An adult never would have done it. It wasn’t logical. In fact, it was downright embarrassing to offer such a small amount for such a large crowd. And besides, it made more sense to keep it for oneself for the journey ahead. Yet the boy didn’t think about any of that. He just knew he had some food and other people needed it. So he found Andrew and told him he had five loaves of barley bread and two fish. Perhaps the people around him snickered at how naive this child was. But Andrew brought the food to Jesus, who multiplied it to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children. The leftovers alone were astounding. But in order to multiply the food, first the boy had to give it away.
The natural tendency when one is running low on a necessity is to hoard it more closely for oneself. I’m never more mindful of gas mileage, for example, than when I’m running on low fuel and am 20 miles from a gas station. I use every possible trick to extend the use of what little gas I have left—cruise control, putting it in neutral when I’m at a light, accelerating and decelerating slowly, and turning off stuff like the heater or the AC to conserve energy. Boy howdy, I want to squeeze every last half mile out of that tank of gas. Or let’s say you get to the grocery store and realize you left your credit card at home and only have $20 in cash. Will you donate to the people out front collecting money for the local food bank? If you have two hours of free time to accomplish stuff at home, will you gladly answer the doorbell to your neighbor who needs to talk? As sinful humans, most of us would have to answer no. We’re fairly selfish with our time and money, especially when we think we don’t have enough.
Yet the account of the feeding of the 5,000 shows us exactly the opposite of what we expect to happen. Rather than the little boy giving up his lunch in vain, going home hungry along with everyone else, everyone left full and satisfied. I can’t help but wonder what was going through the disciples’ minds as they started out among that huge crowd. Did any of them wonder how that half loaf in his basket was going to help anyone? Were any of them tempted to just eat the small morsel of food rather than give it away? Yet as they gave away the only food they had, miraculously more and more appeared.
It’s reminiscent of the widow of Zarephath in Elijah’s day. Elijah was sent to her during a three-year drought, and despite the fact that all she had was a handful of flour and a bit of oil, she believed Elijah’s promise that God would not allow her to starve. She used the remainder of her flour and oil to make food for Elijah—not just for her son and herself—and day after day, “the jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16). It went against human logic, certainly, to feed a stranger the last of the food available in the house, but had this widow followed her original plan to make one last meal for herself and her son, they would have starved. By giving away all she had, she gained so much more.
The Bible is full of examples and promises of God providing for His people. The children of Israel had to trust every morning that God would provide their daily manna and quail. They weren’t allowed to keep leftovers as backup. And the widow who gave her two small coins to the temple presumably didn’t starve either. Jesus commended her faith to His disciples. He wasn’t going to let her down.
So what about you? Where are you afraid to trust that God will provide? Maybe you’re worried about finances and make excuses not to help someone else who is struggling financially as well. Perhaps you’re concerned that you won’t have enough for college for your kids or health problems in the future or your retirement someday. Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck and tithing seems like a really big commitment when you’re pinching pennies. Maybe you’re stretched emotionally thin, and although you’d like to volunteer, you just don’t think you can commit any extra time to it. Whatever your situation, I can almost guarantee that it’s not ideal for giving, financially or timewise. You can always find excuses not to give. And the devil will do all he can to make you believe giving is foolish. But think about the widow’s oil. Remember the boy’s lunch. Think of the manna. Remind yourself that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think,” as Ephesians 3:20 boldly states.
We serve a God who promises to provide. Fear not, for in giving away what little you have, you just might gain everything.