". . . so that nothing will be lost" (John 6:12b)

Today's text comes from the miracle where Jesus divided the loaves and fishes and fed the multitude. No doubt you know the story well. But there's one detail in the story which has always tweaked my interest - the collecting of the pieces which were left over after the people had eaten to their fill. The NASV translates the reasoning behind Jesus' instruction as follows: "so that nothing will be lost". Most of the other translations (including the KJV and the ESV) agree pretty much with that wording. The NIV puts it this way: "that nothing be lost." Now my question is this: Why was Jesus so concerned for these left over scraps of food? On the surface it appears as such an inconsequential detail. After all, the miracle was in the multiplying and feeding, right? Then what motive can we ascribe to His command that the disciples make sure that not one piece of bread or fish be wasted?

"Forgotten debris of forgotten years, Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise, Before our world dissolves before our eyes." The poet author of those lines was well aware of our human tendency to waste things. Whimsically he pictured much of that accumulation of wasted or lost things as if each one were filled with a desire to be remembered or to be re-discovered and put to use again, at least for one more glorious moment before death closes our eyes. It raises an interesting question, don't you agree? What have you lost? What have you wasted?

"Let nothing be wasted." Many scholars agree that at least part of the reasoning here was to reveal dramatically to the disciples (and the people) the greatness of His power and the abundant manner in which God is able to meet our daily needs. Building on that thought, I'd like for you also to consider this - that the carefully collected pieces also remind us just how precious each and every gift of God truly is. Therefore, nothing from His hand is to be treated lightly, lost or wasted. But oh how often are we guilty of doing just that?

For instance, how often have we lost opportunities - opportunities to serve or to bear witness to the greatness of our Savior? How many opportunities have we squandered -- to help a neighbor in need or to speak out against an injustice in our community? And what about lost time? Years, months, days, weeks - yes, even minutes and seconds - are all precious gifts - not one of them to be wasted or lost.

And what about misspent energies? - the wasting of time and talent and skill upon ignoble enterprises. Does this not run counter to the admonition of this passage? "Forgotten debris of forgotten years." Is it not prudent of us to pause from time to time and consider past experiences lest past lessons, acquired from them, become forgotten? - lest past mistakes come to be repeated over and over again?

These are just a few of the thoughts that come to my mind as I ponder the instruction here. We are forewarned that God's generosity is no license for us to wallow in luxury, but that we are obligated to consider the purpose which lies behind each expression of His Good Will. If He has chosen to bless your life at some point with abundance (excess), be assured that there is a reason behind it. It should never be your response - intentional or otherwise - to turn God's abundance into neglected, unappreciated, or selfishly horded surplus.

Matthew Henry wrote: "It is just with God to bring us to the lack of that which we make waste of." Did you catch that? God will not be mocked. If a gift is neglected, lost or wasted, He is perfectly right to show us the error of our action by causing us to suffer the absence of that very same gift at a later time of great need. In Hosea 4:6 we find an example of such in the lives of people of Israel. For so long they had turned a deaf ear to the words of the Prophets, and now were being destroyed "for a lack of knowledge". In Psalm 106 we also read of a people who had forgotten God's works and ignored His counsel. Therefore, we're told (v. 15) that God sent "leanness into their souls."

What good gifts has God rendered to you? What have you done with them? Remember the words of the poet: "Forgotten debris of forgotten years, waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise, before our world dissolves before our eyes." Is it not time, perhaps, to recover and to dust off neglected gifts? Isn't it time to put an end to the squandering of the strength of your youth or the wisdom of your graying years? "Let nothing be wasted!" -- not affections, nor intellect, nor talent, nor any other thing that God chooses to give you! All is to be received and acknowledged with thankfulness and then used unto His glory as is becoming of good stewards.

In verse thirty eight of this passage, when it was being discussed what could be done to attend to the needs of the people, Jesus asked the following question: "How many loaves do you have? Go and look!" It occurs to me that therein is sound advice for each of us to take to heart - to stop and take inventory of what God has already given. To rediscover some of His gifts, we may have to do some digging into the dustbin of our lives. But nothing is to be wasted. All that He gives is purpose driven. All that He gives is to return unto Him in the form of our praises and diligent service. To whom much is given, much will be required. Therefore, let us stop and look at our lives and recommit each and every aspect of who we are and what we have unto Him.