Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Feeding the Hungry

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
- Matthew 25:35-40
I have added a new link to The Hunger Site. By simply clicking on a link on their home page, you can help feed the hungry of this world, at no monetary cost to you. Here's some information about hunger from the site;

It is estimated that one billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. That's roughly 100 times as many as those who actually die from these causes each year.

About 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourths of the deaths are children under the age of five.

Famine and wars cause about 10% of hunger deaths, although these tend to be the ones you hear about most often. The majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition. Families facing extreme poverty are simply unable to get enough food to eat.

In 1999, a year marked by good economic news, 31 million Americans were food insecure, meaning they were either hungry or unsure of where their next meal would come from. Of these Americans, 12 million were children. The Hunger Site began on June 1, 1999.

Please remember to click every day to give help and hope to those with nowhere to turn. Every click counts in the life of a hungry person.
I have a personal passion for the issue of hunger, no doubt derived from my younger years when it was not unusual to go a few days without food. Over the years, I've been involved in the development and implementation of emergency food distribution sites and food banking. In the USA, about 20% of our food ends up in the garbage. I believe that salvaging this food, and getting it into the hands of those in need not only helps the recipient, but is also a way to practice better stewardship of our resources.

Globally, food distribution programs may only be a band aid. More energy needs to be put into developing a sustainable environment. Many of the problems related to hunger are systemic in origin. Yet, as means to overcome these hurdles are sought, 24,000 people die every day. We cannot wait. We need to immediately commit ourselves, as a global community, to not simply alleviate hunger in this world, but to end it.

I want to offer a few thoughts to the Christians who might be reading this regarding our motivation for ending hunger. I've mentioned my personal reasons; memories of getting weaker and weaker as I slowly starved. Today, these memories are not my primary motivation, however. I am driven to feed the hungry because I understand that is what Jesus would have me do.

There is a tendency among programs reaching out to the poor to separate the "worthy" and "unworthy" poor. The worthy are those who appear to have the best chance of becoming a success story. The unworthy are those who seem to be beyond hope; addicts, mentally ill, etc. We have a bias for the poor, not because they are worthy or unworthy, but because they are deserving of the dignity and respect of a creation of God. We do not feed the hungry because they are worthy, but because they are human!

We do not feed the hungry because we are good people. When Christians get into the front trenches of the struggle against hunger, they find lots of other people already there. Some will be there because of a need to be the "good guys," to assure themselves that they are good people. These are wonderful folks, willingly working hard on many a project, but too much patting oneself on the back can develop a community spirit of egoism and elitism.

We do not feed the hungry because we believe we can make this a better world. In the front trenches we will also find lots of social workers, who will be some of the most committed and experienced members of the community. Their goal is to make this a better world for everyone. This is a commendable goal, yet not the primary one for Christians.

We feed the hungry because Jesus told us to do so. Yes, we want to do good deeds. But the goodness of the deed is not enough. Our compassion is a sign of an even greater goodness.

We feed the hungry, not simply because we are good, but to point toward food for the soul; the goodness of God. We feed the hungry, not simply to make this a better world, but to point the way to the compassion of God, which embraces us all. The unique element we bring to the struggle against hunger is the person of Jesus Christ. Our motivation can come closest to being altruistic, as it is not drawn from our need to prove we are good, or save the planet, but from our desire to glorify God. The good deed and good stewardship of creation are fringe benefits springing from our desire to reveal Christ to the world. What better way to reveal Christ than to follow his example?

Sometimes, simple is best. Jesus cared for the hungry. Christians care for the hungry.


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