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God’s arithmetic: 7 + 2 = 5,000 (what does God want?)

Description: In God’s arithmetic, whatever we offer is multiplied immeasurably. From a little, he can make so much more. The Bible provides the proof.

God's Arithmetic (What God really wants)

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 dig at anyone’s conscience aimed at squeezing more money, time and energy out of them. Neither is it a rant about all that God freely gives us. So what is it?

What God really wants

It's about what God really wants. As this is a big question, let's cut it down to a manageable size and start 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 barley loaves and two small fish. However, as Andrew pointed out: what was this among so many?

Of course, Jesus made it more than enough. The gathering of 5,000 men (plus all the accompanying women and children) was asked to sit on the surrounding grass. After Jesus had given thanks to God, the food was distributed and everyone ate their fill. But Jesus didn't want anything to be wasted and charged the disciples with collecting the leftovers. They loaded twelve baskets with these fragments.

What’s the message?

In God’s arithmetic, whatever we offer is 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.

This is made clear in Mark 12.41-44 and Luke 21.1-4, in which Jesus observes a poor widow who gives two small copper coins. He commends her because, unlike the rich who gave out of their abundance, she gave everything she had. This highlights that God values the heart, and the sacrifice behind the offering, more than its monetary value - and he can multiply its impact in unseen ways.

More examples come through the parables Jesus often used to explain the principles of God's Kingdom. For example, in the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Yeast (Matthew 13.31-33) we’re told how something very small can grow and expand far beyond its initial size. This again illustrates how God can take our small offerings and expand them to achieve great things.

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.

And obedience too is important. In 1 Kings 17.8-16, during a severe famine, God sent the prophet Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. He asked for a drink and then bread, but all she had was a handful of flour and a little oil (which she was planning to eat with her son before they both died of starvation). Despite this desperate situation, Elijah asked her to bake him a cake and told her to make something for her son and herself. He assured her that God wouldn’t let her flour and oil run out until the rain returned. She obeyed, and God miraculously provided for her, her son, and indeed Elijah. This story demonstrates God’s provision and multiplication in response to faith and obedience.

Unfortunately, worship coming in many guises also has a very obvious negative side. This is where people downgrade God. Their love (and, in effect, their worship) centres on 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. That’s when miracles happen.


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