He Multiplies! By Pastor Aniel Barbe
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10: 10b NIV). Many are finding it difficult to cope with life challenges and obligations. Others are finding it hard to stretch their income until the next payday. Is it not wise to learn about multiplying resources?
Part I: A Restaurant in the Desert
All four Gospels tell the story of a restaurant in the desert that served the best fish burger ever. Let us revisit this well-known event from the perspective of Mark, the evangelist, to uncover the basic principles of “multiplying our resources.” The full story is found in Mark 6:30-44.
The scene happened in a solitary place; more precisely, in an uncultivated, unpopulated place. Jesus directed the disciples to this spot so they could have some rest. The crowd noticed their movement and came to meet them. Full of compassion, Jesus spent the entire day teaching them. As the sun was lowering in the sky, the disciples came to Jesus with a request: “Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (Mark 6:36). This was a real challenge. The crowd will soon get hungry, and there was no bakery in the desert. It is an empty land. A hungry crowd can quickly get out of control. The request of the disciples was logical and made good sense.
Jesus gave an unexpected answer: “But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat’” (Mark 6:37a). This is informing us that Jesus feels concern about both the spiritual and the temporal needs of people. For the disciples the answer of Jesus was completely disconnected from reality. They surely frowned at Him and then expressed their thoughts even more explicitly: “They said to him, ‘That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’” (Mark 6:37b). In other words, “Not only is the desert empty, but we also do not have the means to cope with this obligation,” pestered the disciples.
Many can identify with the feelings of the disciples. The environment in which we exist may sometimes be rude and hostile, and at the same time, we feel limited and without resources. We are incapable of complying with the obligations of life and the instructions of God. This situation can generate frustration and guilt. Certainly, Jesus sympathized with the disciples, but He wanted to teach them a lesson about how to overcome insufficiency.
After listening, Jesus asked a question, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38). Seeing the perplexity on their faces, He continued and said, “Go and see.” The story does not tell us how long it took the disciples to work their way through this huge crowd to ask for loaves. Indeed, when they approached the crowd, some likely apologized and told the disciples that they had not brought food or that they had already eaten their food for lunch. There is also a probability that some hid their baskets behind their back when they realized that the disciples were asking for food. The enterprise was not a fruitful one, except for the small basket they received from a little boy. The disciples came back to report the result of their search: “Five loaves and two fish.” They thought that they had proven their point to Jesus. With only five loaves and two fish, it was high time to send away the crowd.
Jesus took the precious basket with gratefulness, and according to Mark 6:41, “He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.” The Gospel helps us to appreciate the extent of the miracle, and we read in Mark 6:42-44, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of men who had eaten was five thousand.” The little boy probably took some pieces of the food to his mother. When she saw the bread and fish, this could have been her comment: “They look like the loaves and fish that I gave you, but they taste so much better.”
There are at least three lessons we can take from this miracle of Jesus: (1) a desert can become a restaurant when Jesus is around, (2) nothing is too small for Jesus, and (3) He can multiply only what is given to Him. The food that was left at home could not be multiplied; the food that was eaten before the disciples came could not be multiplied; the food that was hidden could not be multiplied. Only the little lad’s food was multiplied. The disciples went through the crowd to look for loaves, and the little boy gave his loaves and fish. Both the loaves and the fish were multiplied. He multiplies whatever is given to Him.
Part II: More of God's Blessings
“Whatever is given to Him, He multiplies” is a principle that is valid for all times and places, even when life circumstances resemble a desert. Let us look at some ways of giving to God today.
In one of His parables Jesus teaches the lesson of giving to God through a substitute. It is a story about some people who were rewarded by their King. These are the words of the King: “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in” (Matt. 25:35, 36). They were surprised by the comment, and they questioned the king: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?” (vs. 37). The following explanation was given: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (vs. 40).
Investing our resources in helping the needy is equivalent to giving to God. We should not be disturbed by the presence of people soliciting our help and assistance; they represent living opportunities for us to give to God. The wise man makes the following statement: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Prov. 19:17). Whatever is given to Him, He multiplies.
Another way of giving to God is through the practice of tithing, giving one tenth of our income. The first occurrence of this practice in the Bible happened with Abram. We read in Genesis 14:18-20, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” The father of believers, Abram, gave a tithe, one tenth of his increase, after his victory and the blessing received.
Interestingly, the book of Leviticus provides a description of the One receiving the tithe. We read in Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” The one-tenth that was given to Melchizedek the king-priest and later to the temple was ultimately given to God. It is set apart for the Lord.
Does the principle “Whatever is given to Him, He multiplies” apply therefore to tithe? We have a clear answer in Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” The destination of the tithe was the storerooms; these rooms abutted the temple in Jerusalem. When this is done, “the floodgates of heaven are opened” upon the giver. It is an expression that compares God’s blessings on the tither with heavy rain that waters the land. Whatever He receives, He multiplies.
A third way of giving to God is through freewill offerings. We read in Deuteronomy 16:17, “No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” In this passage God is compared to a monarch to whom His subjects are presenting gifts. This passage is providing three pieces of information about the freewill offering: (1) it is a component of collective worship, (2) the amount is a proportion of what one has received, and (3) it is a response to what God has given.
Does the rule “Whatever He receives, He multiplies” apply to offerings? We read in Proverbs 3:9, 10: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
The ultimate way of giving to God is to give ourselves to Him. This is the recommendation of Paul to the Christians living in Rome: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1). This is an invitation to dedicate, or consecrate, our lives to the One who died for us. Jesus comments on the reward that is reserved for those who put Him first: “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29, 30). Whatever He receives, He multiplies.
Even if I manage to give to God all of my wealth, He will always find a way to give me back much more than what I had previously. We cannot “out give” God. Since we live in a world where resources are becoming few, let us choose to practice the four revolutionary laws of investment: (1) Seize every opportunity to share your resources with the needy. (2) Return one tenth of all your income to God. (3) Express gratitude by giving offerings. (4) Dedicate your life to Him.
Remember, whatever is given to Him, He multiplies.