Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | July 29, 2019

Lord, feed the hungry

What does it mean when we pray some version of “Lord, feed the hungry”?

Are we expecting that those who need it will be magically fed by manna from the heavens? Lord, YOU feed the hungry.

Do we have some assumption that the people we want to be fed should be somehow “deserving,” whatever that means? Lord, feed SOME of the hungry—those who’ve earned it.

Is this a plea for spiritual food or actual food? Lord, may spiritual needs be met.

Who will do that work of making sure people are fed? Lord, may someone else feed the hungry.

Questions of food, economics, and money often occupy our modern discussions about what kind of society we want to be. Questions of food, economics, and money often surface in the gospel of Luke, and particularly in the parables of Jesus.

And Jesus said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’ [from Luke 12]

In a clear condemnation of greed and its accompanying actions, Jesus creates a story about a man whose excess has no boundaries. This man is  already wealthy, and he has a bumper crop. All he wants to do is keep the crop for himself, to the extent that he would rather go to the expense of not just building new barns, but tearing down the current ones to make room for better ones. He’d rather do that than share, or even sell, the surplus.

Hoarding, as you know from TV shows about it, can be an illness. Hoarding resources among a certain group while keeping them from another group is a societal illness. The selfishness that surrounds keeping money, capital, and even the basics for one sector of the population while maintaining willful blindness toward the needs of another sector is a travesty.

In our country there is a proposal under consideration that would remove more than three million people from receiving food stamp assistance. Why? To save money. Additionally, some school systems are refusing to feed children whose school lunch accounts that haven’t been paid in full, including one school board in Pennsylvania that recently threatened that children could be placed in foster care if parents don’t pay up.

What does it do to the soul of a nation when that country doesn’t care for those who experience food insecurity?

In Jesus’ parable, the man with the big crop and the barns ends his life with nothing gained, and much lost, by his hoarding of goods. What of his neighbors who could have benefited from that food? What of the widow who walks by and sees the new barns, full of grain, while she has no way of making a living? What of the child whose parents choose between food for the children and food for the grownups? What of the rabbi who wishes he had food enough to give away to those who need it?

Abundance versus scarcity. Too much abundance for a few creates scarcity for so many more.

Well, God’s people will say, we’ll pray for the hungry.

Here’s an update on the Pennsylvania school system I noted above. Originally, the school board declined a benefactor’s offer to pay off all student lunch debt. After backlash over that decision, the board relented and accepted the gift. Since then they have qualified for and offer free breakfast and lunch for all students.

What we must remember is that if God is to feed the hungry, it will only be accomplished when people do the feeding. Not magically. Not other people. All people.

It’s that simple.

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2019

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