Be A Blessing
It’s not the main point of the story, but it is a point that illustrates a biblical principle behind the way God normally works in the world. The principle is this: Jesus enables you to use what you already possess to be a blessing to others around you.
The story is found in Mark 8. In Mark 8:1–10, we read Mark’s account of the feeding of the four thousand. It’s important to note a few things off the bat. First, this miracle of feeding the four thousand is not to be confused with the feeding of the five thousand. That miracle, where Jesus feeds five thousand, is recorded in Mark 6, and there are some key differences. In that instance, Jesus is in Jewish regions (see Mark 6:7; cf. Matt. 10:5); in the feeding of the four thousand, he’s in Gentile territory (see Mark 7:31, 8:1). In the feeding of the five thousand, the people have come from nearby towns and have spent one day hearing him teach (6:33); with the four thousand, people have traveled from far away and have heard him teaching for three days (8:2). With the five thousand, although they are in a desolate place, his disciples assume they can go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread (6:37); with the four thousand, they’re in such a desolate place there’s no food to be found (8:4).
Those are all key differences, and some of them help us really get at the heart of Mark’s main point of the feeding of the four thousand. But the difference that I want to point out for this post is found in the food that is given out. In Mark 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand by miraculously multiplying five loaves and two fish, food that was provided by a boy in the crowd (6:38, cf. John 6:9); in Mark 8, Jesus feeds the four thousand by multiplying the seven loaves of bread and “a few small fish” provided by the disciples themselves (Mark 8:5).
That may seem like a small point, and I concede that it is. But put yourself in the disciples’ sandals for a moment. First, they, too, have been in this desolate place at Jesus’s teaching conference for three days. They, too, are likely physically tired and they, too, are obviously running short on rations. Seven loaves of bread and a few fish—a few small fish—aren’t quite enough to feed the thirteen men in their crew. Second, though it seems obvious to us to think: “Just remember what Jesus did with the five thousand! It’ll be okay!”, at the same time, that’s not how the disciples functioned, and that’s very often not how we ourselves operate. They were filled with doubt about Jesus’s ability to perform the same miracle again. Whether that was because they were in Gentile territory, or because they were caught up in a semi-panic of the moment (having four thousand hangry—and I spelled that correctly—people who are all looking to you can be a bit intimidating), or whether, as is most likely, they just weren’t yet confident in their faith (see Matthew 16:8–11), the disciples found themselves once again doubting that Jesus could come through.
So they’ve got a few small fish, seven loaves of bread, 13 men they’re directly responsible for, four thousand others they’re indirectly responsible for, and a long walk to find food. They’re getting nervous, they’re hungry, and Jesus asks them to give away the only food they’ve got.
And when they do, he takes it, blesses it, breaks the bread, and starts giving to the disciples to give out. And they give it out. And they give it out. And they give it out. They give it out until everyone eats and is satisfied, and still there are seven large baskets full of leftovers. And one of the points, a minor point, but a point nonetheless, is that Jesus enabled them to use what they already possessed to be a blessing to others around them.
And the same thing is true for us today.
Jesus enables you to use what you already possess to be a blessing to others around you. “What you already possess” may be food, or it may be other physical possessions. It might be a van, like someone at our church recently loaned to a missionary family in our church for the summer. It might be gifts and talents, like the many in our fellowship who use their talent for cooking to be a blessing to others. It might be skills, like those skills used by some from our church to rebuild two church buildings in Kentucky over the past ten or so months. It may be finances, it may be time, it may be clothing, it may be your home. It may be convenient and cheap; it may be inconvenient and costly. But Jesus enables you to use what you already possess to be a blessing to others around you.
The question is, will you allow yourself to give away those things for the good of others?
The principle set forward in Scripture is that Jesus enables us to do that. Just how he enables us to use what we already possess for the good of others can be seen by answering two questions that may be rising already in our minds. One question that you may be asking is this: “Why should I give my stuff for the good of others?” And the answer is found in the gospel. When we look to Jesus our Savior, what we see is One who gave up everything to become nothing, so that we who had nothing might gain everything in him. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says it like this: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” That’s the love of Christ for us, that we now have in us, that we’re to let show through us (Philippians 2:5).
Another question that some may ask is, “But won’t this impoverish me?” And that’s a significant question. The stakes could be high. But the answer is still found in the riches of God’s grace for us in Christ. One chapter later in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul writes this, “And God is able to make all grace about to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may about in every good work.” The italics, of course, I add for emphasis so that we don’t miss the point: all that you need, at all times, God will give you, so that you can be a blessing to others around you. From Genesis 12 onward, we see that God’s people are blessed in order that they may be a blessing.
All that we have comes from God. In his first letter to Corinth, Paul asks us to consider the question, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). All that we have comes from above, and it has been given to us for our provision, for our enjoyment, but also for us to be a blessing to others when the opportunity arises.
And when you take that opportunity, you’ll be making a sacrifice at some level. You may yourself have to go without. You may even lose something substantial. But when you do, you’re only following in the footsteps of the one who gave everything for you, and in doing that, you’ll be blessed.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.