By Geoff Tunnicliffe
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:13-21, NRSV).
One of the most famous stories in the Bible is the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus (this was just men so the number of all people must have been much higher). Our Lord took a little boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish and fed a huge crowd of hungry people. Through this powerful encounter, Jesus not only met a real human need, but he demonstrated some very important principles to his band of followers.
When we think of today’s travesty of human trafficking – the enslavement of humans for sexual exploitation or forced labour – Jesus is calling His followers to bring an end to this multi-billion dollar business. The story of the feeding of the 5000+ people provides some guiding principles.
The text tells us that when Jesus became aware of the thousands of hungry people, he is moved with compassion. Responding to the global reality of human trafficking begins opening our eyes and heart. It starts with compassion. We live in a world that desperately needs what you and I have to give. Because so many of us live fairly comfortable lives, it is easy – and so tragic – for us to shut our eyes to the need of this world. But we have to look. Our hearts must be broken.
Jesus’ disciples remind our Lord of the magnitude of the need: thousands of people needed help. It seemed overwhelming. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to responding to the abuse of humans through trafficking is the overwhelming magnitude of the problem. It is hard for most people to get their minds around how they can help millions of people. It is possible to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of human suffering and misery.
But people are born into this world one at a time. And they suffer one at a time. They are exploited or abused one at a time. And they are helped one at a time. Compassion is a one-at-a-time deal.
And if you and I wait until we can do everything – until we have all the answers to solve every problem – we will wait until we die. When you engage in acts of compassion, you change the world one life at a time.
Jesus also demonstrates that he can take a little and multiply its impact. The boy had to give what he had available. God has given each of us amazing resources. Some of us have such lavish talents. We have finances or networks or abilities that could produce huge returns, and we’re just sitting on them.
I tell you, with no apologies, investing all you have in the Kingdom of God is the greatest opportunity you will ever know. Give your little and give it to the Lord. We serve the Lord who could take five fish and two loaves and feed the multitudes.