Over this Christmas season my thoughts have been on giving what I have to Jesus. Surprisingly, as I pondered this thought I was led to the story of Jesus feeding of the five thousand to gain a fresh insight.
In the New Testament, the story of the feeding of the five thousand is found in all four gospels. Jesus uses it to change the way I thought about underwhelming resources in the face of overwhelming challenges.
Upon re-reading the story the first thing I noticed is how differently Jesus and His disciples viewed the situation. The disciples saw a large problem. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ Mark 6:35-36.
But Jesus looked at the exact same situation and saw an opportunity ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.’ Mark 4:34.
Interestingly the disciples told Jesus that He needed to do something. He should send the crowd away, so they could buy some food. How many times have we suggested that Jesus needs to deal with a problem we have?
But Jesus calmly put it back on them ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ Matthew 14:16.
Now we see an overwhelming predicament from the disciples’ point of view. There was no earthly way all these people can be fed. There are too many, it would be too costly; it’s not possible.
But Jesus persisted ‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and see.’ Mark 6:38. We see Jesus not asking how much it would take to solve the problem, but how much they had to offer
The disciples had found just one boy who was willing to give what he had ‘When they found out, they said, ‘Five loaves – and two fish.’ Mark 6:38.
Something I had never considered before from the story dawned on me. Presumably there were others that had some food. Thousands, even. They could have offered it, but instead they kept it to themselves, perhaps rationalising that someone else would respond. And one did – just one.
Jesus received this generous but meagre offering and showed the disciples what God can do with even the smallest gift offered in faith. ‘Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.’ Mark 6:41-43.
I began to see the real miracle working here. Confronted with an overwhelming problem, Jesus did not ask the disciples to do the impossible; He asked only for them to bring to Him what they had. He then multiplied the small offering and used it to do the impossible.
God never asks us to give what we do not have … But he cannot use what we will not give.
For me certain steps emerged when giving what I have to God
Start with what I have. One of the most common mistakes we can make is to believe that we have nothing of significance to offer. But the best news for those of us who want to follow Christ and be part of God’s plan for our world is that He uses what we have to offer, no matter how unimportant we think it might be.
A boy who had a small meal brought it to Jesus. Was the boy willing to give up his lunch? Yes, he was! God begins where we are and uses what we have.
Give what I have to Jesus Christ. The command of Christ is ‘Give’ – give them something to eat. It is addressed to us all. We all have the responsibility to give what we have and do what we can. That is our part in meeting the needs of the world.
Obey what He commands. As Jesus ordered, the disciples had the people sit down. Jesus took the simple meal and blessed it. He then divided the bread and fish and gave the pieces to the disciples, who, in turn, fed the multitudes. They distributed the broken pieces and discovered that there was plenty for everybody. As His servants, we are “distributors,” not “manufacturers.” If we give what we have to Him, He will bless it and give it back to us for use in helping others.
Conserve the results. After the people had eaten their fill, twelve baskets filled with pieces of bread and fish remained. These pieces were carefully collected so that nothing was wasted. Everything we give to Christ will never be wasted.
But if we are unwilling, we will assuredly miss out on every opportunity to be used by God in a powerful and amazing way.
We must bring their lives to God in a spirit of obedience and sacrifice, no matter how insignificant we may think our gifts or talents are. When doing so, expect God to do far beyond what can be imagined. We need to trust that God not only wants to meet needs, but to lavish us with spiritual blessings, even to overflowing.
God will use the ordinary to create extraordinary. We must never believe our resources are too little to serve God. God delights in taking a humble, seemingly insignificant person and using him or her for His glory.