Five Thousand Mouths to Feed
Matthew 14:15-17 The disciples came to him and said… “Send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”
A few years ago, my son and I were in Washington D.C. walking quickly down the street on a cold fall day, when a disheveled woman asked us for money to buy food. My son paused. I did not. I grasped his hand and directed him across the street.
He asked me why we did not help her. We don’t know what she will use that money for. She will probably use it for alcohol or drugs. He thought for a second and suggested that we go back to the food vendor on the corner and buy her some food. Sigh… I can’t help the whole world. If I help her, then where do I stop? If I start handing out food on the corner there will be hundred more lined up behind her. Plus, we are in a hurry.
When we got to our destination a few minutes later, I could see the hurt in his eyes and asked about it, knowing the answer. I just wish we could have helped that lady. I had blown it. I had missed the opportunity to help someone in need and I had missed the opportunity to allow my son to be a part of it. I told him that we would look for her on the way back, which we did, but we never saw her again. I felt terrible.
Jesus’ disciples had their excuses too. What could we possibly do? There are so many of them and we have so little. We cannot help them all. Jesus had compassion on the crowds though and insisted that the disciples do what they could. The disciples knew the futility of the effort but they obeyed Jesus and brought him what little food they had.
I can hear myself in the voices of the disciples. This is their own fault. They should not have come here without food. They failed to plan ahead like we did. We brought only enough food for ourselves. If we share what we have, we won’t have enough.
Jesus did not lecture the crowds on the necessity of planning and being responsible. He just had compassion and insisted that the disciples give what they had to do what they could. He happened to have a miracle up his sleeve but the disciples did not know that when they obeyed. They just did what He said and allowed him to work.
I think this is often what Jesus asks of me, just to do what I can with what I have. I do not think He asks me to miraculously feed 5,000 people but He does ask me to obey without excuse.
Jesus does not ask me to save the world. He tells me to do what I can with what I have for those around me. I am not required to perform miracles. I am just to obey.