What to Do with the Leftovers


Feeding the multitudes


Some bowls or other containers used to store leftovers.


When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. John 6:12 (NIV)

Do you see all of these bowls? At my house, we use these to store leftovers in the refrigerator. Do you ever have leftovers at your house? We often cook more food than we can eat at one meal, so we have leftovers again the next night, and the next, and maybe even the next. I must confess, I sometimes get tired of leftovers before they are all gone.

We once had a neighbor who told me, "My family will not eat leftovers. If we have any food left over, I just have to throw it out." What a waste! I remember one time they cooked some steaks on the grill. When they had finished their dinner, my neighbor came over to our house and said, "We had this steak left over and since my family won't eat leftovers, I thought you might like to have it for your dog."

"Oh yes, I'm sure my dog would love to have it," I answered. Well, guess what I had for dinner the next night. That's right, I had steak! There is nothing wrong with leftover steak!

Our Bible story today tells us about a time when Jesus and his disciples had some leftovers. It is a familiar story -- one that probably all of you have heard. It is the story about the time Jesus fed 5000 people.

You probably remember that Jesus had been teaching a large crowd of people. It was getting close to dinner time, and as he looked out over the crowd, Jesus turned to one of his disciples whose name was Philip and asked, "Where are we going to buy the bread for these people to eat?"

Philip said, "You've got to be kidding!" No, he didn't really say that, but I imagine he probably thought it. What he did say to Jesus was, "Even eight month's wages would not buy enough bread for each of these people to have one bite!"

Andrew, another of Jesus' disciples spoke up, "There is a small boy over here who has five small pieces of bread and two small fish, but that is not enough to feed all of these people."

"Bring it to me," Jesus said. Then he gave thanks, blessed it, and began breaking it into pieces to pass around to the people. When they had all had enough to eat, Jesus said, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." They gathered up twelve baskets full!

There are a couple of very important lessons we can learn from this story. All of us could learn a lesson from the little boy. He didn't have very much -- only five pieces of bread and two small fish -- but he was willing to share what he had and Jesus used it to feed a huge crowd of people.

Another lesson we can learn is that God often blesses us with much more than we need. When that happens, what do we do with the leftovers? Jesus told the disciples to gather up the leftovers so that nothing would be wasted. The Bible doesn't tell us what they did with the leftovers, but my guess is that they probably used them to feed more hungry people.

Some of us may only have a little. Some of us have been blessed with much more than we need. Either way, God is pleased when we share with others.

Dear Father, we thank you for all of your blessings. Help us to be generous in sharing with others. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.