Meeting the need – and then some
A Christian Science perspective on daily life.
What's the best way to respond when faced with a shortfall? Panic? Denial? Giving up? Probably not. Even diving into the problem willy-nilly with lots of energy but little perspective and no real plan won't get one out of trouble very readily.
It takes a different approach altogether to meet gnawing need plentifully. The Gospel of John's account of Jesus feeding the multitude illustrates an approach that works – along with two that don't (see 6:3–13).
The story begins with Jesus on a mountaintop – both literally and figuratively. His elevated thought has attracted a crowd of people who earlier "saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased." Having felt the effect of Jesus' spirituality, they're hungry for more.
Jesus recognizes, however, that the people need actual bread along with the bread of truth, or spiritual understanding. But how does one feed so many in the middle of nowhere? He asks Philip just that: "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" (Jesus already knows the answer, but he asks Philip to test his faith.)
Philip's response is a good example of what not to do – he magnifies the problem. Instead of just seeing lack, he sees lots of lack: "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little," he exclaims.
Andrew, another of the disciples, tries a better – but still insufficient – approach. "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes," he remarks. Instead of seeing sheer lack the way Philip does, Andrew at least acknowledges what they have on hand, which is a great place to begin. Recognizing the good in a situation helps one feel God's presence in the midst of the problem. That's because good and God are synonymous. As Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, explained, "In the Saxon and twenty other tongues good is the term for God" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 286).
But Andrew isn't able to move from an acknowledgment of good to the demonstration of abundance. Instead, he turns his focus back to the problem. You can almost hear the despair in his voice as he asks Jesus, "But what are they [the five loaves and two fishes] among so many?"
At this point, Jesus stops asking his disciples questions and starts giving them directions. He tells them to have the men (about 5,000 of them) sit down, and soon after that he tells the disciples to distribute food to them. In between those two directives, Jesus takes a spiritual approach to the apparent shortage: He thanks God.
With so many to feed, it would have been foolish for Jesus to thank God for five loaves of bread, so he must have been expressing gratitude for something more. Perhaps that "more" was his absolute certainty that God, as infinite good, would meet the people's need in a way they could grasp.
Jesus would have been certain of this because it's the Christ, which he so fully expressed, that conveys God's goodness to people. Mrs. Eddy explained it this way: "Christ is ... the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (Science and Health, p. 332).
That day, it was Jesus' job to make God's goodness real to the multitude. So, when he thanked God, he was, in essence, thanking Him for the "divine message" he knew God, as infinite good, was communicating to the people. Jesus' perfect spiritual understanding of that message made it tangible to those waiting to be fed.
As "the divine manifestation of God," Christ is eternal because God is eternal (Science and Health, p. 583). That means Christ makes God's message of goodness just as real to people today as it was to that multitude. But we have a part to play. Like the multitude, we must head to the mountaintop, hungry for Truth and confident that Christ will feed us physically and spiritually – and abundantly.
God is able to make all grace abound toward you. II Corinthians 9:8