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My Love for Leftovers


I have often heard people complaining about having to eat "leftovers". It baffles me, because it is said as though there is something inferior about leftovers. Food that was absolutely delicious the night before suddenly gets this terrible reputation the next day.

Perhaps as a reaction to that, I have developed a kind of lifelong obsession for eating leftovers. I have noticed that it is an obsession which extends to a great many other things as well. I hate to see anything go to waste, and I realise that most people have an aversion to using leftovers, remnants, off-cuts, the last little bit at the bottom of the jar, etc. So the more little bits that I can put to good use, the more satisfied that I feel.

A fringe benefit of using the leftovers is tidiness... and even a look of wealth. The refrigerator has more room for full bottles of milk and whole cartons of eggs. Instead of half a dozen jars with a little bit of jam at the bottom of each, there is one almost new, almost full jar.

Junk becomes recycled, while the best items are available for others, or to be sold.

There are even leftovers with regard to jobs. (I'm not as good on this one, but Cherry makes up for me here.) Most people walk away from a job with a few loose ends still hanging, whereas the leftover lovers put the finishing touches on what others leave half-done. They put the tools away, wipe up the muddy footprints, scrub the ring off the bathtub, pick up dirty clothes, and just generally clean up behind those who grab the easy bits and then leave the rest.

Often the task of finishing off leftovers is overwhelming, especially in a wealthy society. Everywhere there are leftovers cluttering shelves, rooms, and the landscape. Everywhere there are unfinished tasks, because some new interest caught the attention of the person who was doing it.

I am sure that some people will consider it trivial and unnecessary for me to even be writing this; but I do believe that there is an important spiritual lesson here, about being faithful in little things before God can make us rulers over bigger things.

James said, in his epistle, "Go to [That's Old English for "shame on you".] you rich men, for your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days." (James 5:1-3)

Whether we think of ourselves as rich or not, if we have more possessions (or more jobs) than we can maintain, then we need to simplify. That may mean cleaning up, fixing up, using up, or just plain giving or throwing away the rusty bits, the moth-eaten bits, the mouldy bits, the messy bits, and the leftover bits. When it comes to jobs, we need to sort out our priorities, and make sure we have totally finished the most important ones before we run off to start others. We should be able to present each finished task to God as an offering of praise, something that we can say with confidence has been completed to at least near perfection. No loose ends, nothing left for others to finish for us.

I love a finished work, even if it's just finishing off the last of a jar of mayonnaise, or putting the final touches on a painting. But there are so many unfinished tasks in the world, that I pray for more such labourers.

(See also Liberated Poverty, Part 2 (Clutter).)

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