And he said, “Bring them here to me.” — Matthew 14:18
Not far from here, in Kinston, North Carolina, there is a ministry organization called Hope Restorations that rehabs houses for low-income residents. (Check out hoperestorations.org). Over the years Hope Restorations has been able to put dozens of families into affordable, energy-efficient homes. It does this by employing workers who have been through addiction or incarceration. So not only are neighborhoods being revived, but individual lives are also being transformed through job training and honest work.
This ministry has been able to transform a community because one person put his gifts in the hands of Jesus. Chris Jenkins, devastated by the sudden death of his son in 2013, was looking for a way to process his grief. He wanted a hands-on project that could keep his mind occupied during his days off, so Chris began to give his time to rehab some fixer-uppers around town. It was this small offering — beginning with just a day per week — that God multiplied into a blessing for the entire city.
This reminds me of the five loaves and two fish that the disciples gave to Jesus. After hearing the news that John the Baptist had been executed by Herod, Jesus went into the wilderness to pray about his own future (Matthew 14:13). But the crowds, worried about the chaotic times in which they lived, sought out the answers that Jesus could provide. The disciples were distressed as the people pressed on Jesus and asked him for healing, attention and food. In fact, they wanted to send the people away — their needs were just too much to handle.
Jesus, however, did not send the people away. Instead, he made a seemingly impossible request, telling the disciples: “You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). They looked at the thousands of people, then turned back to Jesus and reported the obvious: “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish” (14:17). It was a pathetically small offering given the tremendous needs of the people.
Don’t we all feel like the disciples must have felt? Given all that is wrong with the world — and wow, is there a lot wrong right now — there seems almost nothing we can do in response. This pandemic has highlighted just how inadequate are our political strategies, economic plans and social safety nets. How can you or I offer anything to fix it?
Well, we just need to do what the disciples and Chris Jenkins did — they handed over what they had, however small or broken, to Jesus. On that day beside the lake Jesus took that meager offering and multiplied it. Everyone ate to their fill; 12 baskets of leftovers were carried away. All because a small gift — one that was inadequate in the face of the need — was placed in the hands of Jesus.
It may feel like we are standing in a chaotic wilderness, holding inadequate gifts. But all we can to do is put them in Jesus’s hands. He will know what to do.