachi’s time, the people were bringing blind, lame or sick animals.

Why? Because they didn’t want to “waste” a healthy animal when there were sick ones they had to kill anyway. 

And what was the Lord’s reaction? “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand” (Malachi 1:10).

God is talking about nothing less than shutting the gates to the temple. It was better not to have any sacrifice at all than to bring something blind, sick or lame. Israel was coming to God for sacred worship. And yet, God rejected them.

Today we don’t offer up sacrifices for sins. The blood of Christ was the last sacrifice made that counted toward forgiveness. But we do make sacrifices of praise to God. We make sacrifices of service. We do this not for salvation, but because we love God. 

The prophet Malachi said, “Don’t give God the left-overs. Give Him the best.” 

Invite Him to your best holiday banquet tables and use your lives and talents as offerings to glorify the One who makes them possible.  

Turkey omelets, turkey burgers, turkey and eggplant casserole, turkey enchiladas…

•••

Sylvia Peterson is a former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and an author. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net.

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