It’s Not About What You Can Do
God Can Make Abundance From Nothing
By Beth Demme
I know you know the story. The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
Jesus wanted a little peace and quiet to mourn the death of John the Baptist. He tried to go off by himself, but the crowds followed him. Jesus put his need for time and space to grieve on the back burner. Compelled by compassion for others, he chose to care for the people in the crowd.
Jesus spent the day healing people. At the end of the day, the disciples knew the people needed to eat. They told Jesus to send everyone home. The disciples wanted the people to be self-sufficient, to feed themselves.
But Jesus tells the disciples he’s not going to send the people home.
He says, “the crowd can stay, you give them something to eat.” The disciples respond, probably with a tinge of disbelief, “we have nothing except five loaves and two fish.”
I always picture this scene with an almost cartoonish exaggeration. The disciples stand with their shoulders and their eyebrows raised, the pockets of their tunics are turned inside out, they hold out their hands, and they say, “But, Jesus, we’ve got nothing for them.”
Maybe their reaction was more reserved, more subtle. Maybe even a little regretful. “Sorry, Jesus, we didn’t bring any food. There isn’t enough. We have nothing we can give these people.”
We all feel that way sometimes like we have nothing left to give—whether it’s money, time, gifts, abilities—whatever it is, we feel like we have nothing God can use.
But our God is the Creator. If we look back at the poetry of Genesis 1 we see God creating something out of what? Nothing.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand ends with there being more than enough—an abundance.
All ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:20-21)
God created an abundance from what the disciples described as nothing.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, an amazing Lutheran pastor out in Denver, says:
I wonder if, like the disciples, we too make the mistake of not always realizing … we have a God who can actually feed so many on so little. A God who created the universe out of nothing, [who] can put flesh on dry bones nothing, [who] can put life in a dry womb of nothing. NOTHING is God’s favorite material to work with. God looks on what we dismiss as nothing, insignificant, or worthless, and says, ‘Ha! Now that I can do something with.
Our God can turn nothing into something. He does it all the time.
When we offer our little piece to God, our loaf, God will do more with it than we can imagine.
God has created you to be you. God did that for a reason. God decided the world needed you. When you turn your gifts, your time, your talents over to God, He will do more with them than you can imagine.
We think, what can one person do? That’s the wrong question.
You have to rephrase the question.
When I practiced law, we did this all the time. In the courtroom, you aren’t supposed to ask the witness the same question multiple times. You can be accused of badgering the witness, or more typically, you get called out for wasting the court’s time. The opposing counsel will object, usually in a very tired voice, “Objection. Asked and answered.” To avoid that and get yourself some more leeway, you say, “Let me rephrase the question.”
If you’ve been asking “what can one person do?” you need to rephrase the question. Instead of asking, “what difference, can I make?” ask “what difference can God make?”. Instead of asking, “what can one person do?” ask “what can God do?”.
What can God do? What can God do through you? Well, when the disciples had NOTHING, God fed over 5000 hungry people in an afternoon.
Also, did you notice that the loaves multiplied after leaving Jesus’s hands?
Jesus doesn’t make a huge pile of bread and call the crowd forward. In fact, Jesus doesn’t give the bread to the crowds at all. Jesus gives the bread to the disciples and they give it to the crowd.
It’s the same with us.
Our gifts are multiplied not when we hold them back, but when we use them. Jesus has put the bread in our hands, now we have to pass it out.
We all have something to offer. We all have something God can use.
We might think we have nothing, but that’s okay — “nothing” is God’s favorite material to work with.
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