Opinion: Lesson of the Loaves and Fishes
Written by Michael R. Fisher Jr.
November 8, 2011
I’m willing to wager that the majority of Christian
believers are intimately familiar with, or at least have heard before, the New
Testament parable that records Jesus feeding a few thousand people with just
two fish and five loaves of bread. It is one of the few New Testament stories
that is recorded in all four of the canonical Gospels. While I have heard many
preachers use this parable to try and reveal some sort of deep, spiritual
truth, I have always been perplexed by how often I have observed people of
faith overlook the utter simplicity of this particular story: Jesus fed people who were hungry.
Sure, I will admit that it is kind of amazing that Jesus was
able to feed so many with such a small amount of food. And while my intention
is not to mitigate such a remarkable accomplishment, the point that I find most
valuable in this parable is the fact that Jesus recognized the importance of satisfying
the very fundamental need of every human being to eat. Moreover, he adamantly
asserted to some of his closest disciples that when they fed the “least of
these” – the forgotten, left behind, lost, and devalued persons pushed to the
margins of society – they were actually feeding Jesus himself.
Jesus’ teaching on this simple concept has profoundly
informed my understanding of my social responsibility as a person of faith to
the larger human community. While I could not have foreseen the current
circumstances of my life, I should not have been surprised to find myself working
at a non-profit, social service agency that serves persons experiencing
homelessness in the District of Columbia. Did you know that there are more than
6,500 individuals experiencing homelessness, struggling to survive in the
nation’s capital? A deeply troubling reality, wouldn’t you agree?
I see hundreds of these men and women every day. Some are
very young, while others are much older. Some are healthy, others not so much. All
of them come to find refuge from an outside world that so easily
misunderstands, demeans, and largely disregards them.
They come to talk to someone who will listen to their story
and help them find a way out of homelessness. And yes, they come to get a
healthy and homemade meal. Providing nutritious food is an important part of
our work. Our clients, whom we call guests (who if it were not for social
service agencies in the community could go hungry on any given day), first come
to us for our great, wholesome meals. But it is through our meals that we
develop relationships with these individuals so we can help them beyond simply meeting
their basic hunger needs to help them obtain a place of their own.
I find my work deeply fulfilling, and it is primarily
informed and inspired by my faith tradition. After all, didn’t Jesus do
Michael R. Fisher Jr. is a member of Covenant
Baptist UCC. A graduate of the Howard University School of Divinity, he is
currently undergoing the ordination process in the Central Atlantic Conference.
He serves as the Director of Advocacy at Miriam’s Kitchen, in Washington, DC.