ARE WE PARTNERS WITH GOD?
Bread depends on partnering with God. The Apostle Paul came to this conclusion, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So, neither the planter nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (I Cor. 3:6-9).
Let us see what the Master did. First, he asked that the bread and fish be turned over to him. He was assuming responsibility for the feeding of the people. The food also was now in responsible hands. Jesus would see to it that not a single crumb would be wasted. And he shared it without thinking of his own needs. It is remarkable that while all the people were being fed, neither He nor the disciples took a single bite. But, at the end, they each had a basket full for themselves, except Jesus. Even their selfish needs were met.
The multiplication of the bread and the fish, of course, was a miracle. All of us should turn things over to the Lord. Unfortunately, we do not have his physical presence to manage our food supply and too multiply it. But that should not deter us from putting people in charge over our breadbasket – people whit wisdom and knowledge as to how to preserve and then how to share our food. Beware! There are very lean times ahead. Then we shall regret for having paid farmers for not producing more food. Who has the wisdom of a Pharaoh, who believed a slave by the name of Joseph, who put him in charge of all the food and who saw his slave save Egypt from starvation?
Secondly, Jesus took the bread and fish, looked up to heaven and gave thanks. Jesus, too, recognized the need for the Father, in heaven, to be engaged in the feeding of the people. He, too, had to have his Father’s approval to multiply the bread. He never did anything that was contrary to his Father’s will. Jesus told his listeners, “Verily, verily, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what He sees the Father is doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does the same” (Jn. 5:19). Why did Jesus insist that the disciples feed the people, when He, Himself, was hungry and He did not turn stones into bread? What Jesus did was similar to what Moses did when God gave him manna to feed the people (Jn. 6:31-34). In both miracles, bread is a gift from the Father in heaven. Bread sustains life on earth while the spirit occupies the human body. Without bread, the body will not function nor will the spirit have a chance to do God’s work in the world. Apparently, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away, when He had their attention. Hungry and starving people do not respond too well. These people wanted more bread from heaven and Jesus offered Himself as the bread they needed (Jn. 6:35).
Bread drew people to Jesus. He used bread to direct their thinking his way. “Verily, verily, I tell you that you are not following me for my miracles, but for the loaves of bread you ate and were filled. Stop looking for food that does not last but look for food that lasts forever, which the Son of Man can give you, because God has endowed him with it” (Jn. 6:25-27). The people misunderstood Jesus then and we still do today. We, too, have stopped thinking of Jesus as our earthly bread and made Him entirely spiritual or heavenly. We moved his kingdom out of the secular world into heaven. But Jesus wanted the people then and still today experience a little heaven here on earth, where we all eat up His life and His lifestyle, that brings all of us together around His table by breaking bread and sharing it. He will multiply it. Jesus then and now wants man to recognize that God makes and lets things grow.
I was nine years old when we were brought under German protection. We lived in barracks and all ate together in a huge hall. We were fed bread and jam with a glass of milk. Eighty-four years later, I still love the combination. Way back then, we were reminded that Adolf was our generous provider and we began to love him for it. By the age of fifteen, I had learned that it was not Adolf feeding us, but that we were feeding Adolf and his followers. What he had fed us, he had taken from others and he began to fall apart without the world pounding him with bombs to pieces. What Hitler did to Germany in a small doze, Stalin did to Russia on a larger scale. He hung two pictures in a classroom, one of Jesus and one of himself. Then, he had the children pray to the pictures and Jesus was empty while Stalin was filled with goodies. Stalin and his followers managed for seventy years, for that was as long as the spoils they had take from others lasted. The major cause of death was the lack of bread and some seventy million ended in unmarked mass graves, my father-in-law was one of the victims. The seventy years have a historical meaning for Jews in Babylon, Media and Persia that exploited the world in their time and perished. The question that should hunt us is, how long will socialism last in the USA, for the suppliers of bread have become recipients themselves?
The Prophet Malachi had a message for the people that left out God in their partnership. God had Malachi speak to the people like a father would to his children that were listening to false teachers instead to their own fathers. When they were ailing they would come to the Father mourning with tears, but they would not turn from disregarding God’s laws and robbing God of his tithes. God felt more respected by the nations than by his chosen people. Malachi is not just reaching out to Jews but to the members of the New Israel; namely, the Christians. Like the descendants of Jacob, this nation that has written God’s Laws on their courthouses but not on their hearts is creating her own shortage of bread by robbing God of his share that is needed to feed her people in hard times. We curse ourselves by not filling God’s storehouses with supplies. He did not mean our temples, churches or sanctuaries, but places where food could be kept that lasted for seven years. Bread shortages usually last for seven years (Gen. 41). “Thus says the Lord of Hosts, ‘put me to the test by bringing all of the tithes into my storehouse so that there may be bread in my house, see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down on you blessings that will overflow. I will halt drought from harming your crops and cause your vines to loose their fruit.’ Then your land will be a delight and all the nations will call you blessed” (Mal. 3:10-12).
We too should thank heaven for people like the lad, who do not mind giving up their lunch for us. And while we are praying, we ought to ask to be forgiven for having wandered off into the desert without any provision. How sad it is when so many of us depend on so few to feed us! It becomes tragic when those who feed us have to borrow themselves in order to feed us. And when their credit is exhausted, who will feed us then? Wake up eaters! We are running out of feeders! We are breaking the back of our wonderful nation because we do not shoulder some of the burdens ourselves. Is it asking too much that we take care of our own lunch? Never mind all the other things our selfish heart desires. Let us just concern ourselves with mere lunch and let us not be afraid to share it.
The Creator of all things could easily turn stones into bread. But that would deprive man of the managing position for which the Lord made him in the first place (Ge.2: 26-28). Man was to do the farming and God was to do the blessing. One cannot do without the other. Leo Tolstoy wrote, “God is he without whom one cannot live” (Wa.133). At the same time, God blesses and multiplies only that which we share with others. Jesus made this quite clear in the parable of the rich fool. This man had build bigger barns to store food only for himself and he never lived to enjoy it (Lk. 12:16-21). A proud farmer was once praised for a fine field of oats. “Yes!” he boasted, “If God Almighty lets it alone, it ought to be a bumper crop.” God did leave it alone by merely withholding the rain and that was the end of the crop (Kn. 23).
A certain Rabbi had his logic thwarted on a Sabbath. He trudged home disheartened and disappointed. His concerned wife asked, “What was your sermon subject that took so much starch out of you?” “Ah, Rachel,” he complained, “I tried to tell them that it was the duty of the rich to help the poor.” “And did you convince them,” she pressed? “I guess it was about fifty-fifty. I convinced the poor,” he replied (Ar. 8). Jesus did not endorse a one sided partnership. He praised a widow above others that shared two very small copper coins (Lk. 21:1-4). Jesus was not anxious to give money to the poor and rob another poor person of doing something special for him (Mt. 26:6-13). We all have something the Lord can use and multiply. If we have nothing, then we ought to find something we can fix up and raise some money with it and have a share storing some bread for a time when we cannot earn it. I am married to a lady that has gone all her life to second hand places picking up items, repairs them and gives them to organizations that raise money for their needs. If there is a will, there always is a way. It is not what God can do; but it is what can we give that He can bless and multiply? It is good to trust our heavenly Father for our daily needs, and to hope that someone has brought his lunch; but is it prudent to venture out empty handed and expect to return fully fed?