Of all the miracles that Jesus performed when he was on this earth, few are more remembered than the feeding of the five thousand. I think that the vast number of people it involves makes it more impressive to us than healing one sick dude. Still, it holds many great lessons that we can learn from.
“Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat. They said to him, We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” – Matthew 14:15-21
I can only imagine the looks on the disciples’ faces when Jesus told them they would be providing dinner. What? Only one in over five thousand people remembered to pack a meal and you want us to figure out a way to get the rest food? As crazy as that event must have been, notice what the disciples did. They could have thanked Jesus for miraculously providing a meal for the twelve of them and sat down for dinner, but that’s not what they did. No, they had enough food for everybody. Who were they to hoard it all for themselves? It wasn’t even theirs in the first place! They went around and gave some to every last person in the entire group.
So often, we do the exact opposite. I’m guessing most of the people reading this live in the United States. We live in the land of plenty. We have all the food we could ever want, a steady job, and insurance to cover even the things we don’t see coming. We have every gift we could ever want. Notice what Paul instructs to the people of Corinth in regards to their giving:
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.'” – 2 Corinthians 13-15
Paul tells this group of Christians to do exactly what we see the disciples did. They give of their abundance to those who lack. This isn’t something we only see a few times in scripture. The Bible talks a lot about giving of everything we have so that others can have what they need too.
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor” -Luke 12:33
Why then do we take that so lightly? Maybe we feel that there is too big of a gap. There is too much poverty in the world for me to do anything about it, I might as well not even try. When did we start valuing our own comfort over that of others and rationalizing it as acceptable? Do the commands of Scripture only apply two thousand years ago? We would have thought the disciples to be absurd and idiotic if they decided to keep all the food Jesus multiplied for themselves. That would be ridiculous! Yet we have so much to give to others, and I’m not just talking about money. We have Bibles, food, clothing, education, and our time. I guarantee you that someone needs your shirt or your lunch, even your house, more than you do. Why not share what you have? You have plenty.
I think often our desire to keep our abundance for ourselves is out of fear. It’s our safety net. We can’t give away too much of our money because some of that is a retirement fund. That’s my kid’s college savings you’re talking about giving away! Are you saying I can’t have a retirement fund and depend on Christ? Well, no, but it’s not as essential as you might think. Sparrows don’t die without God knowing about it. Why do we spend so much time planning for our own safety when we have the Creator of the universe promising to take care of us? From an eternal perspective, it’s quite silly, really.
Giving isn’t something we should take lightly or do simply out of obligation. This is our opportunity to demonstrate our faith in God and gain the opportunity to help other people at the same time! That’s too good of an opportunity to pass up, if you ask me.