It may seem that this passage is either about magic or morality. Either it is intended to show Jesus was capable of incredible miracles, or it is intended to be a powerful moral lesson about sharing. Several respected theologians have asserted that this story is about how, moved by Jesus’ good example, the crowd added bread and fish to the communal basket as it was passed around.
In fact, it was likely a literary device deliberately imitating the story in 2 Kings 4 where Elisha multiplies four barley loaves (the fact that the loaves are barley in both stories is a clue) to feed one hundred men. How likely is it that the message of the great prophet Elisha was that we need to share more? Did the Creator of the Universe become Incarnate to encourage more sharing? I think both stories were meant to convey the abundance of God's loving concern for us. We don't have to fight over God's attention like it is a scarce resource. The fact that God loves you doesn't mean there is less for me. God's love is abundant and there is even love left over. This is a radical, counter-cultural message about the nature of God that few can accept because it makes God's love truly unconditional, which we naturally don't like. Instead, we prefer to use this story to make what is finally a utterly uncontroversial, bland statement about the benefits of altruism.