“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?’” (John 6: 8-9)
I’ve always loved the story of Jesus and the disciples feeding the five thousand. Crowds of people have been following Jesus. Upon seeing the crowd, Jesus asks Philip where they can buy bread to feed these people, and Philip responds that it would take six month’s wages to buy enough bread so that each person could have one bite. It’s clear to Philip that there are not enough resources to feed this crowd.
Then Andrew speaks up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Andrew knows that this isn’t the solution they need—the loaves and fish won’t even give each person a taste. It’s not enough.
And yet Jesus takes the boy’s meager offering, gives thanks and distributes it to the crowd. Somehow, there is more than enough—twelve baskets were filled with leftovers!
The boy who shared his food is only mentioned in passing. Have you ever wondered what prompted his generosity? Had he grown up with a little or a lot? How did he learn to share?
In my work at Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC), I meet people of all ages and income levels. Many of them have seen generosity and the value of sharing demonstrated and encouraged by their family of origin. Often, but not always, this demonstration and encouragement was given by a parent. Some will talk about watching their father or mother carefully set aside a portion of the family’s income for the church each week before determining how the rest of the money would be used.
Some recall getting their first job and how this inspired conversations about how they needed to begin giving. Others recall deciding to be baptized or to join a church and the conversations that began about the importance of sharing their financial resources. I have been told about people dividing their allowance into Sharing, Saving, and Spending categories as their first experience with the concept of sharing their financial resources with others.
Occasionally, MFC staff are invited to speak at baptismal and membership classes on the topic of finances and generosity. Following one such baptism class, a young adult reflected, “If I don’t decide to start being generous now, even though I am still a student, I will always find an excuse not to give.” Wise words. Examples alone are not enough. We still have to decide to share our financial resources, and then take action.
Our culture trumpets greed and scarcity. As people made in the image of God, we are invited to emulate God’s generosity by sharing what we have with open hands, much like the little boy offering his bread and fish.
If you would like to explore financial generosity or are curious about the many ways Canadians can support the causes they care about, MFC has resources and staff who can help. Find out more by visiting our website at www.MennoFoundation.ca or by contacting the office nearest to you.
Sherri Grosz is a stewardship consultant at Mennonite Foundation of Canada, serving generous people in Ontario and the eastern provinces. For more information on generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.