God’s arithmetic: 7 + 2 = 5,000
Description: God’s arithmetic is not ours. He always adds more than we can imagine.
This isn’t about the ‘G’ word
When it comes to giving (the ‘g’ word) many Christians are sacrificially generous. Some are not. No! This isn’t a rant about all that God freely gives us. It’s not a dig at anyone’s conscience aimed at squeezing more money, time and energy out of them. So what is it?
What does God actually want?
I’ll cut this question down to a manageable size and start off with five loaves and two fish.
We read in John 6.1-13 that, although Jesus had crossed the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd who had witnessed his healing miracles followed him, even when he went up a mountainside with his disciples. When Jesus saw the people his concern was to feed them, but Philip pointed out the huge cost involved in giving everyone just a single bite.
At this point, Andrew drew attention to a boy who (unlike his elders) had had the foresight to bring along something to eat. He carried five small barley loaves and two small fish. However, as Andrew pointed out: what was this among so many?
What’s the message?
In God’s arithmetic, whatever we offer can be multiplied immeasurably. From a little, he can make so much more. We see this again when Jesus fed the 4,000 and ended up with seven basket loads of broken pieces (Matthew 15.29-39 and Mark 8.1-10).
It’s a well known (if somewhat cynical) contention that the fastest way to empty a room is to ask for money or volunteers. However, God doesn’t want to drive us away – exactly the opposite. To emphasise the point: he doesn’t ask for what we don’t have. Instead, he accepts from what we do have and multiples our offerings in amazing ways.
The role of worship
God wants a relationship with us. Coercion doesn't come into it. What’s more, God understands us and our circumstances far better than we do ourselves. He deserves to be worshipped – and worship comes in many guises.
In ancient times, sacrifices were at the heart of Israel’s worship. They featured in every temple meeting, for example, as thanks offerings and for the atonement of sins. God didn’t actually need the first fruits of the crops or certain animals without blemish. These sacrifices were taken from the created world, i.e. they were tokens of creation. By sacrificing them, worshippers were declaring that God, the Creator, was more important to them than their best created possessions.
Unfortunately, this observation also has a very obvious negative side, i.e. where people downgrade God and express their love (and in effect their worship) in terms of riches, power, celebrity, themselves, fashion and so many other aspects of life.
Offering God the best we can and doing so willingly out of love is an aspect of worship. Giving everything and doing it grudgingly is not. Setting created things above God is idolatry and against the first Commandment.
We are called to worship because worship enriches us and enables us to enter a relationship with God. This brings out the best in us and is best for us. It affirms our need of God and centres on love. We are to love God and one another – love even those whose actions upset us.
God doesn’t want an unloving or forced relationship. Whatever worldly goods or financial standing we enjoy comes from God. Trusting him with the best of it – large or small – is to trust his arithmetic. That’s when 5 + 2 can equal (and exceed) 5,000.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.