(Mark 6:30-44)

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Sunday morning of last week we asked you to consider what “philanthropy” meant from a Christian perspective. We encouraged each of you to participate in the gracious ministry of giving – it is a ministry that all of us are a part of. Last Sunday evening at our family meeting we spoke of how this church is involved in what God is doing through many good works. And we laid out some of the facts about our participation in the ministry of giving. The good news is that spending is down. The bad news is that our contributions are down from what we need to maintain all of those good works at our current level. These are simply facts. There’s no guilt or shame. This is a generous church family that does strive to participate in the ministry of giving.
And just this week we have seen a difference in the typical contribution. And we have been blessed by God. I want to give thanks for the generosity of this congregation. I think that needs to be acknowledged. I am not saying that “a problem is solved” because there wasn’t really anything broken that needed to be fixed. Whichever side of the ledger our church budget may end up, each of us needs to be encouraged to participate in the gracious ministry of giving. Whether we have a high income a low income we all need to be encouraged to participate in the gracious ministry of giving – because it is about love not money (In Africa, the poorest of the poor place their empty hand in the plate as it is passed to show that they offer themselves).
I will continue to preach and teach what Scripture teaches about giving and the way we are to use our resources. It isn’t a seasonal topic or one that comes up in crisis. What I am concerned with is that in our wealth or poverty we look at our opportunities and our resources in the proper way. We need to overcome the mentality that looks at every opportunity as an “eight months month pay problem.” We need to be inspired to take on the greatest needs with nothing more that a basket of groceries if that’s all we have.

What I am talking about comes from Mark 6 ... [Read Text]

This text has giving all through it. There is much giving that takes place before the disciples give the crowd of over 5000 something to eat.

  1. Give what you have. The disciples look at the problem as an “eight months wages” problem. This causes them to give up. It cannot be done. Nice idea, great sentiment, but feeding this group will not work. The disciples had five loaves of bread and two fish. They assessed their resources. Instead of Jesus saying, well that will feed seven, fourteen if we slice it thin – the mission remains the same. You feed them.

  2. Give it to Jesus - It would have been a very uninteresting story if the disciples had taken the five loaves and two fish and formed a committee meeting in order to decide the distribution. It would have been uninspiring if they had held a lottery to see who gets the bread and fish. On their own, there is no solution they can come up with that works. So they give it to Jesus.

  3. Give Thanks. Jesus does not look down on what they have gathered. Jesus looks up to heaven. Notice what Jesus does with the bread and fish. The bread and fish represented “what they had to give.” Jesus could have said, “That’s it? Try harder. Someone is holding out.” He could have scolded the disciples or given them a guilt trip. He could have berated the crowd. But he doesn’t give a guilt trip, he gives thanks. He isn’t even ashamed of what is given, but he lifts it up and says to the Father and says Thank You! (Just being practical, how much sense does that make? You have a hungry crowd of 5000 and you hold up bread and fish that won’t feed more than fifteen? You can just hear Peter saying, “Hey Jesus keep those vittles out of sight or they are going to rush you!”) But Jesus is going to give thanks.

  4. Jesus gives us what we gave him and lets us give it to others. Remember that he told the disciples to feed the crowd. And that is just what they do. Jesus could have done it himself. But the disciples are the ones who need to do the feeding.
Before we rush to the end, think about the alternate ending to this story. What’s the alternative if the disciples had told Jesus, “We just don’t have anything?” What’s the alternative if the child with the bread and fish had hidden what he had? Simple: They would have sent the crowd away to get their food. And not only would they have been hungry – they wouldn’t have followed Jesus. They would still be sheep without a shepherd.

But that’s not the way the story ends. And yet, how much can we really get from it, after all this is a miracle story! How can we base what our church does and its finances on a miracle story? How can I really learn anything about my own finances and the way I use wealth from a miracle story? Simple: The same Jesus that gave thanks for that bread is the same Jesus who is Lord and living in this church at this very moment. We are not sheep without a shepherd.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 6 August 2006

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