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A challenging imperative

4 September 2013

women landing fish  

As a child who devoured books like penny sweets, I found the Sunday school end of year prize-giving literature in my church could provide anything from a tasty literary morsel to dry, prosy crusts, depending on the selector that year.

I remember one year's offering featured a girl called Alice, who travelled back in time and stumbled upon Jesus feeding the five thousand. Hidden away, she watched as the famous story unfolded.

At the time, I was fascinated by this concept - how wonderful to have actually seen Jesus, and to have observed a miracle in action!

Thinking back to this story, though, it was a little frustrating that Alice was merely a passive observer of events.

  • The amazing, humbling and challenging truth is that God asks us to join with him in bringing hope to a hurting world.'

It's easy to ask, when faced with the tragic statistics about hunger, the big 'why?' questions.

Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?

Why not just wave a heavenly magic wand and arrange a mass redistribution of the food, resources, good governance and all the many things that are needed to make the world a more equal place – a place where we can speak of our daily bread and know that none are excluded?

The answer to these questions is, of course, complex.

But I remember hearing a talk several years ago by Canadian Salvation Army officer Danielle Strickland, in which she stressed the words that Jesus said to his disciples at the scene of this famous miracle: 'You give them something to eat' (Matthew 14:16, NIV).

The amazing, humbling and challenging truth is that God asks us to join with him in bringing hope to a hurting world.

Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, we see him training up his disciples and issuing a string of inspiring but challenging imperatives: go, heal, preach, make disciples. Give them something to eat.

Christopher Wright, the well-known author on mission, comments:

'Mission, from the point of view of our human endeavour, means the committed participation of God's people in the purposes of God ... The mission is God's. The marvel is that God invites us to join in.'

As followers of Jesus, we are not just passive observers of his work in the world.

There is something that each of us can do in the struggle to end hunger, whether that means writing to our MP, attending a rally, praying, giving, helping at a food bank or motivating others to get involved.

Even if it feels like all we can offer amounts to even less than five loaves and two fishes, Jesus is in the business of multiplication. He simply asks us to bring all we can to the table, and trust the results to him.


Dear Lord, thank you for the amazing privilege of your invitation to join with you in bringing food, hope and love to those in need. Please equip and encourage us as we seek to serve you with all that you’ve given us, so that we are not mere spectators, but are at the heart of what you are doing in our home, church, community and world. Amen.

Zoe Burden, member of Tearfund's Eurasia, Latin America and Caribbean team.


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