The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” [Luke 3:10-11 (NLT)]
Yesterday, our nation celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday that revolves around food and unites our nation across lines of culture, race, religion, and politics in a way little else can. Regardless of what football team they support, where they live or from where they came, whether liberal, conservative or somewhere in between, my Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and unbelieving friends all celebrated around tables heavy laden with food. The menu and traditions varied—some had naan and others enjoyed cornbread or Parker House rolls. Some plates had ham alongside the turkey while others tofurkey and lentils or some of Grandma’s lasagna. Some cooks put pork sausage in their dressing and others kept kosher. There may have been glazed sweet potatoes and green beans at one house and mashed whites with gravy and corn casserole at another but, whatever was served, no one went away hungry and there were plenty of leftovers. Unfortunately, not everyone’s plate was piled with food and not everyone complained of feeling stuffed.
When I grew up, I was told there were starving children in Armenia so I should clean my plate. I once gave the smart-aleck retort that what I didn’t eat couldn’t be sent to those kids so what difference did it make! That was, of course, the wrong response and, most definitely, the wrong attitude. It wasn’t so much about cleaning my plate; my parents were trying to teach me appreciation and gratitude for the bounty at our table. They wanted me to understand that not everyone was so blessed. Unlike me, many children knew the real meaning of hunger.
The UN defines “food security” as always having physical, social and economic access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet one’s dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. Although there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, they estimate that some 815 million people in our world are “food insecure.” In our nation alone, some 41 million people (13 million of whom are children) are considered food insecure. It’s not just the Armenians or whoever else our parents mentioned that are hungry; it’s our neighbors!No one anywhere should go hungry but it’s disgraceful that anyone in our wealthy nation should be without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food.
As Christians, we must respond to food insecurity with compassion and action—prayer, advocacy, volunteering, and donating. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” let’s remember the bread with which we are blessed is meant to be shared. When Jesus shared a few loaves and fish, He managed to feed thousands; consider how many we could feed if we shared our resources! As you write up your Christmas gift list, perhaps you will include a Christian relief organization and help combat poverty and hunger. If you’re wondering what to get your pastor or child’s teacher, rather than a tie or mug, what about a flock of chicks, geese or ducks (only $20) from someplace like Heifer International? Your donation will provide both food and a source of income for a hungry family. These next few weeks, you’ll be making several trips to the grocery store. Every time you shop, consider taking advantage of the BOGO specials and giving that free item (better yet both of them) to the local food pantry. There are more than enough resources in our world so that everyone can eat well but we each must do our part.
Yesterday, we looked at our bountiful Thanksgiving feast and asked ourselves, “What will I eat?” Please remember that someone not that far from you may have said, “Is there anything for me to eat?”