You have heard and read about Jesus feeding 5000 people many times. If not, allow me to quickly set up the miracle here. Jesus wanted to get away to a quiet place with his disciples, but when He gets there by boat, he is greeted by a crowd that had reached that place knowing Jesus will be there, and he starts teaching them. The miracle, feeding the 5000, is recorded in all four gospels. I would like to focus on how the disciples dealt with the problem by piecing together the information from the verses taken from Luke and John.
What is your problem-solving mindset? It’s fascinating to me how when a story or, as in this case, a blessing is approached with a particular lens, there are lessons everywhere in the Bible that one can learn from well-known passages in the Bible.
3 problem response mindsets
When we read these verses as problem-solver, we can see three common ways people react when faced with a problem. Read below to see which is your default approach.
Not my problem mindset
Late in the afternoon, the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging because we are in a remote place here.”
We need to give the disciples credit for being proactive, but they are proactive in avoiding the problem. They are fully aware of the situation that they are in and can sense the need that existed by the hillside that day.
The disciples have given the problem some thought, as you can see; they pick a time before it is too late for the people to go back to the nearby villages and find food and lodging.
All their proactiveness and thoughtfulness are aimed at passing the bucket. The disciples are trying their best to avoid the responsibility of taking on the problem at hand.
Are we going through life actively avoiding problems? A skill that we have developed is a keen sense to catch the problem a mile away and change course to avoid it altogether if possible or minimize the risk when there is no other way.
The disciples are with Jesus, the everlasting king, which did not influence their mindset even a little. They go to Him and say that we see a problem and have a solution to avoid it altogether. Do we offer similar solutions to Jesus in prayer when we see problems?
I would if I could mindset
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
The gospel of John gives a lot more detail to the parable. John is dropping the disciple’s names here to add more description to the incident. To understand this mindset, we look to Philip.
It begins with Jesus asking Philip a question. “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” John records this miracle with Jesus posing the question. Jesus is looking at a situation and asking Philip a question. What is Jesus asking of us today? What problem in our neighborhood or community has Jesus brought to your attention?
Philip reasons with Jesus. He has given the question some thought. Philip is approaching the problem from the resources that will be needed to solve the crisis. He is estimating the price of the solution. How much this will cost me? is a common question we all have. We look towards ourselves to see do we have the resources to meet this challenge.
Philip exaggerates his answer; he says that even a half-year worth of wages will not be enough for one bite. He, too, wants to avoid the problem by focusing on the enormity of the resources needed to solve the crisis. What enormous crisis are you facing today? You, too, have taken stock of your help and estimated the critical needs to solve the problem. Are you telling Jesus your estimation? Are you excusing yourself by saying I would if I could?
It is a huge undertaking; I wish I could do something about this. It pains me to say this, but things are tight right now; I will not be able to free up enough resources to support this project. How many times have we heard this said or a version of it? How many times have we said it ourselves? I wish I could do more. Philip uses a logical explanation to state why it would be impossible to feed the people gathered there.
I will do what I can mindset
John 6:8, 9
“Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up; here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Andrew demonstrates this mindset by bringing the five loaves and two fishes to Jesus. He is saying, I will do what I can. Andrew recognizes that the resources are too few for the people they are trying to feed, but he says this is all I can do.
Andrew understands the enormity of the situation, but that does not stop him from responding. He identifies the boy with a meal and brings it to Jesus.
With this mindset, one understands that the solution to the problem is not immediately attainable, but doing the best you can with all you have will make a difference when the effort is brought to Jesus. What would happen if we brought Jesus our feeble resources and said, I am willing to do what I can?
Even though this is not the picture-perfect response for faith, Andrew demonstrates by far the best of the three responses in this situation. Jesus is willing to work with a less than perfect reply. Praise God for that. He meets us where we are and takes us from there. The disciples are in a place, Philip is in another place, and Andrew has come further along but is still away from perfect, but Jesus is patient and comes to us where we are.
Jesus takes the piecemeal faith demonstrated by Andrew and uses it for God’s glory. I am glad Jesus was there and showed patience with all three mindsets. All of us demonstrate these three mindsets in different situations. Aren’t you pleased that we are in the presence of Jesus and He is patiently waiting to work with us? Take the crisis that you see in your life to Him and say, here I am, and I am here to give my best and see what God does with your effort.