It happened again. I was reading a very familiar story from Jesus’ life. And I saw something I’d never seen before. And in that moment God spoke into my life. Not with a “voice from heaven” like in the movies, but clear and unmistakable nonetheless. The story is where Jesus feeds the 5,000 with two fish, and five barley loaves from one little boy’s lunch. It’s actually the only one of Jesus’ miracles that occurs in all four of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). And as John is telling what happened, he points out that the disciples distributed this little lunch and everyone had as much as they wanted. Then comes the verse I’ve missed for 50 years.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)
Let nothing be wasted. I suppose you could argue that Jesus was the ultimate environmentalist, or conservationist. You could say he was being green. You could say he was thinking about all the starving children in Africa. But I think there’s something else going on here. I think Jesus was more concerned about wasting the impact of his miracle (and his message) than about wasting the leftover bread. That bread was now going to go back to thousands of homes. And the stories would be told for days to come. People would invite all their friends and neighbors. “Come, look at this piece of bread…come see the evidence of this man called Jesus!” And the story would be told again and again. And people would be drawn to Jesus. And the miracle would not be wasted in any way. “Let nothing be wasted.”
You probably haven’t experienced a work of God quite like the feeding of the 5,000. But when I talk with people just like you and me, I realize that God is working. He’s changing attitudes. He’s changing priorities. He’s healing relationships. He’s answering prayers. He’s providing hope and joy. He’s deploying your gifts into the world. And in each of these situations, I think Jesus would say the same thing he did 2,000 years ago: “Let nothing be wasted!”
The work God has done in your life can help encourage someone else. It can inspire others to hang in there. To pray another day. To step out in faith. To serve despite their fears. To start a conversation without having all the answers. Don’t let your story be wasted. Who you gonna tell?