What if I give all I have / What will that gift do / My child a gift like that could change the world / It could feed a multitude – Ray Boltz, What If I Give All, from the 1996 album “No Greater Sacrifice”.
To give unselfishly / To love the least of these / Jesus I’m learning how to live with open hands / All these treasures that I own / Will never satisfy my soul / Jesus I lay them at Your throne with open hands – Matt Papa, Open Hands, from the 2009 album “Your Kingdom Come”.
John the Baptist, cousin of the Christ, has just been executed by the Roman puppet sitting on the throne of the Galilean region. Understandably, Jesus goes off by himself to grieve (v. 13). But the crowds follow Him to an out of the way place and instead of getting angry, He feels compassion for them and heals their sick (v. 14)! There are so many of them that these acts take up a good chunk of the day to the point that the disciples become worried.
“This is a remote place and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves” (v. 15).
But Jesus says something surprising. He tells His disciples to feed the crowd. They protest: We only have two fish and five loaves of bread! How are we going to feed all these people with just that scrawny amount of food? (v.16). They forget, and I did too, that Jesus has already empowered them to do what He is suggesting (10:8). When He sent them out to minister, He gave them all the tools and ability to do as He was doing. I’m assuming He didn’t take any of that back when they returned. But does the Christ chastise them? No.
Instead, He takes what has been provided, blesses it and multiplies it to the point where it more than feeds about 5,000 men. That doesn’t include all the women and children. Supposing that maybe half of the men are married or in attendance with significant others, plus one child for every couple, that equals at least 10,000 people being fed that day. Some scholars put the number as high as 15,000. Matthew writes, “They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterwards the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers” (v. 20).
I don’t know if this is a literal twelve baskets or a figurative one since the number twelve in Jewish culture tends to signify completeness. Still, the fact that no one left hungry is amazing. What a caterer Jesus is! He’s better than the most efficient banquet team on the planet.
Which all goes to show that even the most paltry of offerings can be multiplied exponentially in the hands of the Christ. We don’t have to come to Him with bucket loads of talent or wealth or possessions. He takes what we already have and does wonders with it if we let Him. I know sometimes I tend to think that donating a few dollars to a local charity won’t do much to help the overall problem. But I forget that if others also give what little they have, the issue becomes much more manageable. Jesus doesn’t expect us to work in a vacuum. But He does expect each of us to do our part.
What do I have today that the Son of Man can use In the world to make it a better place? What am I holding onto for fear it won’t be enough, forgetting that in His hands it’s multiplied to the point of solving the problem? I’m reminded of the story of the widow who gave two small coins, all she had, into the offering plate at the temple (Luke 21:1-4). Jesus points her out to the disciples saying others gave out of their surplus, but not her. With Him, it seems to be about the quality of the gift, not the quantity. What a relief!
I may not have much, but that’s okay in Jesus’ book. All He asks is that I open my hands and let Him work. He may use all I have, or He may only use a portion of it. Doesn’t matter. The child who gave the five loaves and two fish received twelve baskets of leftovers to take home. Nothing was wasted. I think sometimes I forget that Jesus doesn’t leave us empty-handed but fills us back up with more than we gave. I once heard a pastor say, “You can’t out-give God. You can try, but you can’t out-give a giver.”
If there’s anything that Jesus has proven to be in the first fourteen chapters of Matthew, it’s a giver. Even in difficult personal times, like grieving the loss of His cousin, He still meets the needs of others. What makes me think it will be any different for me? Why am I still holding back?