When they had all had enough to eat, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” -John 6:12 (NIV)
I can’t get enough of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. I especially love the version found in John’s gospel where the little boy brings the fish and the bread to Jesus. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.” (John 6:8) We see this small offering from one boy and how Jesus turns that into an abundance. Jesus takes what the boy has to offer and feeds God’s people.
I wonder what thoughts were running through the boy’s mind? Did he protest and want to keep the food for his family? Was this bread and fish all he had to eat? Did he know the miracles possible with Jesus? Was he afraid, or exhilarated at being able to help? Did he think Jesus was crazy for believing he could feed 5,000 people?
Whatever thoughts occurred to the boy, he still gives the bread and the fish.
And Jesus turns the little gifts into an abundance. Not only enough to feed the people, but enough to gather the pieces remaining so that nothing would be wasted.
There are so many small gifts that we can offer – a kind word, a listening ear, a hand-written note, an invitation to a meal, a prayer, our presence.
Much of the time it’s the small things that I do throughout the day that weigh me down. As a mother to two small children the small things include: dishes, meals, helping kids get dressed and use the bathroom, picking up toys, playing catch, reading books, coloring together, building with blocks, and listening to stories over and over. Each activity in and of itself is small, but if I take the time to listen and invest in the moment, I find an abundance of grace and gifts.
The little boy teaches me over and over again that everything I do is a gift given to God. And it’s precisely in the giving of our gifts to others that God transforms them before our eyes. Maybe you’re wondering what small gifts you have to give, or perhaps you’re overwhelmed with the tasks to get through each day. “Let nothing be wasted,” Jesus says to the disciples and to us. Nothing is lost on God.
Today look for the small things that you’re doing – calling a friend, feeding your family, listening to a colleague, volunteering, sending cards to teachers and health care workers – and watch how God turns those small acts into an abundance for God’s people.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website, follow her work on Facebook, or sign up for her monthly newsletter.