“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”… Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”… “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:5, 7-9, 11
Even though this is a familiar story to me, it came out of nowhere to hit me in the gut last week. I became very aware of Philip and Andrew’s different approaches to their dilemma. Philip was realistic in what it would take to feed the crowd- money they didn’t have. Andrew brought forth what they did have. Granted, it wasn’t enough to feed a crowd. He knew it wasn’t the answer but he acknowledged what he had in his hand. I asked the Lord, “What do I have in my hand that I don’t even realize? Am I looking at what I can’t do or am I looking at the little that you’ve entrusted to me?”
Two days later I was reading the newest book changing my life- Crazy Love by Francis Chan. He stopped me in my tracks with his perception on the same Scripture:
“Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy’s small lunch?... Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would’ve been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.”
Yikes! How often have I hoarded a blessing thinking thankfulness is enough? How often has He had intentions to multiply what I’m holding as I’ve hovered over it, elbowing out anyone that might have a need? How often have I justified my tight-fistedness thinking what I could give wouldn’t stretch far enough anyway? After reading “A Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns and now “Crazy Love” I realized that I have not properly acknowledged what an abundant life I live materially. It’s easy to see others who have a retirement fund built up, two nice cars, cell phones and a land-line, who take vacations that involve hotels and planes…and think we don’t have much as a family of 5 on a single income. Yet we still fall into the category of richest 1% in the world.
When I had my first baby sitting job in middle school my mom taught me about tithing. I’ve always done it, never hesitated in honoring God in my finances. For the duration of our marriage we’ve sponsored kids through World Vision. I’ve been willing to be obedient to the Lord with money.
Yet as I was reading the feeding of the 5,000 I knew the Lord was telling me I need to take a hard look at what He’s put in my hands. I knew what I’ve thought is there for me…isn’t just for me.
“What does that look like right now, Lord?” I asked this repeatedly the day I was immersed in “Crazy Love”. “We’re saving to adopt…we can’t even make that happen so what exactly are you saying when you’re asking me to give in a way that involves self sacrifice? I’m tithing; I’m giving…so why is this stirring such a deep part of me?”
Thursday night S. happened to call a neighbor with a question. They are a family we’ve been praying for since we moved in. The wife told S. that they are about to have their power shut off because they can’t pay the bill. Their car was repossessed and they are desperate. The husband was wishing he wasn’t alive…the wife was frantic. Their world has been crumbling and they don’t yet know the One that has answers. S. invited the husband over immediately and they went to talk about life over cigars. I began washing dishes and praying for their family. Almost instantly I was brought to tears and knew that God was asking me to take a substantial amount of money out of savings for them. I had a near giddiness over it…and then stopped myself momentarily. “Okay, Lord. I want to be open handed. I want to watch you multiply what I have. We haven’t even felt comfortable taking this money out for adopting. In fact…it’s the same amount I’ve managed to save this year. I felt like you were telling me to save it for us. If we are really supposed to do this I absolutely will, but please confirm it through S. so I don’t second guess. Build my faith?”
Half an hour later S. snuck in the house for a warm up on hot chocolate and said, “Shilo, we’re supposed to give them money.” He named the amount.
Nothing in me was surprised.
“Yep, I know.”
“Will you write the check and bring it to me with the hot chocolate?”
The next day I recalled my thought, “I felt you were telling me to save it for us.” Wasn’t I presumptuous to assume that God was telling me to save it for us? He told us to save it…He never said it was for us. He clearly told me not to take it for our adoption. It was earmarked for a power bill. I just didn’t do the earmarking.
How gentle of the Lord to teach me about being open handed before the opportunity was in front of me. Previously I would have thought, “We don’t have that money. Yeah, we have savings but what if something happens to us?” What a ridiculous thought while our neighbors would have lived in the dark. I would have thought, “It’s a drop in a bucket! It’s not a permanent solution. We’ll hardly dent their situation.”
When Jesus fed the 5,000 it was only one meal. It was one meal that pointed to who the Bread of Life is. It was one meal that demonstrated God’s provision, His love for His children, His ability to meet needs far beyond today. Oh, to quit analyzing the financial repercussions, the weight, or need of my gift. Oh, to just shut up and obey. There’s still enough bread for me. (And gluten free bread for S….)