by Kris Stevenson | 20 February 2020 |
A.D. 30 (+ or –)
He was always too sharing, too trusting. The neighbor kids didn’t even have to bully him to get his lunch money. So it wasn’t a surprise when he admitted he had a sandwich when Jesus’ disciples started sniffing around.
He and Mom had a plan. She said, “Be back tomorrow night after seeing Jesus. Uncle Gersh is coming for supper. Here are seven loaves of bread and two dried fish. You can find some fresh figs and maybe someone will have cheese.”
He scampers off, hangs with his friends, listens to Jesus explain the love, generosity, and compassion at the heart of the Kingdom of God. Mindful of the trip home, he munches through two loaves but tucks the rest away. Each of his friends has a water skin and a packet of food, too. After all, you don’t go out into the hot, arid wilderness without supplies. Then Jesus asks for food. And—like when the teacher asks a question you don’t know and you don’t want to make eye contact and you hide behind the kid in front of you–everyone hangs their head. They’re doing the calculations. “If I share my food, I won’t have enough for my family to make it back to Beersheba.”
“I’ve got low blood sugar.”
“I’m still nursing my child.”
“I need my strength to deal with my mother-in-law.”
“I’m in charge of the Yeshiva.”
“I thought this was a catered event. Where are the boxed lunches?”
5,000 people and only one boy had a picnic with him? Certainly not.
But he was the only one who trusted Jesus and shared what he had. And with his mouth hanging open, he watched Jesus multiply the two fish and the five leftover loaves of his mother’s special bake into a feast for everyone. An uncontested miracle!
But there was another miracle that happened that day. Jesus grouped the people into fellowships of 50 or 100. As the food was passed from hand to hand, the boy’s abandoned liberality sank into peoples’ mouths and hearts. “Suddenly,” wineskins showed up; Big Franks were pulled out of Ziploc bags; baklava was unwrapped; black bean burger sandwiches on pita came out of pockets; cheese, olives, figs, pomegranates and dates materialized from purses. People shared, laughed, relaxed, trusted. A community formed with Christ at its head. Jesus made “stones into bread” and into a feast like the old story of Stone Soup. Stoney hearts turn into a living-stone temple.
Remember back, oh, about 20 years ago? There was something called Y2K. The end of the world. Or not. No one was sure. Some people really prepared for that. They bought canned food, bottled water, expensive hand-operated wheat grinders, special rain barrels, you name it. We didn’t have much money at the time but I’m a planner. I found a place that sold 25-pound bags of beans and scarlet lentils for $7 each. We were still eating lentils 10 years later when my daughter graduated from high school.
This year living in Southern California we’ve had the biggest earthquake since 1994 and had two fires that came close enough to mark myself “safe” on Facebook. I finally bought a life-long planner’s dream—a portable generator. The local first responders have provided us with lists of emergency supplies we should gather: Water, hand-cranked flashlight, radio, important papers, food, batteries, animal supplies and so on. It’s all packed and ready to grab in the laundry room. My biggest challenge will be catching the cats.
But what if the emergency happens when I’m idling in the drive-through at Taco Bell, working on my triceps at LA Fitness, or at singing praise songs at prayer meeting? It seems impossible to plan for everything.
Just recently I’ve received info from three different para-church organizations about the last days. One wants to sell me a book on how to run to the hills ($10.98 plus shipping), one wants to teach me how to live perfectly, and one gave me a list of survival preparations for believers that includes building a Faraday cage for my computer.
So this planner is conflicted. Should I build a bunker and fill it with MREs? Should I be saving to buy five acres in Montana? Should I be shopping for composting toilets at Lehmann’s Hardware in Ohio’s Amish country–“The Non-Electric Home”?
Hiding has a sweet, subtle, spiritual attraction. I’d rather be walking tree-lined paths with the fresh wind in my hair, a hot, home-cooked meal waiting in a Thomas Kincaid-ish cabin than driving white-knuckle through insane traffic with a quick dinner detour through Del Taco. It’s more inviting to retreat to the mountains of solitude than to march through the gates of hell in search of people to connect to Jesus (Matthew 16:18 NKJV).
