I just read John 6 today and the same verse stuck out to me that usually does. It is a verse that doesn’t really seem like it should make sense, but for that reason just the fact that Jesus said it makes it all the more important for us to understand and live by. I don’t think I have ever heard a preacher talk about the verse, even though I have heard this story mentioned many times – as it is one of the more famous ones.
The verse was the first thing that Jesus said after he performed a miracle and fed 5000 from a few fish and loaves. So Jesus, took a few loaves and fish and turned it into thousands of loaves and fishes to feed all these people – without even breaking a sweat. It was not difficult for Jesus to accomplish, and if it was anything like some of his other miracles it may have been as simple as Him believing and speaking it into existence.
But even with as seemingly simple as it was to feed these 5000 people, after they ate He immediately told the disciples to:
“Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost“ John 6:12 NASB
What is so interesting to me is that if I had a party and fed 5000 people, I would expect there to be a lot of leftover food. I would probably try to save some of it, but realistically I would expect there to be a lot that would go to waste and I would just figure that to be appropriate given the size of the group.
Even if I would have personally spent 3 days preparing food for the people and invested dozens of hours of my precious time into it, I would still be okay with some waste just thinking it comes with the territory of feeding this many people.
But Jesus treated this situation completely different:
- He didn’t spend any time (from what we can tell) preparing it. If he had spent 3 days preparing it, it might make a little more sense if He said something like, “I just spent 3 days and thousands of dollars to get this food for you – therefore I don’t want any of it to go to waste. But instead, it was more like the bread continued to pour out of a never-ending basket.
- Even though waste should have been expected (for a crowd of 5000) He made sure there wasn’t any.
If I were one of the disciples I probably would have thought to myself, “Why are we picking up these scraps? He just created thousands of loaves and fish out of thin air – do we really need the leftovers?”
Clearly the Lord was trying to make a point.
As an American I am part of a society that, because we are rich, we waste a lot of stuff. In fact, 1.3 BILLION tons of food get wasted each year. And what I have noticed in my own life is that when I have more, I care less about wasting stuff.
In my own life I try to, regardless of how things are going financially, keep this verse in mind. It is a bit easier when money is tight, but when things are going better it can be really difficult to care about the “small change”. But clearly the Lord wants us to minimize waste whether we have to work hard for the excess or whether it comes easily.
Keeping things balanced
It can be easy to take a verse like this and go to the extreme, but I really do believe that keeping it in balance is key. On the other end of the spectrum in Matthew 26:6-10 we see Jesus defending what the disciples view as waste with the woman with the alabaster jar. In this passage Jesus defends the woman and says that what she is doing is “beautiful”. So, it seems to me that there are appropriate times to spurge and appropriate times to save.
What do you think?