Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
What think ye, when Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, did He produce too much bread by mistake, so that fragments remained contrary to His intention, and that these fragments surprised Him?
This cannot be so.
What operated with this multiplication in and through Christ was divine almightiness. To do what here is done falls outside the range of our human nature.
What God the Lord has put in our power is to multiply grain by agriculture, in the course of months. But it is altogether outside of our power, immediately, and in one moment, to multiply bread. This Christ did, and this He could not do except divine almightiness operated in Him. And this divine almightiness cannot work at random, because almightiness and omniscience in God the Lord are one.
Thus you clearly see that at the miracle of the loaves the remnant of fragments was nomistake, that it took place intentionally, and thereby the twelve baskets of fragments became to us an instruction on the part of God, as to what we are to do with what remains.
The narrative in John shows indeed that Christ Himself was interested in those remaining fragments.
In the hands of the apostles nothing was left over. They had distributed everything.
No, these were remnants left by the masses.
Hungry at first, the multitudes had too much. Now they were satisfied and there were leftovers. There was more than they could conveniently consume.
What remained, the multitude evidently had, if not thrown away, at least carelessly left on the ground.
For in what Christ said there was something of a rebuke.
He said: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (John 6:12).
Christ would not have said this if the people had taken the fragments with them, to eat them on the way home. For then they would not have been lost but used.
What Christ said suggests, therefore, that by the carelessness of the multitude these fragments would have been lost, and against this Jesus sets Himself as against a sinful something.
This must not be.
There must nothing be lost.
And that nothing be lost, the disciples, and through them the church of all ages, were commanded of the Lord, that always and everywhere the “fragments that remain” shall be gathered up.
Thanks to the instruction in the Word, our fathers, and no less our mothers, in former generations have understood this well. And in true Christian families it is still the rule, to keep strict guard against this.
You see this in the expression: ‘Tis a sin. An expression which, from Christian homes, was introduced into common use of language, and there lost all meaning, but which originally, and on the lips of our devout forebears, meant: You must not deal carelessly with what remains. For also food that is left over is created of God. And irreverent dealing with what God has made is sin.
Hence it does not do to say: A poor man might have eaten this, or: a famished dog might have had his life saved by it, but rather: You have no right to neglect the fragments that remain, because God created them, they are God’s belongings, and lightsomely to play with anything that God has created is sin.
A child of God, at least if he is recipient of this great grace as a Christian of the Reformation to obtain the purest knowledge of the will of his Father, brings everything into relation with his God. This relation in which he stands with his God governs all of his life. And by reason of this, he stamps all recklessness or neglect, of whatever it may be, with the name of sin.
This was serious business with our church fathers. They lived by it. So they understood it and not otherwise. All neglect was felt by them as sin, was confessed as sin, as sin to be atoned by the blood of Christ alone.
This the world still repeats. Again and again you hear it said among unbelieving people, “‘Tis a sin, man, in such weather as this to put on your best clothes!” And so this saying: ‘Tis a sin, is common on many lips.
But on such lips this saying: ‘Tis a sin, is nothing but a stop-gap, almost half an oath. For, sin is always taken with reference to God. And he who makes use of anything that is valid only with respect to God, without intending to refer to God, or to think of God, gives himself to the habit of blasphemy.
In what remains, the almightiness of the Creator, but also His unbounden mercifulness toward you and your house, is to be reverenced.
In most families, nothing ever remains over, everything is clean gone, and more would be used if there were more.
If in your family, at your table, in your kitchen, and in your breadbox there is too much provision for one meal, it certainly implies this very great grace, that all your needs are met, that you may eat until you are satisfied, and that God’s hand opened itself to you generously. But it also implies the obligation of responsibility with respect to what you do with what is left over.
With respect to the kitchen and table, the housemother is the person responsible to God.
She must be on the watch.
God will require it at her hand.
She must watch kitchen and table, and even when she leaves it to her daughters or servants, it is charged to her account.
Not the servant, and not the daughter, but she as housemother has been set over these things of God. First of all with respect to this, that she has to see to it, that there being always more than is needed is no result of careless housekeeping.
Ordinarily she should be able to judge abouthow much food should be bought and prepared. In purchasing at random, and always buying too much, so that after every meal quantities of food are carried away again from the table, there is guilt of carelessness and of abuse of the Lord’s goodness to her house.
Also what is done with the fragments that remain is not a matter of indifference.
Even anxiety about leftovers may cloak the spirit of parsimoniousness.
A housemother who carefully gathers what was left over today, that she may serve it again tomorrow, is right in doing so, provided necessity compels her to do this, or the money so saved is laid aside for the cause of God or for the poor.
But when there is no need of thus saving food, or when money so saved does not go to the poor, the leftovers themselves should go to the poor, as in former days every well-to-do family, where there was always a greater abundance of food than could be used, had some poor family at hand, who took away what was left. And as though this were not enough, they so directed matters that more food was left over, just to be the more generous.
Birds also were cared for, at least in winter. Not from sentimental devotion to animals, but because they were creatures of God, which by God’s appointment flutter and sing before us, and should not suffer want, when with us there is abundance.
So must the housemother care for her house, because God has set her over it, and addresses also her with the words: Gather upthe fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
All food that molds or spoils in the house cries against the housemother, bringing accusation against her before God.
Moreover, this word of Christ applies not merely to food and drink. It refers as well toclothes, to furniture, to ornaments, to the fragments of your time that are being lost, and no less to what is left over of your money.
Nothing is your own property. It all belongs to God, who gives it you for use, and holds you responsible for what you do with it.
What Christ says: “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost,” is the pure Christian principle that stands over against the economic passion of the world.
“Save” is the watchword of our age, to gather treasures for yourself upon earth, to make yourself a proprietor, to bend your energies upon making money. Everything going on outside of God, keeping no count with God, directed to selfish ends, ending in the passion for material things, nursing the deadly spirit first of the grocer, then of the capitalist, i.e., the spirit that brings money to the man, and after that brings the man under the money.
God’s child also is frugal, but from how much higher an impulse!
Not to raise himself up in wealth, but to honor God in His gifts. From those gifts of God to do well to the poor. To spend all good things entrusted to him in the Lord’s service and to His glory.