1 In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, 2 “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 “If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4 And His disciples answered Him, “Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?” 5 And He was asking them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” 6 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. 7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. 8 And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. 9 About four thousand were there; and He sent them away. 10 And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha.
Just two chapters ago, we read a similar story of the feeding of the five thousand. Because this story is very similar, some people might think that it is the same story written twice. There are a couple details, however that are different in this case. Aside from the count of people, this story indicates that they were with Jesus for 3 days of his teaching whereas in feeding the five thousand, they were just with Him for one evening. The other major difference is what happened afterwards: this time they all got in a boat and went somewhere whereas in the other story they went into the mountains for rest and repose. But if we get caught up in trying to rationalize if this is a repeat story or not, we will completely miss the point.
God multiplies what we have to bless others. When we only look at what is in front of us, we become shortsighted. When the disciples asked, “how will we feed these people?” Jesus asked, “What do we have to offer?” Jesus wasn’t concerned with the how; He was focused on the what. He fully trusted in God the Father’s provision regardless of what they had with them. It could have been just one loaf or twenty; Jesus would have behaved the same way. In the feeding of the five thousand a little boy offered his lunch. This is what complete faith in God looks like.
When we start becoming concerned with how something will unfold in our lives in regards to God’s will, we begin to worry about our own strength, ability, and provisions instead of God’s. The disciples weren’t even thinking about offering their own bread, just figuring out how to get bread from somewhere else. This is our problem: we never consider our own provisions as a possibility to give to others. We only give if we have excess. If it is one thing people here in Guatemala have learned, it’s how God multiplies provisions when you are generous in sharing. People share what they have so many can have some instead of keeping it to themselves so just a few can have much. God honors this attitude and multiplies the blessing.
Many times we feel like what we have to offer is not enough or even worthwhile to give. Maybe we only have a couple dollars to give to a charity or a couple slices of bread to donate to a crowd of hungry people, but our faith in God multiplies it. We’ve talked about faith healing others many times so far in the book of Mark, but our faith does more than just heal others and us; it multiplies blessing. Maybe the disciples didn’t have faith that God would multiply the bread, because they didn’t even think about it. Or maybe they had a glimmer of hope that it would happen again. Jesus, however, had complete faith in God’s provision and it happened. God’s power is unlocked by our faith. God’s Kingdom is poured out on this world by our faith. People are blessed by our faith. The more we trust in God for His goodness and power, the more we will see it.
The reason we don’t see God multiplying provisions is because we refuse to give of our own. Anyone can give away their excess…and they should because then it does not go to waste. But what about giving away what you need? Jesus mentions in His sermon on the mount that any parent will give good things to their children…we can easily give to others out of our excess. So giving out of what we have and “need” takes us a to a whole new level and breaks us into the spiritual realm of truly trusting God. This is a step of faith not many of us have taken. We don’t dare give away what we need for fear of needing it and not having it. Even if it is just a morsel, we stock it up “just in case” or we don’t even think of it being on the table as part of our offering because it is “needed.” What is needed is our unbridled trust in God!
In Matthew 6, Jesus exhorts us in our worldview of holding on to everything we need:
[quote]24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.[/quote]
We generally use this passage to console us when we are worried about the job we applied for, an upcoming test, or when our kids are moving away from home. But Jesus is applying this more practically. He tells us we cannot love God and money/provision, so we should not worry. In other words, do not worry about God not providing for you, don’t cling to the physical side of things. Seek first God’s Kingdom in all things…,which reminds me of what James said in chapter 1 of his letter to the Christians scattered abroad:
[quote]25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.[/quote]
By only giving out of our excess and holding onto our worldly necessities (ie money, clothing, housing, food, time, etc.) we are not trusting in God’s provision for those in need nor for ourselves. We are instead trusting in the current presence of those things in our lives. In other words, we are only trusting in God’s provision of these things as far as they are already in our lives. Jesus told doubting Thomas in John 20:29 “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” We must trust in God without seeing His provisions. James says this is how we keep ourselves unstained by the world, to not worry about ourselves and instead put those in need above our own. We have and therefore know God will provide! We are like the Israelites in the desert, for whom God provided daily bread (manna) from the sky. He told them not to save any for the next day but instead trust in His provision. When they did try saving some for the next day, it was riddled with worms. I wonder if they gave any manna to stragglers or nomads they came across in the desert, or did they just scarf down as much as they could possibly eat for fear of not getting any the next day? Even if they didn’t then, we sure do now!
Instead of being short sighted we need to be fully trusting. Our senses keep us focused on the here and now in the physical world and we don’t often enough listen to our hearts to trust God for everything. Many of us haven’t had to rely on God for our next meal or where we will sleep tonight or how we will survive tomorrow. Maybe it would do good for us to experience true physical need so we can better experience the overwhelming provision of God who loves His children and gives freely to those who ask of Him.