The crowd had been following Jesus, so he went up on the mountain with his disciples. He knew what he was going to do. He was going to show them that he was the source, the giver and the essence of nourishment and blessing—both spiritual and physical. Theologian and author Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932–1996) points out that this is a story about gratitude.
This radical shift of vision, from looking at the loaves and fishes as scarce products from God which ask to be gratefully shared, is the movement from wreaking death to bringing forth life, the movement from fear to love. When the story ends, with the glorious statement that the disciples “[filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten],” there is no doubt left that God’s house is a house of abundance, not scarcity.
This event, like all of the miracle stories in the Gospels, is first of all about who Jesus is. Here he is the new Moses, the Messiah, again supplying manna in the wilderness. John makes this connection explicit as he goes on to recount Jesus’ bread of life discourse. But in a non-Messianic—and, therefore, more indirect—sense, the story of the feeding of the five thousand also has something to teach about multiplying resources.
Holistic stewardship writer Guy L. Morrill (1873–1966) thinks that the principle of multiplying resources was not confined to the miracles Jesus performed with bread and fish, but is also active in the life of a steward. He says, “Money is a miracle because it increases when you give it away. There is a divine law in connection with our giving. Christ with a few loaves and fishes feeds thousands. When the woman of Zarephath responded to the request of Elijah, her scanty store became a bountiful sufficiency … Perhaps you have never thought of the miracle of money before.”
Expository preacher Stephen F. Olford (1918–2004) also calls the principle of multiplying resources a “miracle.”
The miracle of giving is that it produces a ministry of giving. When God can trust his people with money, he sees to it that they always have plenty for themselves and more for others. So the apostle quotes Psalm 112:9 to support the divine principle: “[they have freely scattered their gifts … in honor].” There is honor and reward where generosity has been exercised. God is no man’s debtor. And we are fulfilled in the enrichment of usefulness in giving because he meets our requirements, multiplies our resources, and motivates our responsibility … God alone is responsible for the measure in which these resources are multiplied, for the promise is clear and sure: he multiplies the seed that is sown.
God, thank you for your abundance and generosity to me. I pray that I will see you as you are: a God who delights in giving gifts to his children.