by Tammy Darling
Consider the following statistic provided by Good Measure International: Christians in America spend $20 billion every year on soft drinks while $13 billion a year would feed every starving person in the world. Sobering, isn’t it?
According to UNICEF, more than one billion people are suffering from malnutrition and hunger, an increase of 100 million in just over a year.
Even in America the number of people who are going hungry has increased greatly as long-term unemployment still affects many. Nearly 17 million American children (almost one in four) don’t always get enough food to eat. In fact, there has been an increase of 744,000 kids living in poverty in the United States in just one year.
Jesus took feeding the hungry seriously. “Depart from me . . . for I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink” (Matthew 25:41, 42). Considering tens of thousands die daily from hunger-related causes, it is apparent we’re not taking it nearly as seriously as Jesus did.
We can’t say we don’t know what to do; the Bible is very clear: “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).
As a parent of four daughters, I can’t imagine the desperation felt by millions of parents who don’t know where their family will get their next meal. At one point when our finances were extremely tight for an extended period of time, we rationed our food—but never did we go without a meal. I know what it’s like to have people give us food and can’t help but wonder, What if they hadn’t? It’s hard to comprehend the heartache these parents must feel day after day watching their children suffer—and sometimes die.
Blessed for a Reason
We have the resources; what we lack is a willingness to part with them.
Scripture states that to whom much is given, much will be required (see Luke 12:48). God has blessed the United States with more resources than any other civilization in history—for a reason. And the reason is not so that we can be consumers and live a life of comfort. It is so that we can set captives free.
Eighty percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. When you buy a book or a CD you spend what a majority of people in the world will make in a week’s time.
Often it’s hard for us to relate to the hungry. We may say to someone, “I’m starving,” when in reality we have no idea what it really means to starve. Unless we have seen first-hand the horrors of the hungry, or experienced it ourselves, we cannot comprehend what it is like.
Those who have fasted from food for any length of time may have had a brief glimpse into what it means to be hungry. But even then food is available if they choose to eat it. The truly hungry don’t have a choice.
A Matter of the Heart
We don’t have to sell all we have and give it to the poor. Jesus is not asking us to become poor. It’s a matter of the heart. Christ wants to know one thing from each of us: Are you willing?
When all else looks impossible, a willingness of heart can change the world. A little boy had only five loaves and two small fish, but his willingness to give them to Jesus fed 5,000 people (see John 6:1-14).
Interestingly, this miracle is told in all four Gospels, perhaps so we don’t miss the point. What would be the greater transformation: the transformation of bread and fish to feed thousands, or the transformation of selfish hearts? If we were willing to let Jesus transform our hearts, we could feed the world.
Putting an end to world hunger would not require much sacrifice if we all did our part. We cannot close our eyes to the plight of the hungry when it is in our power to make a difference. Are you willing?
Millions of people die every year from unsafe drinking water. The United Nations estimates it would cost about $9 billion a year to provide safe drinking water for everyone in the world. American Christians spend $11 billion a year on coffee. We could easily cut back on non-essentials and use the money saved to rescue millions of lives.
Christians in the United States alone spend $100 billion a year exchanging Christmas gifts. Imagine the difference we could make if we redirected that money to ministries working with the poor. Or, if for every dollar we spent on food, we sent that same amount to an aid agency? Not only would we change the world, the world would know that we are Christians by our love.
It is not the responsibility of the government to implement welfare programs and provide food services for the poor. It is the church’s responsibility. Unfortunately, we have dropped the ball. We blame politicians and lawmakers for dreadful social problems while neglecting to take responsibility and contribute in ways that can make a difference.
I don’t want to be identified with one of the most selfish generations of all time. I want to make a difference and I’m teaching our children to do the same.
Together we sponsor two children through World Vision, contribute monthly to multiple Christian organizations that provide aid to the needy, and collect food items for our local food bank. This year we decided to plant a large garden so we would have plenty to give to others.
While it’s not practical for us to downsize our home, we have begun downsizing in other areas, such as transportation and possessions. Amazingly, not even the kids miss the excess stuff.
Although I still struggle, I don’t want to live a life of self-indulgence while others have little or nothing. To keep things in perspective I try to stay connected with the needs of those living in poverty worldwide: otherwise it would be too easy to pretend they don’t exist.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a mantra too many Christians adopt. We see the emaciated bodies of the hungry on TV and look away or change the channel. Some of us even leave the room to get a snack.
The cause is not hopeless. We can make a difference in many ways. Trustworthy Christian ministries that empower the poor and disadvantaged internationally, such as World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, and Compassion International are doing a tremendous work to fight poverty. But they need our help. Check them and any other organization out before contributing or getting involved personally.
Track down worthy programs in your community in the phone book under “community services.” Local churches and public libraries are also good sources of information. Pay attention to needs around you; a hungry family may be living right next door.
Avoid unrealistic expectations. It’s better to feed 100 people at your local homeless shelter than try to solve world hunger on your own and accomplish nothing. Get together with other like-minded people to make an even greater impact.
Nothing Is Impossible
The enemy’s lie that “it can’t be done” is a major obstacle we face in the fulfillment of Jesus’ command to feed the hungry. But if he has commanded us to do it—and he has—he will give us the ability to do it as well.
Robert Kennedy said, “There are those who look at the way things are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” The task of solving world hunger is big, but God is bigger. With him, is impossible.
The leper in Mark 1:40 came to Jesus and stated his request bluntly: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus could make a similar statement to us. “If you are willing, you can feed millions of hungry people.” Jesus told the leper, “I am willing” (v. 41). Will we say the same?
There is a difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing. I have been moved to examine my own life and see how I can redirect more resources to feed the hungry. My prayer is that you will do the same. Perhaps together we can end world hunger.
Are you willing?
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Consider the efforts of other local, national, or international organizations to fight hunger. You can do this as an individual, as a family, or get your small group or entire congregation involved.
Here are just a few organizations. There are many others out there. Find one and get involved!
Matthew 25 Ministries
The mission of Matthew 25 Ministries is to fulfill Matthew 25:34-40 by providing nutritional food to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, shelter to the homeless, medical care to the ill, and humanitarian supplies to prisoners.
(International Disaster Emergency Services)
IDES provides hunger relief to countries as well as helping with other needs (medical, structural, and so on), especially as disasters occur around the world.
Mentioned in the article:
Good Measure International