“Philip answered him, ‘Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.'” (John 6:7)
Two competing world-views come to light in the “sign” of the feeding of the five thousand:
Are resources limited, finite, to be fought-over and controlled?
Is God’s provision always more than enough?
Human nature gravitates to the first perspective. Throughout our human history, many economies, governments, wars, and everyday interactions have assumed limits. Life and death decisions have been (and still are) determined by those who control the resources and how much access to those resources they allow to others. Power brokers often accumulate and hoard more than they need at the expense of the poor, the different, the sick, the uneducated and unproductive. Those without voice often become exploited, devalued and deemed expendable.
Yet there is another way to live.
The perspective of God’s abundant provision is present throughout the biblical narrative. Jesus called it the ‘kingdom of God.’ He taught that in this ‘kingdom’ there is a place for everybody and everyone has value as he ministered on the margins of society. He embodied God’s abundance of love, mercy and grace and called others to share in that abundance.
In this “sign” of abundance present in the feeding of the five thousand, we see this second perspective of the ‘kingdom’ come to life. Whether Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves literally (as many insist) or the sharing of that boy’s lunch inspired the crowd to open their own baskets and share in the world’s greatest potluck (as others speculate) is besides the point. The “sign” of abundance in that meal is that the revolution of the kingdom has begun where all have a place at the table and there is more than enough for all. Wherever we see generosity, sharing, welcome and inclusion of those who are normally left out or pushed aside that “sign” is revealed once again among us.
Scarcity teaches us to hoard, regard others as enemies, kill and destroy. Our Great Adversary loves to pit us against each other and reinforce the lie that we can never have enough, but if we had more than our neighbor we might be happy. The truth is that pursuit always leaves us hungry.
Jesus shows us how to love, share, be grateful and live for others. He reminds us in the breaking of the bread (whether it is at a picnic, a dinner table or around the altar) that everything we have – life, relationships, air, water, earth, food, shelter and salvation come as a gift of God – not as things we accumulate for ourselves. When we see that kingdom perspective – the world looks different, and we see the “sign” that not only is there enough for everyone, but there are twelve baskets left over for us to share.
-What are you hoarding?
-What will you thank God for today?
-What do you need to work on, in order to share your gratitude with others?
From Luther’s Small Catechism:
“Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean?
In fact, God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and receive it with thanksgiving.
What then does ‘daily bread’ mean?
Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” (Martin Luther, “Small Catechism , Evangelical Lutheran Worship, [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006], 1163-1164.)