Hey, what’s that in your hand?

By Krista Penner.

This was the essence of the question the disciples asked a young boy in the face of over 5000 people skipping lunch that day out on a grassy knoll somewhere between Galilee and Jerusalem.

I don’t know what the boy said, but if it was anything like my boys, he would have answered, “Not much, my mom packed it for me and she forgot to put in a granola bar and the sandwich is the same kind she packed yesterday and it is not on my top 10 list”.

Nobody thought much about the now infamous lunch. It was ordinary, meager and not even marginally gourmet.

But in the offering of the lunch, the giving of thanks and the distribution process, the meager became the multiplied and more than 5000 people ingested enough protein and carbs to sustain them until they got home later that night.

Often we look at our open palm and we sigh, we shrug or we make some sort of unattractive snorting sound that signifies that we view our “handful” as less than useful and somewhat ridiculous.

We do not consider that what we possess contains the possibility of more.

I am certain our young friend had no idea that his act of generousity would impact so many. The square inch in which he lived was safe and comfortable and the maverick move of offering his lunch in the face of the impossible must have seemed ridiculous.

I read this account and then I look at my open hands and I wonder if I have something that God could multiply if I would just take a risk.


What do my fish and barley loaves look like?

  • A kind word
  • Sponsoring my friend who is running for cancer research
  • Showing up to help in a Sunday school class
  • Teaching a bible study
  • Just listening
  • Taking a friend out for coffee
  • Giving my nice floor lamps to a refugee family
  • Being vulnerable
  • Offering forgiveness
  • Praying for someone I barely know
  • Sharing what I know about Jesus with the woman in my fitness class
  • Giving my barely worn clothing to a woman’s shelter
  • Hugging my teenager when everything in me wants to give a lecture instead


What’s in my hand is not always recognizable to the naked eye. What’s in my hand is often intangible and barely discernable even to me in the midst of my chaotic life and I mistakenly think that I don’t have anything to offer because I feel tired, spent and unworthy.

That day on the grassy hillside they came because they wanted to be healed, they were there because they knew they were missing something. They were tired, spent and feeling unworthy.

In the recording of this account in Mark 6:34 it says of Jesus:  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Jesus looked at this massive group of people and knew how he could help them and in typical “Jesus style” he invites a young boy to step up and contribute, not because Jesus needed help but because Jesus knew that the young boy needed to take a risk that would change his life.

It’s not so much about what’s in my hand as much as it is about my willingness to offer what’s in my hand.

Jesus will do more than you think with whatever you have.


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20



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