If you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
If this verse is taken literally, it sounds like the prophet is advocating that Israelites get busy building food banks and organizing canned food drives.
When people are hungry, the obvious solution to the problem is … to feed them! We might as well start with the food at hand, so it’s never a bad idea to give generously to shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks.
But for those who are concerned about justice, there is a deeper issue here. When people in a community are hungry, the fundamental question is, “Why? What forces have brought them to this crisis?”
Is it because she is unemployed and unable to earn a living? Is this because she is unemployable, meaning that she lacks either the skills or the personal characteristics which would help her keep a job? Or is it because there are no jobs available in the community, or jobs which don’t pay enough to sustain her family? Or is it because nobody will hire her because of racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual discrimination?
It will not longer suffice to repeat the tired maxim, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Because it depends on who owns the lake!
To do justice means to look past immediate circumstances to the reality beyond. What is the whole context? Who are the players in a given situation? Why is hunger allowed in this place? Who has more than enough?
One must always be asking the question, “Who benefits from this situation? Who has the most power, and who has the least?”
Why are people hungry in your context then? What forces have created a situation where people go without food regularly?
I have been surprised lately to discover that child hunger has reached enormous proportions in Texas. According to No Kid Hungry, 27.1% of children in Texas live in households which struggle to put enough food on the table — that’s 1.8 million kids! As a result of statistics like this, churches and nonprofit groups have rushed to provide school breakfasts and lunches, as well as summer feeding programs.
But again, the question must be asked: how does this continue to happen? How is justice done to alleviate hunger once and for all?
PRAYER: God, nobody should ever have to go to bed without eating. It is a scandal that there is so much food in our country which is thrown away on a regular basis, while millions of children are hungry. We don’t know what to do about this problem except to feed those whom we know are hungry. Help us to see a way forward in justice. Amen.
JUSTICE CHALLENGE: Make a donation to No Kid Hungry, nokidhungry.org, then visit their Best Practices webpage to learn more about their policy recommendations and strategies for defeating child hunger in the long-run.