By David Faust
Do you like to eat leftovers? Some foods (homemade soup, for example) taste better on the second day than on the day you make them. Clever chefs transform yesterday’s pot roast into today’s beef stew, and turn slightly overripe peaches into a delicious pie. Thrifty homemakers give their children hand-me-down clothes worn by older siblings.
Today, though, we live in a throw-away culture. The United States Census Bureau reports that, including paper, plastic, and other waste, on average each American discards approximately four pounds of garbage per day—about one-fourth of it recyclable. According to an article on the NPR website (August 22, 2012), “about 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia—up 50 percent from Americans in the 1970s. . . . And food waste costs us about $165 billion a year and sucks up 25 percent of our freshwater supply.”
Jesus wasn’t wasteful. After he multiplied bread and fish and fed the 5,000, the Lord told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12).
Waste Not, Want Not
What happened to the 12 baskets of leftovers? The Bible doesn’t say, but it’s instructive that Jesus wanted his disciples to gather up the leftover food. Scripture teaches us to be careful stewards of whatever God provides. Don’t waste money, squander time, fritter away valuable resources, or miss opportunities to do good.
God doesn’t waste anything. He fulfills his providential purpose even during seasons of life that seem pointless to us. Our problems build perseverance and our blessings teach us gratitude. God uses our burdens to deepen our faith, our successes to encourage us, and our failures to keep us relying on his grace.
Jesus didn’t waste anything. He invested his life in people. He devoted himself to the world’s “leftovers”—the sick, the sinful, and the despised—and he made their lives useful and fruitful again.
The Lord’s Careful Stewardship
Recycling 12 baskets of leftover fish and barley loaves wasn’t the only way the Lord taught about stewardship in John 6.
Jesus didn’t waste any opportunities to stretch his disciples’ faith. He pushed Philip and Andrew to find creative ways to feed the hungry multitude (vv. 5-11), and he let the disciples row their boat through stormy seas before walking on the water to them (vv. 16-21).
Jesus didn’t waste any time on misguided priorities. The restless crowd tried to force him to assume political power and become king, but the Lord “withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (vv. 14, 15).
Jesus didn’t waste any opportunities to teach spiritual lessons. He fed the 5,000 not only to show he had miraculous power, but to demonstrate that he himself was “the bread of life . . . the living bread that came down from heaven” (vv. 48-51).
Jesus didn’t waste his efforts, even when the crowds rejected him. His “hard teaching” (v. 60) caused a large number to turn away (v. 66), but Simon Peter spoke for the faithful few: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68).
We shouldn’t waste our lives; we should invest them wisely in things that matter. Like Jesus, we should invest in people to help them reach their full potential in God’s service—including those who feel like leftovers themselves.
1. Can you identify any wasted opportunities in your life that you need to reclaim?
2. How are you investing your efforts to help others grow in Christ?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for October 27, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Peter 3:1–7
Song of Solomon 4:1–7
1 Peter 3:8–12
Song of Solomon 4:8–16
1 Peter 3:13–22
Song of Solomon 5
1 Peter 4:1–11
Song of Solomon 6
1 Peter 4:12–19
Song of Solomon 7
1 Peter 5:1–7
Song of Solomon 8:1–7