There I was. It had been a long day. School? Yeah, it was hard. Tests? Several. A long bus ride home? Absolutely. Homework? Where do I begin? But there I was, standing in the kitchen, my mother right in front of me. She had the power. To make it all better. I stood there and asked the question. The one asked all over this country each and every evening by kids everywhere. “What’s for dinner?” I stood there hopefully. Expectantly. After all I had been through that day, didn’t this kid deserve an amazing meal? But then I saw her face. The shape of her mouth as she began to form the words. And my heart fell. Quickly I knew what I was having for dinner. The meal dreaded by kids everywhere. Leftovers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are varying degrees of leftovers. If it was a meal that was absolutely LOVED the first time, well…maybe not so bad. But no matter how great that dinner was when it was first served to a waiting and hungry family, the second time around? Just not that special. Not that amazing. Kind of disappointing.

However, I am a mom now. And I know the OTHER side of dinner. The “I’ve worked so hard and am so stinking exhausted” side. The “We don’t have the money to just throw out food because we didn’t eat it all the first night” side. Okay, and the “YAY! I get 30 more minutes to run errands, straighten the house, read a book, stare into space” side. The – “If I have to go to the store one more time this week, I may lose it” side. And yet, despite all of the above, even I can’t muster up much enthusiasm when I have to tell my family that we are having a “déjà vu” dinner.

This month your kids have been learning about Stewardship – taking care of what you have because it all belongs to God. And this week we are focusing on using money wisely by talking about when to spend our money, save our money and – yeah you guessed it – tithe or “share” our money. As I was preparing this week’s lesson, I began to think again about the issue of tithing. And I thought of my son and pizza.

My son Chris enjoys a good pizza. A nice crunchy crust. Gooey cheese. Artfully placed pepperoni. His face, along with the rest of my family’s, lights up when I say, “We are having pizza for dinner.” But, surprisingly – and as I love pizza in any form, any temperature, at any time during any day, I just don’t get this – he only likes it the FIRST time. Leftover pizza? Not. A. Fan.

But I am stubborn. I have tried heating it up in the microwave. No – too tough. So how about in the oven? On a pizza stone so the crust is oh so toasty and the cheese is oh so melty? Nope. Not the same. He would rather have a brand-new just made peanut butter and jelly sandwich than have some still-around-after-last-night pizza.

And I began thinking about the reluctance many of us have with tithing the FIRST fruits of what we have been given. Often I think that “first” part is what hangs up a lot of people. And I get that. What is the difference between $100 given at the beginning of the month versus $100

given after all the bills have been paid, the fun has been had, the savings put away safely? It is still the same $100. Still has the same buying power. Serving power. Need-meeting power. And, hey God, if I have MORE than I expect at the end of the month, YOU might get a BONUS!

Then I remembered Chris. That second-night pizza may look the same, taste the same, be the same temperature and have the same amount of calories (unfortunately), but to Chris – not the same. He knows the difference. Everything that was special about a pizza served on the first night disappears on the subsequent one. All the intentionality of serving an enjoyable meal one night becomes a disappointing “Oh, no, (sigh) – pizza again” – on the second.

And does God view our end-of-the-month gifts the same way? Our “wait until everything is paid for” offerings. Our “if God blesses us with extra this month” tithes. Does He wait expectantly for us to come to Him with what actually BELONGS to Him in the first place? With hearts full of gratitude and trust that He will provide for us the rest of the month. Year. Lifetime. And does He then see our faces, the words forming on our lips, and say “Oh. Leftovers. Again.”

See, giving God the “first” takes work. Just like making a NEW dinner instead of serving last night’s pizza. But what does it say to my family when I do that? And what do we say to God when we take the emotional and spiritual efforts to give Him something new, something fresh out of all we have received?

One more thing. If I take the time to make a wonderful dinner for my family, but then complain about produce prices and long lines and my tired feet and how I would have been totally happy with cold pizza – you get the idea – can my family REALLY enjoy the meal before them? Not so much. And when we submit to God our tithes and offerings out of the FIRST of what we have been given but then complain to Him or to others about the great sacrifice we are making, doesn’t that taint the gifts themselves?

So don’t be surprised if your kids come home talking about saving and spending and…gulp…sharing this Sunday.

And now? I don’t know about you, but I need to go to the grocery store.

I have got some cooking to do.

In Christ,
Melinda Lamera