The Bible is far more than just a storybook, a collection of moralistic tales. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t fascinating lessons to be learned, along with the vastly more important doctrinal issues.
So, as I’ve said about five million times, I belong to a wonderful Bible study organization, Bible Study Fellowship International.
We are going through the Gospel of John this year, and yesterday our session was about chapter 6, which begins with the feeding of the five thousand, or the miracle of the loaves and fishes. (You can see the loaves nestled into the pot at the bottom center–they’re much bigger than the actual ones would have been–and the two fish are on the platter that the boy is holding, there on the right. Remember, this was a boy’s lunch. His “loaves” would be more like biscuits, and the fish were probably on the order of sardines.) Anyway, in case you’ve never heard the actual story, Jesus is out near the Sea of Galilee, having gone there for some rest, but crowds follow. He looks at the people and asks the disciples, specifically Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” The passage goes on to say, “He said this to test him.” Well, Philip is just like me, always looking for the negative, for a way to say, “We can’t do this.” (Maybe that’s a little unfair to Philip, but it’s unfortunately not unfair to me.) He says, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” A denarius was a day’s wages for a farm worker, so over half a year’s pay wasn’t going to be enough for more than a snack per person. (You may or may not know this, but the figure “5,000” refers only to the men, so with the women and children it would be more like 15,000.) Basically Philip is saying, “Look, we don’t have enough money to buy these people food, and even a lot of money wouldn’t be enough. So they’re out of luck!”
But Andrew speaks up, saying that there’s a boy with a lunch. How I wish we knew a little more here! Did the boy come up to Andrew? Did Andrew spot him and ask if he’d be willing to share? And Andrew’s faith isn’t perfect. He’s pretty doubtful: “What are they for so many?” Still, he’s done the best he could and brought what little he could find. Isn’t that endearing? “Well, I don’t know what can be done with this, but here’s what I have.”
And the miracle goes on from there, with everyone fed and 12 basketfuls’ worth of leftovers. (Our teaching leader pointed out that the fact of the “fragments” being gathered up is sometimes used as to make the point that we shouldn’t waste food, as if this part of the story were an early endorsement for the use of ziploc bags and frugality, when in reality the quantity of leftovers is saying that there was an abundance of food. Everyone had plenty to eat, and yet there was more.)
So I have to ask myself when I look at various situations: am I usually willing to just give up and explain why it can’t be done, or am I at least willing to give things a shot? How about you?