Key Passage: Matthew 14:13-21
We have a saying in our home: “If someone needs help, we help them.” There’s no catch or hoops to jump through. Help doesn’t come with strings attached. It’s our family motto after being on the receiving end of other people’s generosity countless times. We’ve received cooked meals, cash gifts, and rides when the car won’t start. Friends and family have freely given us their time, their manpower, their listening ears, their power tools, and their compassion.
Holy help forever changes you. It’s this kind generosity that’s on display in Matthew 14. Following the death of his cousin John the Baptist, Jesus desperately needs time to grieve. However, the throngs of people have other plans. They beg Jesus for healing and freedom, and instead of turning them away, he chooses compassion.
The story takes an interesting turn when the hunger pangs hit. The lame can now walk and the blind can now see – and they want food. “Send them away,” the disciples say. Jesus’ response? “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
Scripture is silent on the response of the disciples, but I imagine the murmurings went something like this: “How are we supposed to feed all these people? Can you do it, John?” “James, you seem to be his favorite. Figure something out.” “Peter, your personality is all over the place. Put it to good use and scare us up some food.”
Despite the disciples’ first row seat to Jesus’ ministry, they fail to see the connection between who they serve and how they can serve others. Their average day at the office included watching their leader heal, teach, save, laugh, and come out on top after a throw-down with Satan himself. Certainly the 12 men who’d spent every waking (and sleeping) moment rubbing elbows with the Messiah could harness some of his power.
Let’s not throw the disciples under the bus for their lack of faith. Is it possible that we also get stuck waiting for a supernatural solution? We pray and wring our hands, patiently waiting for God to zap the world and save it from hunger, strife, grief, and pain. Sometimes, that’s how he moves.
Other times, he tells us to get moving.
“There are so many hungry kids at my school.”
You feed them.
“My friend’s life is falling apart after her divorce.”
You comfort her.
My neighbor’s car broke down again.
You give him a ride to work.
“She was just diagnosed with cancer and doesn’t know where to turn.”
You listen to her.
“He is struggling with addiction.”
You help him.
The ability and resources to offer holy help to our world cannot be taken lightly. As necessary as it is to pray for the world we may never encounter outside our comfortable community, it’s also equally important to be alert to the simple, ordinary ways God wants to move in our lives. He calls us to give freely according to the resources, gifts, talents, or availability that has been graciously granted to us.
(This does not mean you have to be everything to everyone all the time. See my blog post “Wake Up! It’s Time to Rest” to establish boundaries in your life.)
It’s this same power that Paul writes about decades later in Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
The world offers help, which provides temporary relief until the next crisis comes along. Christ offers hope. His holy help doesn’t always descend from a mountain in a cloud of smoke, or with a zap of instant healing, clarity, or relief. This power has been freely given to us and is intended to be doled out in heaping doses.