WEEKLY DEVOTIONAL – Addition By Subtraction
We know the story well. Five thousand men, beside women and children, all hungry and seated on the grass. There were no shops anywhere in the desert place and even if there were, there was not enough money to feed such a multitude (John 6:7). All they had by way of food was the lunch of a little boy – five loaves and two fishes, but as the disciple Andrew pointed out, “What are they among so many?” (v. 9, KJV). They looked at the food, looked at the crowd, and then all eyes turned to Jesus.
John tells us, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would” (v. 11). If we read that verse too quickly, we will miss some important truths. First, Jesus took into His hands that which was not enough. Second, He gave thanks. Third, He distributed to the disciples who would serve the crowd. Though the narrative does not provide any details of their reaction, I believe the disciples were awed by this miracle of addition by subtraction. With every piece of bread that was broken and every piece of fish that was served, there was more to replace them.
As I reflected on Jesus’ actions in this story, I thought about our inability to experience this kind of miracle in our lives, especially in our finances. For some of us, when we look at our monthly commitments compared to our salary, Andrew’s question comes readily to mind. It just isn’t enough. However, look at what Jesus did with what was not enough. Before He distributed it to the disciples, He gave thanks. The more I reflected, it occurred to me that in our technological age when our salaries are directly deposited into accounts, we no longer receive physical pay stubs, and we do our payments electronically, it is easy to ignore this important principle. Instead, we try to juggle what we have against our obligations and for most of us, what we have is never enough.
It could very well be that our miracle of addition by subtraction will only be realized when we begin to follow Jesus’ lead. Next payday, get up early, mentally take your pay in your hand and give thanks. Then amidst all the other commitments, resolve to distribute a bit to someone else in need. You don’t have enough? It is not the amount that matters; it is graciously giving out of your need. There really is nothing too hard for the LORD. He can cause what is not enough to do more than is needed with some left over. We give Him the little, He gives us the overflow. Matthew concludes the narrative, “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (14:20). See, He did it before and He can do it again. He is just that kind of God.