The Abundance of Leftovers
Thankfully, I married a man who doesn’t know any better.
Growing up, my mother-in-law’s longstanding policy was that “Sunday is my day off.” To hear my husband tell it, she’d come home from church, put a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread on the counter, and be done with it. If they were lucky, there’d be leftovers from earlier in the week. So even before entering the pastorate, my husband had accepted that the best way to spend Sunday was to quickly change into comfortable clothes, race to the refrigerator to get the best leftovers, and then collapse on the couch to watch/sleep through an afternoon of football.
Little has altered for him, and this past Sunday was no exception. While he and the children were changing, I found myself rummaging through the refrigerator, praying that I would find enough leftovers to feed a family of five. Chili from Thursday? Check. Two slices of pizza? Check. One sweet potato and a minuscule piece of venison steak? Sure, why not? In the end, there was enough to go around despite the fact that everyone’s plate held a slightly different, “personalized” version of Sunday dinner. So when we bowed our heads to say grace, my husband--ever forthright--thanked God for “the abundance of leftovers.”
The abundance of leftovers.
And that’s when I understood. Those scattered bits of food--that last serving of chili, the single piece of cornbread, the dried-out tuna fish macaroni—those leftovers didn’t represent scarcity; they represented wealth. So much wealth that we couldn’t even eat an entire meal at one sitting. So much wealth that we needed a refrigerator to keep our food from spoiling before we got hungry enough to eat it again. So much wealth that someone had to invent Rubbermaid and Tupperware to hold it all.
So much wealth that our garbage is better than what most people will eat in a lifetime.
Theologians throughout history have argued that pride is the root of all sin—the lifting up yourself, the thinking of yourself as better than others, better than God even. Pride leads us to all sorts of evil because we can justify just about anything thinking that we “deserve” it. But if pride is the root of sin, ingratitude has to be its first blossom. The ingratitude that says that I deserve better than what I have. The ingratitude that fails to recognize that what I have is so much better than what I deserve. So that when we fail to acknowledge God’s goodness in our lives, when we fail to be thankful, we set ourselves up for a world of temptations.
And yet, we don’t fight our ingratitude with feelings of shame or by pushing away God’s good gifts. After all, the opposite of pride isn’t guilt--it is humility. And the opposite of ingratitude, thankfulness. So that even as we live lives of abundance—even as we indulge in the things that God has given--we do so with profound and utter humility. We do so with profound and utter dependence on His goodness. And we do so with a profound and utter joy in the abundance itself.
Even if--especially if--that abundance just happens to come in the form of leftover chili on a Sunday afternoon.