- He did nothing but what God told Him to do (John 5:40).
- He had no stockpiles of anything, not even an extra cloak, and He trained His followers to go on mission the same way (Matthew 16).
- He withdrew briefly for prayer and strength to go back into ministry (Matthew 15:29; Matthew 26:36).
- He stopped His disciples from defending Him and, when Peter tried to dodge and weave to stay out of the crosshairs at Jesus’ trial, Peter nearly lost his soul (Matthew 26:52; 26:69-75).
He taught that:
- Things that are hoarded for the future can decay or be stolen (Matthew 6:19-21).
- Worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear is a waste of time (Matthew 6:25-34).
- Those who cling to life will lose it and those who give up life for God will find it (Matthew 10:39).
- Life is uncertain–hoarding for the future is foolish (Luke 12:17-22).
- God cares about you—give Him all your worries (I Peter 5:7).
- Hiding resources instead of using them for God is not a Kingdom-of-Heaven choice (Matthew 25, parable of the talents).
Seek, Don’t Hide
On a billboard in Calgary, I saw, “Preparation is the Enemy of Fear.” For planners, those are words to live by. But I serve a God who calls himself the Alpha and Omega—Plan A through Z. My human nature desires to control my circumstances. I have Plan A, Plan B, and then maybe Plan God. But there’s only His plan. And if I choose to hook into His plan, that amazing current of generosity and love that streams throughout the universe, I have to be willing to trust what He’s doing, set aside my own agenda and be all in. It’s a startling, invigorating ride when you seek, not hide.
Eve did not trust God and so the alternate story began. But in an amazing curriculum of weekly education, God shows His provision in our seven-day cycle–six days to try and do our labor, but He’s got us on the seventh day—and really all the time if we would just relax and let Him lead. Who do you trust? Your Plan A or Jesus when He says, “Do not worry about tomorrow”? Pour that on your own plans and watch them corrode.
After their Plan A became Plan D for disappointment, our early pioneers made space to hear from God. They opened their ears and hearts to seek God’s will. They put aside their preconceived ideas and met together like the disciples in the upper room to earnestly pursue the face of God. Now, we have too much to lose; executive buildings, university campuses, hospitals, educational systems, policies, travel budgets, publications, manuals, programs, associations, bank accounts, power, 401(k)s, truth, history. Let’s face it, we are slowly losing all of that anyway. What will burn next? We are guilty of not leaving room for the Holy Spirit in our lives, church time, meetings, and boards while we frantically manage what we think we possess, stockpiling resources into bigger barns. What are we teaching our children, our members about how God works and what we should be doing while we wait?
God’s people are:
- Salt, mixed evenly into the world
- Light on a hill, gleaming in the darkness
- Fishers of men, casting for followers of Jesus
- Witnesses, modeling the character of God
- Good neighbors, sharing possessions with those in our sphere
- Shepherds, nurturing the flock
- Branches, connected to the Vine and bearing fruit
- Servants, investing in and managing God’s resources
Are you motivated each day by the whispered directions of the Holy Spirit or by how you can protect your assets? Do you want to be a good neighbor, no matter the cost, or do you just want to grow your own kingdom? Is your focus each day God’s agenda or are you checking off your own to-do list? Are you a prepper, a hoarder, a profiteer? Are you hiding or seeking?
You’re standing in the crowd, sitting in the church, gathered around the table. Jesus asks why you’re worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear. He says, “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.”* You feel a tap on your shoulder. Andrew is leaning close; the Master wants to know if you have any food to share. You look down at the lunch you grasp in your hands: three soft tacos with black beans and peppers; Griller patty with lettuce and tomato on rye; a bank account, a skill, a possession.
Hold it up. Give it away. He’ll do the multiplication. He’s got you.
Kris Coffin Stevenson is an author, teacher, editor, and scopist. She loves living her eternal life starting now. She and her husband reside in Santa Clarita, California.