Thanks for Nothing! By Scott Rodin
When Jesus Gave Thanks for… Nothing!
Giving thanks is a practice often found throughout the Bible. We are likely all familiar with the story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. However, there is a short phrase embedded in the story that is remarkable, and challenging!
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. (John 6:5-11)
Jesus was faced with an insurmountable need on one side and a woefully inadequate resource on the other. 5,000 men, which likely means likely 20,000 people are hungry and Jesus has five small barley loaves and two fish.
Jesus’ response was to pray. The fact that he prayed was not surprising, but what he prayed was shocking. Did you hear it? Jesus takes the meager loaves of bread, holds them up to the father, and he “gave thanks.” Thanks? Thanks for what? There was nothing here to be thankful for. The situation was hopeless. The need was insurmountable. The resources were ridiculously inadequate.
We must be careful to be true to scripture here when we interpret this. It would be tempting to conclude that Jesus gave thanks because he knew what God was about to do. And while that might be true, there’s nothing in the text that alludes to that. What we find is the simple and very hard truth that Jesus gave thanks for resources that were wholly inadequate to meet the need. Jesus thanked God for providing them. It was the blessing over a meal. There were no caveats, no strings attached. Jesus lifted up five small barley loaves in front of 20,000 hungry people and thanked God for them.
What do we learn from this as leaders? What does it mean for us as stewards to follow Jesus’ example? Here are four takeaways to consider.
- Whatever God provides for any given situation, our immediate response should be thankfulness. Our gratitude is not based on the mathematics of how the resources meet the need but on obedience and faithfulness to the one who provides for all our needs.
- Our call is to steward the resources we have not constantly long for what we don’t have. In this way there is a sense of holy contentment that what God has provided will be enough. How else would you give thanks for so little in the face of so much need?
- We trust that God understands the needs we have and if we will be thankful for our current provision he will provide. The Father knew how many people were hungry, and by Jesus thanking him for what he had provided, it opened the door to the miracle.
- Keep focused on the mathematics of the kingdom of God. How often do we see God meet our needs in ways that defy our own logical, financially sound approach? Phillip knew there would not be enough money anywhere to buy the food they needed. But in the mathematics of the kingdom, there was enough for everyone. And for that Jesus gave thanks.
What will you do with this little two word teaching that Jesus, “gave thanks?” Where in your life and leadership are you not giving thanks for what God has provided because it seems so inadequate? Where are you overlooking current resources you have because they seem so inconsequential based on your need? Where have you failed to give thanks for what God has provided because you’re so anxious and worried about the need that still remains?
May these words of Jesus remind us that in God’s hands all resources are enough to supply all our needs. May we develop a steward’s heart of true thankfulness for all that God provides, and then watch him do great things in us and through us as his faithful stewards of every barley loaf and fish he places in our hands.
Scott Rodin is Senior Consultant/Chief Strategy Officer for The Focus Group. He also serves as a Senior Fellow of the Association of Biblical Higher Education and as board chair for ChinaSource. Over the past thirty-eight years Scott Rodin has helped hundreds of organizations improve their effectiveness in leadership, fund development, strategic planning and board development. Be sure to read Dr. Rodin’s newest book is titled, The Greater Mission.
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