Sunday we continued our study on having an attitude change by learning to see things from the perspective of Jesus’ Beatitudes. This week we focused specifically on hunger. From Matthew 5: Blessed are you when you hunger and thirst after righteousness; for you will be filled; and from Mark 6: Blessed are the hungry, for they shall be filled.
Jesus said we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. But we don’t hunger for much of anything. Sure, we get cravings. And most of the time we can fulfill those cravings in a matter of minutes or hours. I’m not even talking about just physical hunger; I’m talking about the things we crave and seek after in our life. We are certainly filled.
So since we are filled, do we bless those who are not filled? Those who are hungry or those who live in abject poverty?
On January 20 of 1961, President John F. Kennedy made his inaugural speech, pointing to the “power to abolish all forms of human poverty.” What a promising time! In the 50 years since, we have not come very far in “abolishing poverty.” We haven’t even come to a time when everyone who is hungry can be filled. What would it take to feed the world’s hungry or abolish poverty?
The worlds 8 wealthiest men have a combined net worth of $426,000,000,000. 1/7 of the their income ($60,000,000,000) would feed every hungry person in the world! Don’t feel so smug though, $60 billion is also just about 3 billion less than we spend on pet food in the United States annually.
In a newly published report, Oxfam reported, “Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days. Billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762bn in 12 months. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all wealth created in the last year went to the top 1%, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all” (citation here; emphasis added).
So when we wonder why the hungry have not yet been filled, we must look to our own inaction. For one thing, it’s pretty overwhelming. The World Food Program states “In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 815 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Even more – one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition.” Maybe you, like me, feel like that number is so great I cannot possibly do anything about it.
But I’m reminded that Mother Teresa said “If you can’t feed 100 people, just feed one.” Sage guidance from a woman who spent her life taking care of one person at a time. She said, “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one.”
But in order to see the hunger of even one person at a time you need to get out of yourself. This beatitude calls for our mindset to be not so much focused on our own hunger, but to hunger for righteousness. Righteousness means that your hunger should be deep for every other human at least as much as it is for yourself. That was the crux of Jesus’ teaching. Personal righteousness was important — “keeping oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). But more to the point, as we also read in James, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15-16).
We will be blessed when we learn to hunger for our brothers’ and sisters’ needs. We will be blessed when we learn to look beyond our own cravings and desires and begin to tune into our neighbor’s needs. We were blessed this Sunday to have a new friend worship with us who learned about us through our food pantry. He came, he worshiped with us, ate a delicious lunch from our pot-luck smorgasborg, and then even left with a backpack full of nutritious food so he could make it through the week. It wasn’t him who was as blessed so much as we, the CEH family, was blessed to have him in our midst.
Your (be)Attitude change for this coming week is to open your hearts to the hunger of others around you. May you be blessed in the trying. You are sharing the love of Jesus through God by attending to the hunger of others. Ghandi suggested, “There are people so hungry in the world, God is only visible to them in a loaf of bread.” So get out there and try and find out what the other’s “Bread” is.