A stranger wandered into town one afternoon, tired, hungry, and needing to rest before he continued on his journey. His inquiries about food and lodging were met with inhospitable responses from the townspeople. “I have no food for you,” he heard over and over again.
“That’s ok, and thank you,” he replied. “Since none of you have any food to share, I’m just going to make homemade soup. Enough to feed us all…and all I need is (reaching into his pocket) this old nail!”
“Hogwash!” said someone; and to prove him wrong, the skeptic dragged a big kettle to the town square. “Let’s see you do it!”
The stranger quietly filled the pot with water from the community well, gathered some sticks, and built a fire. A faint “klink” was heard as the nail came to rest in the bottom of the kettle. As the water began to boil, he leaned in to sniff an imaginary aroma. Curious onlookers began to move in closer, their inquisitiveness overriding their cynicism over the man’s outrageous claim. He blew on a spoonful of the broth before tasting. “It’s fine just like it is, but a little salt and pepper would be divine!”
“I have no food for you,” spoke a woman from the crowd, “but I do have some salt and pepper in my pantry.” With that, she disappears from the crowd, reappearing with the seasonings. The stranger thanks her, tosses some salt and pepper into the pot, and continues stirring.
“Last time I made this, I decided to experiment a little. I threw in some onions and potatoes, and you know, it was actually pretty good,” he said calmly, almost as if he were talking to himself.
“I don’t have any food to give you,” a man spoke out, “but I may be able to wrangle up some old onions and potatoes in my cellar.” And with that, he produced his contribution. After stirring the onions and potatoes into the mix, suddenly an appetizing smell began to waft into the crowd.
“I wonder if carrots and celery would make it better?” said another lady. “I might have some put back for a rainy day.” Suddenly, it was a domino effect. An ear of corn here, a handful of peas there. A cabbage. And lo and behold, one ornery old cuss even brought a soup bone. After all, they had to prove this crazy stranger wrong!
Before long, town square smelled heavenly; and folks disappeared long enough to return with bowls and spoons. And they all shared a hearty feast together that evening…laughing and talking and singing the praises of the man who made this magnificent concoction “out of just one old nail!”
In the spiritual sense, how many times have we come to God with our needs, only to have Him require something on our part first? He isn’t trying to insult our intelligence; He’s trying to expand our understanding to a heavenly principle that defies our earthly paradigms. We can look at Elijah’s audacious request to a widow who was preparing one final meal for her young son and herself, and say, “Man, you have absolutely lost your mind! You foolish, selfish thing…leave that woman alone in her need, and go find your own food!” However, desperate times often spark some pretty radical faith! This woman was just ripe for a boom-or-bust miracle; and so, she responded to Elijah’s claim of continual provision if she were to make the first move. Sure enough, God honored the prophet’s declaration, and the woman and her son never again had to fear hunger…even in the middle of a famine!
This outrageous God we serve has a track record for “something outta nothing.” We’re not even going to rewind back to the times of Creation when entire galaxies were formed at His command. We’re just going to go forward to a huge crowd of hungry people, too far out of town to grab a bite in the drive-thru. Here they have followed Jesus, not paying attention to the time or the distance, or to their lack of preparation for a journey. Surveying the problem, all the disciples are able to come up with is a little tike whose momma had thrown together a child’s portion bread-and-fish lunch. Tuna fish and crackers for us, if you will, only the Happy Meal version. They didn’t have to pry it out of his hands. With a child’s faith, I’m guessing he probably thought, “If it’s Jesus I’m giving it to, it’ll be alright.” We adults would probably be tempted to hide our little stash! Or, we’d reason that our contribution was just a drop in the bucket; justifiable alibi for not revealing that we had it. Survival of the fittest, you know. Interesting. That child’s drop in the bucket, blessed and broken by the Master, had 12 baskets of leftovers afterwards.
And if that weren’t enough to perplex our carnal minds, enter a man with what the Bible describes as a “withered hand.” He could’ve crushed it while working in the field or managing his livestock. He could’ve had a stroke. He may have been born with a body part that failed to fully develop. We don’t know that part, but we can reason that he was tired of walking around with a dead hand that didn’t work. And how does Jesus respond to the man’s request for healing? He asks the man to stretch that hand toward Him! Nowadays, people would be threatening to sue for discrimination against the disabled. I wonder how many spectators in the crowd were whispering among themselves, “Jesus, get a clue! If he could stretch it out, he wouldn’t be asking You to heal it!” How we, in all our “intelligence,” miss the point! The man didn’t miss the point, however. I don’t know how much effort it took to get that hand aimed toward Jesus, but he had nothing to lose. It may have been a little humiliating, even, putting the object of his shame right there in the open for everyone to gawk at. Nevertheless, the man gives his best effort to reach the useless hand toward the Savior. Only…by the time the hand reaches Jesus, the fingers are long and limber. The grip is strong. There is movement, flexibility, and feeling! Something outta nothing, yes. Faith trumps reason! Always!
As you stand before God today with your own list of needs, don’t be surprised if He requires you to produce your nothingness as a gift to Him. Don’t be insulted. He already knows what you have and what you don’t have. He will ask you to produce the very source of your pain, your shame, your deficiency. Don’t hide it behind your back and pretend it doesn’t exist! With the faith of that widow, that boy, and that man, present to Him what you have…even if it’s an empty bowl, a drained bank account, a ruined reputation, a used-up body. We are all just empty containers. We all are lacking in some area. Give God your container—YOU—and He will fill you to overflowing with His goodness. If you perceive yourself to be too old, wasted, uneducated, tainted, broken, or useless, know that He’s just looking for your willingness to give Him your pitiful little offering! He’s not going to laugh at you and say, “WHAT? You expect Me to make something good out of YOU???!” No, He will work with what you give Him. He may even toss your inadequacy into His kettle with other people’s inadequacies…and produce something of quality that blesses everyone around you, emitting a pleasing savor as it simmers to perfection.
Impossible, you say? Nope. It’s as easy as making soup with just one old nail.