JESUS WAS A FRUGAL GUY.
How do I know? I think His crumbsaving creds were most clearly demonstrated in the feeding of the 5,000. The story is recorded in Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6.
In summary, a huge mass of people numbering 5,000 men, plus women and children, thronged to hear Him speak. It was growing late, and
everyone was getting hungry, but instead of sending the people away to get their own food, Jesus asked His disciples to feed them. They found
a boy with five barley loaves and two small fishes who was willing to surrender his lunch. Jesus proceeded to bless the food and then multiplied
it until everyone in the whole crowd had eaten their fill. Then He told His disciples to “gather up the fragments.” They ended up with 12 basketfuls of leftovers for people to take home! Talk about saving the crumbs!
Let’s have a look at the practical life lessons on frugal living that we can learn from this story.
GATHER UP THE FRAGMENTS: DON’T WASTE!
This is perhaps the most on-the-nose lesson we can gather from this story. Jesus told the disciples to gather up the leftovers after everyone had eaten. They were sitting out on the hillside, where it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if they had just left their crumbs to biodegrade into the landscape. But Jesus insisted that they not let the resources go to waste!
I fear that this attitude of resourcefulness has been lost in our generation, which causes much of our financial trouble. We have become a wasteful society, where everything is “disposable” or “one-use.”
• We idle our gas-guzzling SUV in the driveway. We say, “No big deal.”
• We throw away a perfectly good half plate of food we just paid $15 for. We reason, “It didn’t taste good anyway.”
• We chuck the one-year-old smartphone—a supercomputer that has more computing power than the first spacecraft that flew to the moon—into
a dusty drawer when the latest iPhones come out. We justify by saying, “It’s a slow piece of junk now!”
And yet we often complain about how difficult life is, how we never have enough money, how it’s impossible to have enough and get ahead. Maybe we should start by stopping the explosion of waste in our own lives and start gathering up the fragments as Jesus instructed. Or,
as we like to say, start saving the crumbs!
“Many despise economy, confounding it with stinginess and narrowness. But economy is consistent with the broadest liberality. Indeed, without economy, there can be no true liberality. We are to save, that we may give.”
ABUNDANCE IS NO EXCUSE
Sometimes we hear the reasoning that it’s OK for us to splurge and be extravagant because we have an abundance.
• Why is it such a big deal for me to idle my gasguzzler or have a couple extra cars sitting around when I earn a big income?
• What’s the big deal in wasting a little restaurant food when it barely dents my budget?
• Why shouldn’t I upgrade my smartphone every year if I can afford it?
Well, for one thing, Jesus didn’t produce a 10-course gourmet feast for the masses even though He could have. He provided simple but healthful fare for the multitude. Jesus provided their necessities but didn’t cater to extravagance.
Here’s something else amazing about this story: Jesus basically created food out of thin air. He did not need to save the resources by gathering up the leftovers. In fact, it probably would have been simpler if He had just created more food instead of having the disciples gather stuff up. Moreover, why did He create more than enough anyway? Couldn’t He have multiplied just enough for everyone to get full and no more? Wouldn’t that have been the least wasteful option? Clearly, He was trying to teach a lesson.
Jesus, who could have created as much food as needed on demand, the One who had limitless abundance, still wanted the leftovers gathered. He was modeling the attitude we ought to have toward our resources—which all come from Him anyway. He was saying that if we have an abundance, we still have no excuse for waste! And that leads to the question of “Why?”
ECONOMY IS NOT STINGY WHEN IT’S TO
Jesus was not saving up simply to hoard meaninglessly. He had the leftovers gathered up so people could take them home to share with family and friends. The leftovers provided a tangible conversation starter so people could tell what they had learned from Christ that day.
“Hey, you wouldn’t believe what happened today!”
“You see this bread I brought for you? Jesus multiplied enough for the whole crowd of thousands from just a little boy’s lunch!”
“Get outta here! Tell me, what else did He say?”
“Let’s talk while we eat . . .”
What a brilliant strategy. Everybody won. Who doesn’t like free food? And Jesus’ message got massive word-of-mouth exposure, even after
everyone went home.
Jesus wasn’t teaching that economy is good simply for economy’s sake. He wasn’t teaching us to be stingy. He was illustrating that the frugal choices that enable us to share with others result in multiplied blessings. His example answers the question of “Why save?” The answer is “To give!”
The book The Ministry of Healing says this about Jesus’ method: “Many despise economy, confounding it with stinginess and narrowness. But economy is consistent with the broadest liberality. Indeed, without economy, there can be no true liberality. We are to save, that we may give” (p. 206).
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
On the flip side of the equation, I know many people really are strapped economically and just don’t have any extra to save. They’re not wasteful, but they’re still struggling. I think this story has a lesson for those people too.
Jesus could have sent ravens to feed everyone as He did for Elijah. He could have rained manna from the sky as He did during the Exodus. He could have done any number of things that didn’t involve His disciples or the little boy’s lunch. But He didn’t. He insisted the disciples investigate what resources they had at their disposal, and then Christ cooperated with them and multiplied their feeble offering.
The lesson that Christ taught wasn’t primarily that He will supply all our needs (although that’s part of it). The principal lesson is this: we must look at what we have in our hands, bring that to Jesus, and then He will multiply it. It is the lesson of our taking the initiative to cooperate with divine power.
For those of us who might be struggling with debt, joblessness, huge bills, or some other financial emergency, the lesson here is applicable to us. We take a look at what we have—maybe it’s just a little bit of cash, maybe it’s a free afternoon once a week, or maybe it’s some stuff that can be sold—and we bring it to Jesus, do what we can, and ask Him to bless us. I believe He can and that He will!
HE CAN DO IT AGAIN
Jesus is still in the business of multiplying loaves and fishes, and He still wants us to have the attitude of gathering up the fragments. Wherever you find yourself in your financial journey, may you cooperate with Him!