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5 Lessons Learned by the Boy with Five Loaves and Two Fish

You may be familiar with the story. In John 6:1-15, we find Jesus and his disciples watching a crowd that had been following Jesus come toward them. Jesus asks his disciple, Philip, where he thought they could buy bread for the crowd, for the crowd had not eaten in a while. Philip stated the impossibility of them providing everyone bread.

But the disciples found a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish, his meal. The boy gives up his food to the disciples and Jesus. Jesus then takes the meal, blesses it, and begins to break it into pieces.

The breaking did not cease. It kept multiplying until everyone in the crowd was full. And even then, there were twelve baskets full of leftovers.

Can you relate to the boy with five loaves and two fish? You feel that your resources are so little and wonder what God could ever do with them. Don’t get discouraged. Keep your hands open. Here are five lessons we learn from the boy in John 6.

1. God is in control.

In verse 6, we read these words, “But he was saying this only to test him, for He Himself knew what he intended to do” (NLT). Jesus had asked Philip the question about buying bread, not because he wanted a solution, but because he wanted faith. None of what was transpiring caught Jesus off guard. He wasn’t concerned. He was in control. The boy with five loaves and two fish saw this firsthand.

God doesn’t need the money we possess to accomplish His mission. He isn’t in heaven, anxiously wringing his hands, wondering if we will step up financially so His mission can proceed. And if we don’t leverage our resources for His purposes, God will not throw up His arms in exasperation and walk away from the mission dejected. No, God doesn’t need us for His already victorious mission, but He does invite us to participate, to join Him in victory. He is in control. The boy learned this on that day.

2. God is about multiplication.

As the boy handed his meal to the disciples and Jesus, he likely wondered what difference such a small amount of food could make among the large crowd. It would not be surprising if the boy assumed he and his meal would be turned away, asked to return to his friend or family. His meal was small, and the need was so great.

But then, Jesus took hold of the food and began to break it into pieces. The small meal turned into a feast that was more than enough to fill the stomachs of the crowd. He takes that which is insufficient and uses it to accomplish His purpose. He took an elderly, childless couple and made a people more numerous than the stars. He used a small group of people in a house to start His global church. Our God can take whatever is given in faith and multiply its impact in unfathomable ways for His mission. God is about multiplication. The boy learned this on that day.

3. Multiplication often requires trust.

At some point, the boy had to release the food he possessed. At some point, he had to settle in his heart and mind that the food was not his to hold. At some point, he had to determine that he was not the one who dictated how the food was to be used. Was the boy hungry in that moment? Possibly. Did the boy have doubts whether his food could be helpful? Probably. Did the boy wonder whether his needs would be met? It is likely. But he released the food, nonetheless.

Why would we release the possessions we hold? Trust. Giving and holding possessions loosely requires trust. Trust that God will use the resources for his purposes; trust that God will care for our needs. The boy with the meal saw the few fish and loaves he once held multiply in a miraculous way. In Jesus’s hands the small meal became great. But it took an act of trust to get the meal into Jesus’s hands. Multiplication often requires trust. The boy learned this on that day.

4. Multiplication often requires sacrifice.

The boy made a great sacrifice. Much like the widow who gave two coins in the temple treasury, the boy gave all that was in his possession. The act was likely a painful one, maybe not physically painful, but mentally and, possibly, emotionally. The boy went from comfortable, having sustenance, to uncomfortable, having no sustenance.

That is how sacrifice works. Sacrifice drives out comfort. Sacrifice is uncomfortable. But sacrificial giving is what we find celebrated in Scripture. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering because he sacrificed his best. God blessed Abraham because he was willing to sacrifice his son. Jesus pointed out the widow with two coins because she gave all she had. Biblical giving is sacrificial. And God uses the sacrifice to shape the giver’s heart and advance His Kingdom. Multiplication often requires sacrifice. The boy learned this on that day.

5. Multiplication is a result of God’s work, not our work.

The boy handed over his meal. This was certainly an act of trust and sacrifice. But the boy did not feed the five thousand. Nor did the disciples feed the five thousand. The boy and the disciples were simply participants. The people were fed by Jesus. Stomachs were full because an act of God took place. Apart from this act, the people would have remained hungry. His act allowed the boy to participate in God’s work.

The same is true for us. God wants us to trust him with our possessions and work to advance his Kingdom. But ultimately, it is not our possessions or work that will cause the multiplication. We give and work, knowing that it is God who is in control, and it is His work that causes multiplication. While we eagerly participate in His mission, He multiplies the bread and fish. Multiplication is a result of God’s work, not our work. The boy learned this on that day.

The boy with two fish and five loaves learned a lot that day. He learned God is in control, and that He is about multiplication. He learn that multiplication often starts with an act of trust and sacrifice. And he learned that while we certainly get to participate, it is ultimately God who brings about the multiplication.

So, if you feel you have little, look to the boy with two fish and five loaves. Remember what he learned that day. Trust God with your resources, and let him multiply those resources in ways you could have never imagined.

This article was originally published on


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