Our God is an “over-blesser.” Whatever He does is lavish, munificent, bounteous, unsparing, and abundant. God has an unparalleled record of faithfulness in providing for the needs of His own people. Beyond that, He outdoes Himself in generously giving us far more than we need, even to granting the desires of our hearts if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4)
All four Gospel writers mention the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In Mark chapter eight, Jesus took seven loaves of bread and multiplied them to feed 4,000 people. Seven large baskets full of leftovers were collected. He had previously blessed five loaves and fed 5,000, and the disciples gathered twelve baskets full of leftovers. What happened to all of those leftovers?
I too am faced with a decision about leftovers. Since Jesus has always given me more than I need, I should be careful not to waste the bountiful leftovers with which Jesus has blessed me. I should in turn share them generously with others.
The fact is, while writing the book I recently published, I had “flourished overly much.” It was too long. Before it went to press I realized I would have to prayerfully and skillfully perform syntax surgery and cut the manuscript in half—which I did. A painful process! There remained another entire book's worth of already edited, choice, equally nutritious leftover topics and many of my new contemporary poems. They had been part and parcel of my original third book in my LAND OF MORE spiritual autobiographical Trilogy. These leftover topics from STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT had a trajectory to also bless my readers. Presently they are languishing in an addendum document on my PC as an overflow from a cup that was too full.
I face the decision of the wise disposition of these lavish leftovers—whether to publish them in a second book as a limited edition along with an ebook version, perhaps titled TWELVE MORE BASKETS FULL—or consign the twin manuscript to oblivion. I wait for clear guidance from God. It may come via feedback from readers of my FLOURISHING book to determine whether they are finding it to be spiritually challenging enough to want a “second helping.”
Meanwhile, to gain a perspective I researched what value Jesus put on leftovers. When faced with the dilemma of how to feed thousands of people with only a child's lunch, John records in his Gospel that "Jesus knew what He would do" when He asked His disciples to give the multitude something to eat. It was a test. Philip began human calculations of how much it would cost so that "everyone could have a bite" and called it impossible.
The disciples thought in terms of providing just a little to satisfy the hunger pangs of the crowd. Jesus thought in terms of abundance. He wanted to provide by multiplication more than enough until the thousands of people had totally satisfied their hunger. My guess is that even the leftovers were not His afterthought or His Divine miscalculation of how much would be required. Moreover, Jesus expressed concern about the leftovers since they were part of what He had blessed.
I've always been curious about what happened to the bread and fish leftovers. They were likely gathered up into large woven baskets used to carry crops from the fields. Obviously, no paper or plastic bags were available. And the people had not brought any “doggie bags” to bring leftovers home. Was Jesus simply being frugal to see that the fragments were conserved? Was He environmentally concerned? Or was He setting up a teaching moment? Think about it: what remained was astoundingly more in quantity than what they had in the beginning. The leftovers still had the supernatural touch of Jesus; they weren't stale, and certainly were packed with nourishment that could satisfy the needs of still more people.
We aren't told for whose needs those particular leftovers were used. Perhaps Jesus left the decision to the disciples. All those baskets of food would have fed many poor folks. They were accustomed to remember the poor with some of the money that apparently passed through the hands of Jesus designated for the daily provisions of Jesus and His followers.
We don’t find any record in Scripture that Jesus and His disciples were wandering mendicants begging for food. They paid their way. We read that His disciples were accustomed to stop along the way and buy provisions at village markets. We know that one of His disciples even held the position of treasurer with oversight of the disbursement of those funds—the one who eventually betrayed Him.
Scripture does tell us that a group of caring, benevolent women, probably of considerable financial means, were part of his entourage. They followed Jesus not only to hear His life-giving teachings but, as women are gifted by nature to be nurturers, they attended to the collective material needs of Jesus and His disciples. When they traveled on foot from village to village, the faithful women followers probably found great joy in doing “Martha work” by helping to set up camp for the group, start the fire, and prepare the food for all those hungry men. Do you suppose the disciples reserved some of the leftover fish and bread for that purpose?
We know one thing the disciples didn’t do with the leftovers. They didn’t pack any of them in their picnic basket for the very next day's provision. Immediately after the miracle where seven baskets of leftovers were gathered, the disciples were crossing the sea in a boat. Let the record show, “They had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.”
What were they thinking? Was it really sheer negligence? Or perhaps the hope that Jesus would miraculously encore yesterday's event and start miraculously providing food for their small group on a regular basis? Did they buy into the idea of the crowd whose stomachs were full of the miracle bread? The multitude was hoping the free handout would continue indefinitely. The crowd didn't understand that Jesus was the spiritual Messiah and not a military leader who would overthrow the Romans. Jesus had to flee because they plotted to take Him by force and make him king on the spot.
Jesus was aware of the disciples' lunch time dilemma and He reproved them, “Why do you discuss your lack of bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?” They still didn't get it. He took them through a refresher course. Patiently He went over with them the details of the two miracles of multiplication in case they had short memories.
Of course the one loaf they did bring along in the boat would have been more than enough for another miracle. Jesus could even have added peanut butter and jam to the bread that He could multiply. Of course He could have caused fish to jump into the boat and they could have had fish sandwiches. Yes, He could even have miraculously produced a charcoal grill right there in the boat as He would do later on the seashore after His resurrection. Of course He could have “prepared a table before them” providing salad, vegetables, and a dessert, if He wanted to. Obviously that was not His plan.
Let’s not overly fault the disciples for being dull of understanding. They were slow learners as we all are—as I am. Sometimes I'm inclined to feel like a "leftover" since I'm a widow living in my advanced years. Nevertheless, God has His eye on leftovers such as me and has planned for my ongoing provision. He doesn't put any expiration date on His generosity that would exclude His children when they reach their advanced years.
Unimaginable blessings are stored up and prepared by God for me from before the foundation of the world. They are not meager or skimpy, "just a little bite" to assuage my hunger pains. I don’t have to beg God for His blessings; He promised life abundant. God's provision is pressed down, shaken together, and running over just waiting for me to simply ask for and receive it (1 Cor. 2:9; James 4:2).
With the history of God’s faithfulness to me in the past, why don't I trust Him more readily during the summit season of my life to continue to be incredibly generous and copiously satisfy my every need beyond all I can ask or think according to His riches in Glory? (Phil. 4:19) I only need to ask for my provision, thank Him that the supply is on the way, confidently expect it in whatever shape or form He chooses to deliver it, and receive it with joy and gratitude when it arrives in God's perfect time.
I can be sure that God has good plans for leftover people and leftover abundance.