Don't Throw Out the Leftovers

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost." John 6:12

I am not a big fan of leftovers unless it is fried chicken, chili, or gumbo. Leftovers are often considered a second-rate meal and certainly not as good as the original. If you are like most, the leftovers get put in the refrigerator with the full intent of not eating them but throwing them out once the penicillin has fully bloomed. We put them away in the refrigerator because we don’t want to give the image of being wasteful, but yet we do waste them.

There is a leftover story in John 6 that has always intrigued me. Jesus has just fed the 5000 (actually more like 20,000 considering women and children) with five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus tells His disciples to have the people sit down and they distribute the bread and fish and the text says that everyone has their fill. Once everyone is full the disciples go around and pick up the leftovers and fill twelve baskets so that none of it goes to waste.

I have always wondered why Jesus had them collect the leftovers. He is Jesus and has authority over all things and could just make more later. I wonder what happened with the leftovers. I am pretty sure they did not go to waste because that is why Jesus had them gather up the remaining pieces, which in light of what just occurred seemed insignificant.

Here are some thoughts on this. Feeding upwards of 20,000 people with a sack lunch seemed impossible with human means but there was Andrew who found a boy who offered up his meal for others. This was an absolutely insignificant meal to everyone but Jesus. Jesus took what this little boy had and multiplied it for the benefit of all and had leftovers.

Why gather the leftovers? Jesus gave the order to gather them because they were important too. They were to be used for the benefit of others in the future. They were not simply gathered up for the show and tucked away only to be thrown out later, they were used. And it is interesting that there were twelve baskets. This could possibly be one for each disciple.

How often do we think what we have to offer is just not enough for Jesus to use in a miraculous way so we don’t offer it at all? We fail to have a gospel conversation because we think we don’t know enough. We don’t give up our meager resources or time because it is not as good as the other person. When we do so we are saying we don’t trust that Jesus can leverage our resources and assets for His glory and the good of others. But He does over and over again!

How often do we not consider the “leftovers” of what God has done for us and we let them go to waste? Here is what I mean by that. Leftovers are to remind us how God has worked mightily for us and in us in the past and continues to do so. These “leftovers” are tangible things that are stark reminders of God’s faithfulness that He does mighty things with very insignificant things and people. To Jesus, the leftover pieces are just as important and useful as the original meal.

Let's not throw out the leftovers just yet.

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