Text: 2 Kings 4:42-44
"Now, the very first truth I want to engrave on your hearts and on your minds is this: No one who comes to the Lord ever goes away hungry. No one who enters into the presence of the Lord ever goes away empty. No one.
"The reason for that is very simple and is the second truth I want you to engrave on your hearts and in your minds: our God is a God of abundance."
The Culture of Scarcity
2 Kings 4:42-44
"They all ate" -- and we're talking about 100 people -- "They all ate and had some left."
Those words from the first reading make it very clear that there wasn't just enough but an abundance, "They all ate and had some left."
John's gospel says, "They ate until they were full." All 5,000 of them, every one of them, ate until they could eat no more; ate until they were "stuffed," which is the exact meaning of the Greek word used in that sentence.
Even after all 5,000 of them ate until they couldn't eat another bite, there were still 12 baskets full of food that hadn't even been touched.
Now, the very first truth I want to engrave on your hearts and on your minds is this: No one who comes to the Lord ever goes away hungry. No one who enters into the presence of the Lord ever goes away empty. No one.
The reason for that is very simple and is the second truth I want you to engrave on your hearts and in your minds: our God is a God of abundance.
What we are witnessing in this first episode, in which the Lord takes just 20 small loaves of barley bread and a little bit of grain, feeds 100 people and has some left, is God's normal pattern of behavior, for our God is a God of abundance.
What we see in the gospel of John, where the living Lord takes five small barley loaves and two fish and feeds 5,000 people until they are "stuffed," then gathers up 12 baskets full of food that hadn't been touched, is no illusion. There is no slight of hand involved here. This is absolutely typical of the way in which the living God goes about his day-to-day business, for our God is a God of abundance.
Let me give you another typical example of God's abundance. Here are the Hebrew people -- 600,000 of them! -- in the desert wilderness, in their exodus from Egypt, across the Sinai Desert on their journey to the Promised Land (Numbers 11). The living God has already made provision for their physical well-being. Every day, God provides water and manna -- heavenly bread that appears fresh on the ground every morning for them to gather. Every household gathers what they need, and the supply never dwindles or vanishes.
But the people begin to complain and grumble. They moan and groan and bellyache, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons. And now we have nothing but this manna. Give us meat to eat."
Moses, their God-appointed leader, comes before the Lord, crying, "Where am I to get meat to give all this people? I am not able to carry this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. For they come weeping to me and say, 'Give us meat to eat.'"
"Gather the people," Moses is instructed, and tells the people, "Thus says the Lord, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow and you shall eat meat, for you have wailed in the hearing of the Lord; 'saying, 'If only we had meat to eat. Surely it was better for us in Egypt.'
"Therefore, the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat not only one day, or two days or five days, or 10 days or 20 days, but for a whole month! You're going to eat quail until it comes out of your nostrils!"
But Moses said, "The people I am with number 600,000 and you say, 'I will give them meat that they may eat for a month! Are there enough flocks and herds to slaughter for them? Are there enough fish in the sea to catch for them?"
The Lord said to Moses, "Is the Lord's power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not."
Hang on, here it comes! It is written, "Then a wind went out from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, about three feet deep on the ground."
Now get this: "The least anyone gathered was 50 bushels." Wait a minute. Stop and figure that out: 600,000 people, and " the least anyone gathered was 50 bushels." Holy mackerel -- that is 30 million bushels of quail that the Lord provided on that one occasion!
I declare to you yet one more time: our God is a God of abundance. You have seen it demonstrated once more before your very eyes; you have heard it once again with your own ears.
Our God is a God of abundance -- and what we have been seeing and hearing is absolutely typical of God's usual behavior. You would be terribly mistaken if you think this kind of abundance and this behavior is a thing of the past, limited to the pages of Holy Scripture or biblical times.
Every one of you here has a freezer in your home, do you not? And every one of you here has cupboards and a pantry in your home, do you not? Between them you probably could easily survive for a month, right?
But even if you could, you would not. Let me make just one suggestion that I believe might help you to recapture -- and more deeply appreciate -- the marvelous and abundant manner in which God blesses you and your life. Each night as you lay your head on your pillow, take a couple minutes simply to review the day, and then zero in upon three things for which you want to give thanks and praise to your heavenly Father.
Then, as you close your eyes, let these words of Jesus be a prelude to restful sleep, "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Your heavenly Father knows you need these things ... and all these things will be given to you."
Whoever has ears, let them listen: our God is a God of abundance.
To learn more about the ELCA Steward Key Leader Program, please contact Charles "Chick" Lane, ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries, 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631; 800/638-3522, ext. 2606. Or call the ELCA Resource Information Service for a free brochure at 800-638-3522.
George Haynes was ordained in 1951 and is currently a mission developer for Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rockport, TX and is an ELCA Stewardship key leader.