Many people who grew up going to Sunday school are familiar with the story of Jesus feeding a large gathering of about 5,000 people. For those that aren’t, the story is found in each of the four gospel books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (In my opinion, John 6:1-15 gives the most detailed account). In this particular story, Jesus had a group of about 5,000 people follow him around the Sea of Galilea to hear some of his teaching. They had caught wind of his miracles and wisdom and spent the whole day listening to Jesus preach. Towards the end of the day, everyone was exhausted and hungry and the disciples felt that it was critical these people got some food. We don’t know whether the crowd was full of people who couldn’t afford food or just people who didn’t pack any, we just know that they were famished.
The story continues as Phillip, a disciple, mentions to Jesus that the people are hungry but that it would take a half a year’s wages to feed all of them. (Imagine 5,000 value meals. That’s $25,000 worth of food!) The disciples weren’t a picture of extraordinary wealth either. They had left everything behind (homes, families, material possessions) to follow Christ. Needless to say, Jesus and the disciples were facing an impossible situation and they were well aware of it. That was okay with Jesus, because he knew exactly what he was going to do next.
After realizing the magnitude of the situation (can you imagine a line of 5,000 people at your local McDonalds?), the disciples are all but stumped. Fortunately one of them, Andrew, brings to Jesus’s attention that there is some food available in the crowd. He essentially says, “Hey, I’m not sure how this helps but here’s 5 loves of bread and 2 fish this kid has.” When you think about that in today’s terms, that would be like someone bringing a bag of hot dog buns and a can of tuna to a college basketball game to feed the whole crowd. It’s laughable, quite frankly.
Andrew might have even been a little skeptical when he mentioned this to Jesus (I don’t see anything that would suggest that he wasn’t), but that didn’t matter. What did matter is that Andrew (and that kid) were genuinely interested in making a contribution. That’s all Jesus was looking for and what happens next is truly extraordinary. Jesus has all of the people in the crowd sit down. He takes the bread and fish, gives thanks for them and then has his disciples take that food and distribute it amongst the crowd. In some way only God can understand, there was enough for everyone in the crowd to go around. They were all breaking off pieces of bread and fish, but it just kept lasting until everyone had their fill. There were even leftovers! I don’t know if this means that Jesus caused all of the food to multiply, regenerate, or expand. But I do know this: there was enough food for Jesus to work a miracle with and that miracle fed (and filled) 5,000 people.
Here’s what I want people to recognize in this story: 1) God can accomplish infinitely more than we can. 2) If we’re willing to give (even the smallest of gifts) with a pure heart and a desire to contribute to the greater good, that’s good enough for God to do something amazing with. The point is that it’s okay to have skepticism about giving. It’s okay to question how much good a relatively menial gift can do. We just have to be ready and willing to contribute. That’s what Andrew and the kid did and it was good enough to for Jesus.
~ A pure heart and a desire to contribute to the greater good is good enough for God to do something amazing ~
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that pastors, ministers, friends, family members and others of spiritual influence in our lives are telling us that we need to be doing. That’s all well and good, but the critical thing is the nature of the heart. God operates differently than humans do. Generally, if we give more to someone we get more of something else in return (appreciation, love, money, time, tangible gifts, etc). But it doesn’t work that way with God. We can’t earn any more love from Him than we already have. We can’t enhance our worth in His eyes and we can’t lose it either (See Romans 8:38-39 and Ephesians 2:4-9).
~ We can’t earn any more love from God than we already have. We already have all that we need and more than we deserve ~
But what we can do is give, even if it’s the equivalent of a bag of buns and a tuna fish can. If given with willingness to contribute like Andrew and the kid had, God will take it and use it in ways bigger than we imagined. This story is proof that if we are willing to give up a little, God will use it to bless others in ways far beyond our wildest imaginations (Do you think Andrew and the kid were expecting that to happen?). Remember, none of this is going to happen if we have the wrong motives. If Andrew had said, “Jesus, I have this food that I need you to multiply so I can stock my pantry for the next 3 years,” I doubt Jesus would have reacted the same way. We must serve God, not the other way around.