“Loaves and Fishes” – Thornton Crews

EDITOR’S NOTE: An article from long ago with a modern application and a lesson in all ages.

Thornton Crews

In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel and verse twenty-six, we have this language, “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat the loaves, and were filled.” Here we find one of the severest rebukes of the Lord to the unappreciative multitude of men who will not take time to investigate the evidence of divine things. They saw the miracles or signs, but were too obtuse or too indifferent to consider the source and purpose. This group would certainly include that vast class of folk today who claim to perform or believe in miracles and have never studied the purpose and place of them in God’s scheme of things. But I only mention this point in passing.

The most ungrateful class of folk in the world are people who enjoy the blessings that have been provided and never consider the source, offer a word of thanks. They have only one thing in mind: the satisfaction of their own desires. They feel that the world owes them a living and they have no other motive for the things that they do but to find selfish material gratification. They are not careful how or where they get the loaves and fishes. They want them and they will take them wherever and how ever they can get them. They do not know the giver of them and they care not for Him. They have no gratitude for or toward Him. They are selfish and grasping in character and disposition.

In this connection, I desire to relate some actual incidents. I am sure that these experiences are no different from some which others have had, who have tried to preach for a number of years and do charity work that is demanded of Christians and the church. I resided in a West Texas City at the beginning of the recent depression. The bottom fell out of our stock market and men were thrown out of work all over the country. Tales of woe and want began to come to us from numerous sources. Each Lord’s Day after the regular services we took a special offering from those who wanted to give. This special offering was to buy groceries and clothing and medicine for the people who were out of work and in need. We took in from seven or eight dollars to about fifty dollars per week. We asked the relief agencies for the names of some very worthy families, a committee was appointed to look into the need of each family. We bought everything wholesale and started out to do charity work. Many asked for snuff and tobacco and things of that kind. We did not furnish that but some families swapped the soap that we took them for tobacco. Soon those who were being helped told their friends of our work, we had more than we could care for. We did not make any stipulations as to church affiliation, but invited each family to attend any or all of our services. If I remember correctly, not one came. Some of the families would not help carry the stuff from the car into their houses. I became suspicious of one of the families and called the Salvation Army and found out that they were all on their list. One family in particular had been on their list for more than seven years. I do not think I regret the money and the effort that went into this project on our part, but I am sure that it is not the way to evangelize the world.

Case number two. I moved from West Texas to another city far removed. The depression was on in reality by this time. I took a considerable cut in salary and was very happy to do so. But even at that could have saved a little money, but for the large number of people that we helped. Many of these I helped out of my own pocket. We went out and brought a number of families to church, and helped them in various ways. I made three trips in my car every Sunday morning, and then carried the folk home after the church service. Others made one or two trips for people every Lord’s Day. We finally put on buses and hauled lots of people to and from church services.

I remember one family that we had helped in various ways, that I had hauled practically every Lord’s Day for almost two years. They moved to within two blocks of the bus run. The husband was supposed to be a member, and the wife had talked about being baptized many times. They came twice after I quit going after them. They would not walk two blocks to come to a religious service with bus fare paid. Yet I saw them in town frequently. When we ceased providing the material things they wanted their religious fervor cooled off. There were several more that we helped for months and months. I became suspicious of their conduct and told them the man who was directing our Bible School work and who was very enthusiastic about the program of benevolent work; that these people would not come to Lord’s Days services after we quit helping them. He got quite huffy with me, but told me to go and see just what they needed. I waited a few days and went, but did not take any food or medicine. They were not on the bus next Lord’s Day. I waited a few days and went back to see them and found the mother with a table full of small bottles of something that is said to be good for “snakebite.” I inquired among neighbors and found that she had been selling it all along, but had used the church as long as she could.

The first winter in this city, we helped about thirty families with food and clothing and medicine. Twenty-one of these we helped more or less regularly. When spring came on and food was not so hard to get, most of them quit calling on the church. Spring lapsed into summer and a “Oneness Holiness” preacher came along and started a Revival Meeting that was to last until Jesus came. Every week or so he would pass out grocery cards asking for certain things. Nineteen of these families took these cards and gave him groceries and ice. I remember one family carried ice by my home to this preacher, and I knew they did not have ice at home.

I do not remember that any of these folk ever turned out to be faithful Christians. People who use the church for loaves and fishes will never be worth much to the cause of Christ. There may be some exceptions, but these are a few of my personal experiences. I cannot say that I regret that I did what I could for these people, but some things I think I know: you cannot help the fellow who will not help himself, and if you could, the mission of the church is to preach the gospel, not dispense loaves and fishes. The “mission” of the church is found in the great commission—“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

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Author: Editor

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