Which do you think is easier to believe? To believe in what you do not have or to believe in what is hoped for? We know what we do not have and it is usually in the category of never enough. It is quite another thing to believe in something that is only a hope.
We have two great stories in the Bible: one in the Hebrew Scriptures of the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel and the other of the hungry crowd pressing in on Jesus. Both stories involve hunger and both stories involve feeding and both stories deal with a stronger belief in what they do not have instead of what is hoped for.
Israel had been led out into the wilderness to escape their Egyptian captors. They came to believe, however, that they were led out to starve. “The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4-6)
They came to despise God’s provision of manna, also called “bread of heaven,” and all they saw was their scarcity, what they did not have.
Now glance ahead through the centuries and through your books in the Bible to this story in John. In fact this particular story is told in all four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke as well as John. Thousands of people we are told are surrounding Jesus and his disciples and Jesus asks Philip one of those rhetorical questions, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (verse 5) We have this beautiful comment in verse six: He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answers him just like any one of us would have answered him had we been there: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Another disciple, Andrew, finds a little boy who brought his lunch and says rather dismissively: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
That is it, isn’t it? It is easier to place one’s belief in what you do not have. Not enough meat to eat and despising the bread from heaven. Not enough bread to go around and dismissing the offering of a little boy’s lunch. We do it too – not enough money in the account, not enough time in the day, not enough talent, not enough gifts, not enough intelligence, not enough people, not enough energy…
There are very real perils in misplacing belief in scarcity when God is breaking forth gifts of abundance.
Is church – the community and family of faith – just about nickels and noses? Is it about adding more members? Or is it about being part of a movement? If it is about just another member, just adding another name to the list so that we can boast about our roster then we are bowing down to the belief in scarcity – because there will never be enough. It is anxiety driven. It is about whining for meat when God is showering us with manna; it is scoffing at a lunch without realizing what Jesus can do if we but stand for the breaking and blessing.
If, however, what we are about is inviting people to be a part of a movement; a movement that is bigger than the sum total of parts; a movement that is about transforming lives; restoring those who have lost their way and working towards the betterment of the community…if we are about inviting people to be a part of this kind of movement, God’s movement, then we are well on our way from trading our scarcity of what we do not have into the abundance of what God has to offer.
Don’t take my word for it, read the Bible. And if that does not convince you look around. While the whiners and complainers are wailing that the world is falling apart people and there is just not enough there are others who are part of a movement that is changing this world one relationship at a time.
Don’t you want to be part of that movement?
We the followers of The Way have a counter-cultural message to share. The bread of heaven is falling and the hungry are being fed. God’s abundance abounds – now let’s go live it.