Have you ever looked around and seen people in need? Maybe you’ve noticed a young, single mother struggling to work and care for her children. Perhaps the man down the street, who seems to wander around and is always searching for food and work catches your eye. Or maybe you’ve noticed a community of people that could use a few more resources. There are needs all around us. People are hungry. Families are deteriorating. Resources are slim. Honestly, it can become overwhelming. Our hearts cry out to God and we look to see who might come and do something about it all!
After a long day of ministry with Jesus, the disciples came to Him with a request. “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”
As the day began to wind down, everyone’s hunger pangs ramped up. I imagine the disciples could feel it themselves. Empty bellies, tired bodies. What were they to do but see the needs of the people and send them away? They had very little resources on hand.
I love Jesus’ answer. “You feed them.”
Can you imagine what they must have thought? Are you crazy Jesus? How are we supposed to feed them? We’re in the middle of nowhere. We don’t have those kinds of resources at our fingertips. And even if we could find a place to buy food, we don’t have enough money. There are way too many people. And by the way…we’re tired and hungry too. There isn’t anything left. Can’t you see that?
Jesus certainly knew their current reality. He didn’t need the disciples to tell Him. So why then does Jesus seem to turn the tables and tell them to serve the community that stands before them?
First…Jesus knew that God would provide. The disciples seem to have forgotten their past experiences with Jesus, let alone what had happened just that afternoon. They had been surrounded by the crowds all day long. Jesus welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God. Jesus healed those who were sick and drove out demons. He even fed people with very little and did more than His followers could imagine. If the disciples really watched Jesus in action and understood what He was saying, how could they then conclude that finding food would be such an impossibility? We all quickly forget what God has done. We lose perspective when things look impossible. Jesus wanted them to step out in faith and experience God’s provision.
Second…Jesus also knew that we need the continual hands-on experience of serving community. Our service transforms us. We often think the only ones benefitting are those being served but that’s only part of the picture. Yes, it is valuable when we can give to others in practical ways, but it doesn’t stop there. Our character is formed and shaped as we serve community. As we put our faith into practice we see Jesus in a fresh, new way. It requires us to trust. It breaks down barriers. We learn more about God, others and ourselves.
And finally…although we can’t serve everyone (nor are we meant to), Jesus takes what we are able to give and makes it enough. Jesus blessed the resources the disciples had and it not only fed the crowd, but there were leftovers. He will do the same as we give what we have and serve community. Our work in His hands is exceedingly, abundantly more than enough.
Take some time to reflect with God about this core practice of serve community.
Describe a time when you served community.
- What impact did it have on you personally?
- How did it affect your relationships with those who you served with?
- How did it impact the relationship between you and those you served?
In what ways could you serve community today?
- What do you see around you?
- How could Jesus use you?
- What steps does He want you to take today?