Jesus was a frugal guy. How do I know? I think His crumb-saving creds were most clearly demonstrated in the feeding of the 5000. The story is recorded in Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6. In summary, a huge mass of people numbering 5000 men, plus women and children besides, thronged to hear Him speak. It was getting late, everyone was getting hungry, but instead of sending everyone away to get their own food, Jesus asked His disciples to feed them. They found a boy with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fishes willing to surrender his lunch. Jesus proceeded to bless the food and multiplied it until everyone in whole crowd had eaten their fill. Then He told His disciples to “gather up the fragments” and they ended up with 12 basketfuls of leftovers for people to take home! Talk about saving the crumbs! I think there are some practical life lessons on economy and frugal-living that we can learn from this story.
1. Gather Up the Fragments: Don’t Waste!This is perhaps the most on-the-nose lesson to gather from this story. Jesus tells the disciples to gather up the leftovers after everyone has eaten. They were sitting out on the hillside where it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if they just left their crumbs to bio-degrade 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 and is the cause of much our financial troubles. We have grown to become such a wasteful society where everything is “disposable” or “one-use”. Garbage gets picked up by big trucks with automated arms from our driveway and delivered to far away landfills where we never think about them again. This kind of detached living from our downstream waste has impacted how we view all of our resources.
- Idling our gas-guzzling SUV in our driveway. We think, “No big deal.”
- Throwing away a perfectly good half plate of food we just paid $15 for. We reason, “It didn’t taste good anyway.”
- Chucking the 1-year-old smartphone – a supercomputer that has more computing power than the spacecraft that first flew to the moon – into a dusty drawer when the latest iPhones come out. We justify, “It’s a slow piece of junk now!”
2. Abundance is No ExcuseBut sometimes we hear the excuse reasoning that it’s OK for us to splurge and get extravagant because we have an abundance.
- Why is it such a big deal for me to idle my gas-guzzler or have a couple extra cars lying around when I earn a big income?
- What’s the big deal of wasting a little food when I eat out when it barely dents my budget?
- Why shouldn’t I upgrade my smartphone every year if I can afford it?
3. Economy is Not Stingy When It’s to Benefit OthersJesus was not simply saving up to hoard meaninglessly. He had the leftovers gathered for people to take home to share with their family and friends. In so doing, they would also have a tangible conversation starter that would enable the hearers to communicate what they had learned from Christ that day.
“Hey, you wouldn’t believe what happened today!” “What?” “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 today?” “Let’s talk while we eat…”It was a brilliant strategy. Everybody won. Who doesn’t like to get free food? And Jesus’ message gets massive word of mouth exposure even after everyone went home. Jesus wasn’t teaching that economy is good simply for economy’s sake. He’s not teaching us to be stingy. He’s illustrating that the frugality that enables us to give to others results in a multiplicative effect for good. He answers the question of “Why save?” To give! I really like this quote from a book called The Ministry of Healing that deals with Jesus’ method of ministering to people.
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.