I'm Hungry, What Are You Going to Do?
Topic: Poverty Scripture: Proverbs 21:13
My Stomach is Growling, What are You Gonna Do?
The Biblecontains hundreds of verses on poverty (some have suggested as many as 2,000). That makes it one of the most prominent topics in the entire Bible. Can you imagine preaching on what the Bible has to say about the human person? It starts in Genesis 1, doesn't end until Revelation 22, and nearly everything in between has something to say on it.
The problem with poverty is that it’s not simple
If you can’t explain something simply, maybe it isn’t simple!!
It wouldn't be that bad if all the verses said pretty much the same thing. But they don't. Instead, we get verses like "blessed are the poor" (poor in breath actually dying)(Luke 6:20) and other verses that say God rewards those who fear him with riches(e.g. Prov 22:4).
Preaching on poverty gets even more difficult when we look at poverty in the world around us. What does it mean to be "poor"? Does a family in America who only makes $30K per year qualify as poor, or do you have to be living on the streets begging for your next meal, or barely surviving in Africa on less than $1 a day?
And what causes poverty? Is poverty primarily the result of the bad decisions that individuals make, and thus something that can largely be alleviated through individual training/instruction? Or does poverty mostly stem from harmful social structures, making our response to poverty more about social and economic reform?
Obviously, it's a little of both (and more).
We'd never callously blame an abuse victim for their own abuse, but we routinely fault poor people for their own poverty.
Is it possible that they're at fault? Sure. But it's also quite likely that other factors, many beyond their control, were at work as well.
We deny that the poor are God’s people and are at the center of God’s concern, and ignore that Jesus was a leader of a revolutionary movement of the poor who, rather than mitigating the unfortunate, inevitability of poverty, called for a movement to transform heaven andearth.
The Biblical Summons to Help the Poor
Luke 3:11, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food let him do likewise."
Psalm 41:1, "Blessed is he who considers the poor!"
Proverbs 14:31, "He who oppresses a poor man insults his maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him."
Proverbs 21:13, "'He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard."
Proverbs 28:27, "He who gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse."
Isaiah 58:10, "If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters fail not."
This is but the tip of the iceberg (see Cry Justiceby Ronald Sider). God's will for us is that we give and work as much as we can to alleviate suffering in Jesus' name.This relates to evangelism (bringing people to the obedience of faith) in four ways.
It is included in the Great Commission, which says we should teach the nations to do all Jesus commanded.
And Jesus commanded us to give to the needy(Luke 12:33) and to do good even to those who hate us (Luke 6:27). So the Great Commission is not complete until the people we evangelize are giving generously to alleviate hunger. And we can be sure they never will if we aren't.
Active concern for the hungry and homeless validates the reality of God in our lives. Men will glorify our Father in heaven not because of what we say only, but because our lights are shining and they have seen our good deeds (Matthew 5:16).
Concern for the hungry creates witness opportunities.If Christian ethics means for us primarily avoiding bad behavior and staying home in our comfortable houses, we will meet very few non-Christians, and when we do, our words of witness will be weak because they are backed up with no labor of love. But if our love of Christ and his for us drives us into action to meet the needs of refugees and the world's hungry, then we will cross paths with unbelievers and our witness will have great power because it will be certified by active love. So never play off evangelism against other biblically mandated acts of love, namely, feeding the poor and doing good to all (Galatians 6:10).
What Can We Do?
Now let's be specific. What can we do?
1)Set aside some time to educate yourself about the problemand the many things Christians are doing to help. You could start with a book like Rich Christians in an Age of Hungerby Ronald Sider.
*Enough grain is produced now to supply everyone on earth with more than two pounds of grain per day.
*The average American consumes 2,000 pounds of grain a year, mostly indirectly through meat products. On the other side of the world, the average Colombian eats 400 pounds of grain a year, mostly through grain itself. Compare this to an average steer in a feed lot, which eats 400 pounds of grain in one month. Our cattle are better fed than most of the people in the world.
*80% of all the grain produced in North America is fed to animals.
*Americans throw away enough food in a year to feed over 150,000,000 people.
*25% of the food products in North America is thrown away.
2.) We should engage in regular prayer and fasting.
If fasting was ever in order, it is today. Prayer is enlivened and deepened by fasting. Fasting unites us to God in the dependence of hunger, and it unites us to Uganda in the fellowship of hunger. And so, our love and our prayers are more fervent and effectual.
3.) Some of you should go.
There is a book entitled, Overseas List: Opportunities for Living and Working in Developing Countries, by David Beckmann and Elizabeth Anne Donnelly. Any inclination you have, young or old, to cut loose and fly into an adventure with God should be pursued. There are opportunities for all kinds of professions as well as the traditional missionary. The need is for people passionately eager to magnify Christ through sacrificial loving service.
4.) We need to give.
So, to encourage us in this we are having a “Rice Bowl Reception” after the service. Rice bowls have been provided to be used like this: Each person or family should take one home and put it on your table to remind you each day and every meal to pray for the starving of the world (physically and spiritually).
At each meal if you put about 25 cents in it, the bowls would have $10 each by the last Sunday in November, when we collect them and send the money through our Conference to World Relief. If 100 individuals do this, we can send $1,000 which we will scarcely miss.
Maybe some of us will want to keep such a little bank on the table as long as hunger remains. It is so easy to grow callous, and weary of well-doing.
People stomachs are growling and God has called us to do something about it.
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