Between trying to settle one little one into a new children’s church and taking the other one to the Mothers’ Room, I only had a brief stint in the main service this Sunday, at the church we attend when we’re in Bloemfontein. In one of the moments where my ears managed to catch a snippet of the sermon, the guest speaker was discussing the difference between concern and compassion. The miracle of the fishes and loaves that fed 5,000 was used as an illustration of the point.

Since I didn’t have the opportunity to catch much more than just an awareness that this was the topic, I spent some time in thought to myself, considering what happened when Jesus and the disciples fed 5,000 men, and additional women and children in some deserted place that day.

Monday morning, I had the opportunity to live out the understanding I’d reached after considering the Scripture more thoroughly.


As the story goes in Matthew 14, Jesus withdrew to some deserted place after hearing the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded. But when the multitudes heard the news, they followed Him — perhaps wondering how he would react to what had happened, perhaps seeking some comfort because they believed John to be a prophet.

Despite His heartwrenching circumstances, He saw that great multitude, and had compassion for them, and He healed the sick among them.

When it was evening, the disciples were concerned for the people — it was getting late and they were far away from anywhere. They worried they’d be hungry and have nothing to eat, so they thought they should be sent away to the villages nearby to buy food.

But Jesus said, “They don’t need to go anywhere. You feed them.” {Matt. 14:16, my paraphrase}

And after that, you perhaps know the story. We’ve only got five loaves and two fish. They gave them to Jesus. Everyone sat down. He took the food and blessed it, gave it to the disciples, the disciples gave it to the multitudes, everyone ate till they were miraculously stuffed, and there was a whole bunch left over. A basket for every disciple, in fact.

The contrast between the disciples’ perspective on the situation and Jesus’ brings into light a great deal about the difference between mentally assenting to something and truly believing it.

Let me try to explain.

A person might mentally agree with the fact that a building is on fire, but if they truly believe it, they’ll get out of the building and warn everybody they see along the way.

A person who mentally agrees with what the Bible says might argue the case for Christ or some theological point while referencing the appropriate Scriptures. A person who truly believes that the Bible is God’s Word will allow what the Bible says to determine how they live their lives.

A person who mentally agrees that the preservation of our environment is a matter of concern might side with Al Gore in a discussion of the issues and worry about what the world will be like for our children’s children. A person who really believes it is an issue will reduce their carbon footprint, stop using plastic grocery bags, and recycle.

And like the disciples, a person who is concerned for the multitudes might worry about what will happen if the people don’t leave soon enough to go and fetch food. A person who has compassion for those same multitudes will take action — willing to do their part to see the situation resolved.

Whether we’re talking about the hole in the ozone or the global issue of poverty, the dichotomy seems the same:

Concerned people take note, compassionate people take action.

Concerned people have suggestions to solve the problem, compassionate people make moves to solve the problem.

Concerned people worry about the issue, compassionate people give, and act to change the issue.

Concerned people see obstacles, compassionate people see opportunities.

The disciples saw five loaves and two fish. Jesus saw the chance to do a miracle.

Monday morning I got an email that the home full of orphans we visited last year, where I was inspired and challenged and humbled and blessed, burned to the ground.

I immediately realized I had a choice to be concerned, or to show compassion. I could call and say I was sorry to hear the bad news. I could make suggestions about how to solve the problem. Or, I could take action to try to change the situation.

I share this not to point at my actions and say, “Look at me! I rock!” Rather, I want to say we modern-folk have lived far too long with this dichotomy of belief.

If we believe poverty is an issue, we have to act.

If we believe the environment is a matter of concern, we have to change our behaviour accordingly.

If we believe the Bible is true, we have to do what it says.

Part of me would like to simply conclude all this by challenging you to give something to help Mirriam House — $20 for the 20 people who’ve been left homeless, or for the 20-month-old who lost his life. But I’m afraid you’ll give, and then go away and not understand the real message I want to share.

We have to live what we believe. No, we can’t solve every problem on our own. But we have five loaves and two fish to give to just about every situation. Do those five loaves and two fish add up to seven dollars for a lost orphanage? Are they five loaves and two fish of taking the time to separate out your trash and recycle what can be recycled? Are they five loaves and two fish of actually adopting a child who needs a home?

Only you will stand before your Maker at the end of your days to give an account for what you did with your five loaves and two fish in this world. But I stand fully convinced that together, our five loaves and two fish can do a world of good.


P.S. I’ve been greatly encouraged by the generous support that has come in for Mirriam House so far. Thank you so much for your compassion, friends. Your actions are changing things!!