A Progressive Christian Blog

Fish & Loaves: God is not a Withholder.

A few weeks back, I listened to Mars Hill’s podcast (the gooder Mars Hill, not the sorely misguided/misogynistic/chauvinistic/homophobic led Mars Hill), and to my great delight they had a guest speaker that morning: the wonderful Ian Morgan Cron. Ian is an Epicsopal Priest and author of books such as Chasing Francis. A friend of mine connected me with Ian back when I got fired from The Grove, and Ian was a blessing and his words were a gift to me at the time.

Ian speaks often on the subject of the Eucharist. Communion. Holy Supper. The bread and the wine. And his time at Mars Hill was spent accordingly. His text for the morning was probably not your typical selection when teaching on communion. He chose the story of Jesus feeding the many thousands of people (the only miracle, besides the resurrection, that shows up in all four gospels). We’ve all probably heard the sermon that focuses on the boy in the story who gives up some barley loaves and a couple sardines. And in that sermon, we are encouraged to give all that we have to Jesus (just like the boy), and no matter how small or insignificant we may think it is, Jesus can do great and mighty things with it.

And I think that is true. There is certainly truth (or Truth, if you must) swirling within that aspect of the narrative.

But Ian did something different with the text. Something I’d never heard suggested before.

He talked about how people in that culture, when traveling great distances (as many in the crowd would have been), would, if they could afford to, travel with plenty of supplies. Lots of food. The people of means would travel with provisions, enough for the journey and perhaps even the stay.

And so, spread among the thousands of women, men and children that day (or days), would have been a smattering of families that had LOTS of food. Many more might have a little food. And perhaps most of them were poor and didn’t have anything on them.

With that in mind, Ian suggested that perhaps the true miracle of the story is not that Jesus magically created fish and loaves out of thin air (although he’s careful to not dismiss this possibility, if that’s what you believe happened), but the true miracle is that Jesus used the dramatic action of the boy to challenge and change the hearts of ALL that were there. So that those who had plenty (and might previously NOT have shared it), were now embracing the way of love and providing for those who were in need. God changing the hearts of people. A much more impressive (and beautiful) miracle, if you ask me, then God simply making food and feeding people for a day.

He closed by suggesting that one of the major causes of sin in our lives is because we believe in scarcity rather than abundance. We believe that God is holding back from us, and so we strive to acquire, to keep, to hold on to. We live as though we think that God is withholding from us.

But God is not a withholder.

God is a giver. God is a blesser. Out of the abundance of the endless Giver, God blesses.

In turn, we recognize that we are blessed to bless others.

I am (have been) struggling to live this way. The myth of scarcity is convincing. Powerful. And its siren-song has lulled me in to a season of distrust and despair. Not truly believing that God is NOT a withholder. Rather, I’ve found myself accusing the Lord lately of holding back on me.

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday.
Katie is the love of my life. And in HER, yesterday, I re-discovered that God is not a withholder.

No, God has given me more than I could possibly imagine. Much more than I deserve.

God has given me my wife.

And in light of THAT, how can I ever buy in to scarcity, ever again?
For she has been my rock, my strength and my source of hope these past few months.
Her faith has sustained us, sustained ME. And I will be forever grateful for her and to her.

No, God is certainly not a withholder.

And my bride is my proof.
I love you, Katie.


Celebrating her Bday by seeing The Lorax with our boys.

2 Responses to “Fish & Loaves: God is not a Withholder.”

  1. Dan Angermiller

    Hey Colby,
    First, Happy Birthday to Katie, I hope she had a great day. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet her while you guys were here but I did get to read some of her Haiti blog and thought it was great.

    2nd, I’m following along on your other series and am glad that you are writing it. As J to the Z commented you have a great writing style. Also, your patience while responding to other comments is impressive.

    Lastly about your blog here. So I’m totally wondering about the feeding the thousands miracle now and want more info on the possibility that people had food and the miracle was getting them to not be selfish and sharing. That makes sense but I have never ever ever heard this idea. I’ll have to find out more about Ian Morgan Cron

    • colbymartin

      Thanks for stopping by, Dan. Hope you are well, and I hope you keep putting shoes on peoples feet!

      I’m glad you were similarly moved by Ian Cron’s insights as I was. I find that perspective on the feeding-miracle to be infinitely more interesting and “Jesus” like. Why, after all, would Jesus not even turn one stone into some bread in the wilderness, but then go and make food appear out of no where for a bunch of people? I don’t know… I suppose it’s possible, but the other explanation seems to ring much truer.


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