Lent: The poverty of voice
Have you used our Benevolent Lent calculator app? It's a fun tool that allows you to calculate how giving up chocolate, clothes or anything, really, can help our work supporting vulnerable young people.
We’re also offering challenging resources this Lent to help you pray, reflect and discuss what poverty means for children and young people. For the second week of Lent, Jim Davis reflects on the poverty of choice.
About a boy
I have often wondered about the story found in all four gospels of the sharing of five loaves and two fish so that thousands could be fed by Jesus.
Matthew, Mark and Luke make no mention of the provider of the food. Only John's account mentions 'the boy'. How did he come to give the fishes and loaves? Did he offer his lunch so that Jesus could perform a miracle, or did some burly disciple take command of his lunch on his behalf?
Was he a willing participant in a marvellous miracle that is recorded in all four gospels, or was he left bemused and overruled by a mass of adults making decisions without his voice being heard?
The child’s voice is missing
In truth, we don’t know. If this boy did make any comment about the situation it is not recorded and perhaps this is another example of how children’s voices are ignored or not listened to. How often it is that the small voices of children are left out, not recorded or included in the big adult debates and decisions?
What might be the significance of the Synoptics’ lack of mention of the food provider? Except, why is there a mention of this child anywhere at all? Why does it matter that these small barley loaves and fish belonged to a small boy?
It matters because among the thousands of people gathered to listen to Jesus, among the fathers and mothers, the disciples, the followers, the important people and the well-prepared with food in their bags, it was a young child who makes the significant contribution.
The boy’s sacrifice led to thousands being fed
It was a small boy who gave what was needed so that something spectacular and significant could happen. His contribution made the difference, and all of those thousands of people would have been the poorer, and the hungrier, if he had not. If he had clutched his lunch to his chest, if he had stuffed it deep into his bag, or quickly taken a bite out of every loaf, then thousands would have gone hungry.
I was once a small boy in a large family, and I know how to hang on to food, yet I am sure this boy gave his contribution freely and with a result that touched many.
We sometimes confuse giving children their voice with set occasions, with prepared events and methods that allow children to say something that we have decided is significant. Those occasions are important, they do matter. But they are no substitute for a willingness and a constant desire to accept the contribution of children, even when we haven’t asked for it. If we fail to be open to that contribution then we are all the poorer for it.