Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” teaching us not only how to pray, but reminding us as we pray that every bite we eat is from God. So how is it that God goes about feeding us? If he so desired he could, as Martin Luther once said, “make vegetables grow on my table or a fried chicken fly into my mouth.” But God has chosen a more indirect route. He has chosen to feed us all by our own work, and what’s more, by our working together. I think about all the people who had to work so that I could have my bowl of Cheerios this morning: the farmer, the trucker, the manufacturers, the inventors of the machines that make and box Cheerios, the business managers, the store-owners, the shelf-stockers, and the check out person (just to name a few); not to mention that I had to work to get the money to buy that box of Cheerios and the milk to go with it; and, the people in my congregation had to work so they could bring their offerings, so I could be paid. Not only that, but some of the members of my congregation are farmers, whose work it is to grow the food that starts the whole process again. God is God, and could have made it all simpler by just making the food grow on our table. But God provides the sun and the rain and the soil, and then he depends on the likes of you and me to do the rest.
Sometimes that whole complex system of working together breaks down. The problem could be as simple as someone running out of money before the paycheck comes; or it could be as complex as a corrupt government, a nation at war, and a drought, all working together to create a famine resulting in the starvation of millions. What then? Well, says the Bible, then God expects people who have enough to share from their bounty with those who have nothing; and, says Paul in II Corinthians, this is “not so that others might have it easy while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality.” He then added, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, and then someday in turn their plenty might have to supply what you need, so that he who gathered much does not have too much, and he that gathers little will not have too little.” John the Baptist said, “If you have two shirts share one with the person who has none, and if one has extra food, they should do the same.” And Jesus said in Matthew 25 to those who he was welcoming into heaven that when they fed the hungry, it was as if they were feeding Him, because the poor and the needy and the hungry are his brothers and sisters. Sharing what one has, has always been at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.
The question of why there is so much suffering in the world is a huge theological question, and there are many ways one can respond. But one of the most important answers is that God has called on us all to take care of each other, and He has given us a free will to say yes or no to that call. When we say no, there is a part of that suffering that is not relieved. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone. God has done His part and has provided. The challenge is for people everywhere to be just and fair, and to share.
There are people who would go hungry if it wasn’t for the work of local food shelves. And there are people who are not truly needy and take advantage of the system, thus robbing from those who really do need the help. In a sinful world, helping your neighbor can be complicated and difficult; but still, we are commanded to do so.
There was a time when each of us had to depend on others to feed us. Perhaps we never had to go to a food shelf or a international relief organization, but we were all at one time babies, and we then most certainly had to be fed. And someday you might be in a nursing home and not even able to hold your own spoon, and someone will have to feed you then, too. God has made the world in such a way that we need each other even to eat: for a time, we need parents; at all times we depend on everyone who works in the farming or transportation or food industry; and sometimes we might have to depend on the good will and charity of others. If you don’t have to depend on any one else’s charity right now, give thanks to God for being born on the right part of the globe. Many are not so fortunate, and must depend on the good will of Christians around the world. God has set up the world in such a way that we need to depend on each other, and we need to be willing to share our blessings.
Some need help, but we all need to have the opportunity to help– so that we can learn how to give, learn how to serve, and learn how to be the children of God we were created to be.
Psalm 145:15-16 — The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Zechariah 10:1 — Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.
Matthew 5:45b — (Jesus said), “God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the righteous.”
Luke 3:11 — John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
A TABLE PRAYER THAT REMEMBERS THOSE IN NEED:
Dear Lord, thank you for this food. Bless the hands that prepared it. Bless it to our use, and us to your service. And make us ever mindful of the needs of others. Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.