Wasteful Grace

What do you think happened to all the leftovers after Jesus fed the 5,000? Luke 9:17 says the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of leftovers. Did they get sent home with people? Wrapped up in doggie bags? What about the extra wine after the wedding in Cana? There had to be extra. John 2:6 says Jesus changed about 180 gallons of water into wine. That’s more than 900 bottles — an entire grocery aisle of wine, enough to keep the wedding party going for weeks. What happened to it all? Do you think the father of the bride opened a package store? Or maybe he hosted a lot more parties. Maybe a few of the bottles became relics — religious tokens in a home-grown museum at the back of his property where he charged people a denarii to see a bottle of Jesus’ first miracle. Whatever happened to it, you can bet that the last sip of wine, the last crust of miracle bread, were consumed or discarded without Jesus, probably in a setting that had nothing to do with his power or teachings.  

I’ve heard Christians say that God doesn’t waste anything, as if he’s a divine Comanche, using every piece of the Great Buffalo Of Life to sustain his people. But that’s wrong. God wastes plenty. He wastes whole worlds. Entire galaxies. Here’s one:

(Click for a closer look.)

This is the Manatee Nebula. It’s about 18,000 light-years from Earth. It is one of an infinite parade of space objects astronomers are finding to litter our universe with beauty. 

And it was discovered in 2013.  

What was the Manatee Nebula doing up there for all those years of human history before 2013? What was its purpose? And what about the billions of space objects we’ve yet to find? The ones we will never find? Why are they there? What kind of creator plants galaxies no one will ever discover like poppy fields no one ever sees? 

The same God who wastes wine wastes galaxies. He is the sower spreading seed on the rocky and thorny soil even though he knows there’s little chance of it taking hold. He is the Lover of enemies who causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is the Chef for the multitudes making enough bread and fish to feed a holy army. He is the bright Morning Star who rises every day even though he knows we’re too busy to watch for his appearing. He is the God whose grace is teeming and not timid, whose blessing is not meted, but miraculous — pressed down, shaken together and running over, and poured into our laps. 

God is so full of grace, he wastes it on us in sunsets and fresh winds and forgiveness and the touch of a friend. And he wastes it away from us in still-corked bottles and rotted fish and distant stars that shimmer with unseen beauty. We serve a God of extravagant grace and profligate beauty. So much so that you might even call it wasteful. 

Ryan Sanders2 Comments