A father stops by a Chinese restaurant to pick up lunch for his growing teenage son. He brings home the son’s favorite: Fried Rice, Double Portion of Teriyaki Chicken, Fortune Cookie and a medium Dr. Pepper lite ice. The father wasn’t really hungry so he didn’t pick himself up anything to eat. As the son unpacks the food, sits down to eat, and says his prayer the waft of the steaming delicious delectable delight of teriyaki chicken catches the father’s attention. As the son lifts his head from prayer the father goes over and takes one small portion of teriyaki chicken off the top and says, “Thank you son.” The son replies to his father, “Thank YOU. It is really all yours anyway.”
What can we learn from this young teenage son? Hopefully, several lessons.
1. Everything is God’s - In the parable the son recognizes that what the father took truly belonged to the father. Not only that, but everything else on the table (including the table!) too! That perspective is key.
Everything belongs to the Father. (Psalm 50:12) Everything does truly belong to God. He is the maker of all. He is the Sustainer of all. My voice is God’s. When I sing praise to Him I am giving Him what is His already. My ears are God’s. When I devote them to listening to His word I am giving to Him what is His. When I put money in the collection plate (I Corinthians 16:1-2) I am giving God what is His. It’s not mine. It’s His.
2. It’s Mine by Grace - God has showered me with blessings. He has given to me as the father gave to the son in the parable. The teriyaki chicken was the son’s by grace of the father. The father worked. The father got paid. The father drove to the restaurant. The father used his money to buy the meal. The father brought it home to the son. When the father “gave” it to the son it was by the grace of the father. What now “belonged” to the son was really the fathers (originally). (Psalm 50:9-11) It was only the son’s by grace.
Such is the case of our life and all the abundant blessings therein. If what I have is given to me by God, it’s by God’s grace. What is “mine” (and it is “mine” as illustrated by Acts 5:4) is so by the grace of God. For that, I should be ever grateful. (Matthew 5:44-48; 6:30-34)
3. A Cheerful Giver (the attitude of gratitude) - The son’s reply was “Thank YOU”. Though the father may have taken a little off the top, the son was still grateful for what the father had provided and all that was left (by grace). There was still an abundant portion of blessing before him to enjoy. He was thankful for what he had. He had a good/right attitude.
God commands us to give an offering to honor Him and provide for/fulfill the work of the ministry. (II Corinthians 9:6-15) Is it a burden for us to give? Does it hurt for us to give? It shouldn’t be. Are we thankful for the opportunity to give? Is it a joy for us? It should be. And all to the glory of God who is our Provider.
4. The Father is Worthy - There is an inherent value of respect in the son’s response to the father. An instant recognition of worthiness in what the father received. Perhaps the response would’ve been different had an equal (ie. - sibling) taken some food or if the family pet jumped up on the table and swiped a piece of the top. This was different.
So it should be with us in our relationship to God our Father. God is not like us (Psalm 50:21) We should have the perspective that comes from the knowledge and wisdom of knowing God and His place in relation to us and our place. He is worthy of everything that He takes and everything (and more) that we give. (Job 1:21)
5. Thanksgiving is an offering as well as the offering itself - (Psalm 50:14) How many kids, in their immaturity, would’ve whined and complained about their father taking “their food”. Or criticized him for not “asking first”. The son provided a free will offering not only in not rebuking his Father, but in giving the blessing also - the thanks. (Psalm 50:23)
There are ALWAYS two offerings that we make to God 1) What we give (offer) and 2) How we offer (with what attitude/heart). Both must be honorable and right to truly glorify God. If I sing, but not with the heart… then my offering is worthless. If I give/contribute, but not with the heart, then my offering is worthless. If I obey, but not with the heart… then my offering is worthless. Everything that we offer to God should show our thanksgiving in both what we give and how we give it. (Psalm 50:16)
While there can be several lessons we gather from the parable, the central core message is this, “Have the mature right perspective to show love for the Father through offering with thanksgiving as He has shown love to us through grace”.