Posted by: karanoel | June 8, 2011

The little and the much

I was writing this blog in my head yesterday morning while half – or mostly – asleep on a ridiculously comfortable pillow for an indulgent eternity. This delicious experience was cut unpleasantly short by the realization that I hadn’t set my alarm and was an hour late for work. So I gave my reflection, pillow, and anticipated shower a sad farewell and head off for a long, but fulfilling day.

The sweetness of the post, which may have had more to do with the fact that it was probably a dream, seems to have diminished, but I’m going to share it anyway. It had to do with that boy in the John 6 story of the fish and the loaves:

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great
crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these
people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him,
for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him,
“It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a
bite!”

8 Another of his
disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far
will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the
people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down
(about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then
took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much
as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had
enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.
Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and
filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by
those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw
the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is
to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they
intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by
himself.

This caused my thoughts to swirl around how very little it takes to be used by the Lord. I mean, a few loaves a couple fish?? What a paltry offering for such a great need! I’m pretty sure I would have been too ashamed to speak up, reasoning that there must be others who have something more substantial to give. But, through Jesus, it was enough to bless the multitudes with some to spare.

And yet how very much it takes to be used by the Lord. It may not have been much in the big scheme of things, but it was all the food this boy had. Handing it over meant that he risked going hungry himself. There was no guarantee he was getting anything back. If it were to be divvied up, he would be lucky to get a crumb and a scale. Knowing my attachment to food, I’m pretty sure I would have hidden my fish sandwich under my robe, figured that others should have thought ahead, and hoped nobody noticed the seaside aroma surrounding my person.

It brings to mind the widow with the mite in Mark 12:

41 Jesus sat
down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd
putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large
amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper
coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell
you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44
They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in
everything—all she had to live on.”

Considering the insignificance of the amount – in and of itself, and in comparison with the gifts of others – and the fact that it was all she had, it could be reasoned that she should just hold onto it. But, of all the people putting in money, she was the one Jesus acknowledged and honored.

One more story that comes to mind is the first miracle Jesus performed, at a wedding in Galilee, found in John 2:

1 On the
third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2
and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My
hour has not yet come.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells
you.”

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the
Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so
they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the
master of the banquet.”

They did
so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been
turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the
servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10
and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine
after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till
now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the
signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The thing that strikes me here is once again the little and the much. Jesus didn’t ask the servants to produce fine wine out of nothing. He asked them to use the resources they had – jars and water – to do his will and accomplish his purposes. Yet they risked everything by handing over the insignificant and inappropriate offering of water to the master of the banquet, an obedience which through the Spirit – not their own ability – was translated into rich wine for the glory of God and the benefit of many.

What I glean from all of this is that we are only called to give what we have. No matter how small or piddly or insignificant our own contributions seem, or how great and substantial and wonderful the contributions of others look. The Lord is the one who breathes divine life on the gift, multiplying it and causing it to be a blessing to others, and providing through it a testimony of himself.

And yet how very much it costs. Handing over all that we have in an act of trust of the one we are giving it to. Holding back nothing in fear, control, or unbelief. Knowing that he cares and will provide for our every need.

Last thought. He could do all this without us in the middle, shooting his glory down from heaven and setting things right, but he doesn’t. He uses us, his imperfect but dearly loved children, to accomplish his purposes on earth. So my thought is that we give the little and the much, and step into this great story that began before time and continues through all eternity.


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