There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be an accountant. The reasons were not the noblest. I had chanced upon a ‘letter to the editor’ in the Nation newspaper – a complaint that KASNEB (the accountants examining body) was setting very tough exams and failing students. Like a homing pigeon, my calling arrived. I had been introduced to basic accounting in high school, and I decided to prove there was nothing so tough about debits and credits.
As soon as I completed secondary school, I went hunting for this body, registered, and proceeded to work my way through the 18 papers, three at a time; eyes firmly on my goal to add that coveted designation, CPA, to my name. It took years to scale that very slippery pole—years of toil, sweat, and frustration. At one point, just a little over the halfway mark, I almost threw in the towel. A messenger that could only have been from the evil one by the name quantitative techniques threatened to capsize my dreams. I must have repeated that paper a million times.
Finally, I was pronounced fit to double-entry (a debit for every credit) and balance the books (no deficits). Someone may have whispered that accountants are well paid, but no one warned me they were nobody’s favourite colleague. Before long, I heard uncomplimentary names like ‘bean counter’ in reference to a profession I had worked so hard to enter. I was only safeguarding organisational resources – why then was I not the good guy?
Among my other sins was a failure to do magic. I was not allowed to say there was no money or that the math was not adding up. I was under no circumstances to refer to the budget or point out that a vote head was exhausted.
Maybe that is why the teacher’s command rankles me every time I read it. I honestly feel like it’s personally addressed to me, and I don’t like it. It had been a long day, physically and emotionally draining. The evening was approaching, and his disciples did their due diligence, environmental scanning, projections; and came up with an actionable plan that would do any CEO proud.
“This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
In return, they got the kind of unreasonable command that used to make me (spreadsheets and all) flip.
“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
What? The disciples needed no algorithms or cashflow projections to figure this one out, “That would take more than half a year’s wages!
What Jesus was asking his followers to do was ridiculous, impossible… It brings back to me all those feelings. Being made to look like I am the one who is refusing, often accused of hiding the money when I knew well there was nothing in the pantry.
And so, like me, a good accountant, the disciples presented Jesus with a report of the situation on the ground. Five loaves and two fish. Insignificant. A drop in the ocean. Rounded off, it was probably as good as zero in the face of the hungry multitude. The basic economics problem is the gap between limited resources and unlimited wants. You don’t need to be a CPA to know this. Whether it’s the family or the business budget; or even your own life, it’s never enough.
In this story, Jesus abundantly feeds the multitude. The disciples had assessed the need and the available resources and acknowledged they did not have what it would take. In turning over to Jesus what they had, they experienced God’s amazing provision. When we come face to face with our insufficient personal resources – we should turn to him. He can multiply the little we have far beyond what we can ask or imagine.
Even more, he presents himself as the bread of life. Far greater than any physical hunger is our spiritual need. Our longing to be made right with God, to know we are forgiven, and to be empowered to live a purposeful life. He promises those who turn to him shall never hunger. Only Jesus can fully satisfy the hunger of the human soul.
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