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In our last article, we focused on the issue of food insecurity. We looked at the definitions and a few statistics about this problem. We also provided examples of how Project-44 has historically responded to the needs of those suffering from temporary and chronic food insecurity. In this article, we take a closer look at how the Bible has called each of us to feed those who hunger.
What Scripture Teaches Us
As a faith-based organization, Project-44 relies on Scripture to help guide us toward a better understanding of being in relationship with God and with each other. When it comes to feeding the hungry, there is no shortage of passages that give us direct instruction on how to respond to those who hunger. Here are a few examples from the Old Testament:
9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.Leviticus 19:9-10 (NRSV)
The Book of Leviticus is known as the book of laws. According to Jewish tradition, there are 613 commandments (laws) contained in the Torah, which are the first five books of the Christian Bible. The Book of Leviticus contains a large number of that total. While some within the Christian faith might dismiss the book, and its many references to ceremonial laws, as irrelevant, many passages provide insight into how we should live a life that honors God.
The passage above is an instruction to farmers not to completely harvest their fields, so the poor and needy may glean what remains for themselves. You might call this a public assistance program for the ancient world. Grain left at the corners of the field and grapes left on the vine were available after the harvest. This law and the farmers’ compliance demonstrate that God cares for the poor and wants them to have opportunities. The instruction encouraged farmers to have a generous heart, giving the poor a way to provide for their own needs with work and dignity.
19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 22 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.Deuteronomy 24:19-22 (NRSV)
This passage from the Book of Deuteronomy – another book of the Torah – also instructs farmers to leave a portion of their harvest for the poor. All of those in need were allowed to gather from the fields. Similar to the passage in Leviticus, the instruction provides the poor with not only the food they need, but the opportunity to meet their own needs with dignity.
These two Old Testament passages lead us to make provisions for the poor while also allowing them to retain some level of dignity. Even though most of us are not farmers, the underlying message is clear and transcends the generations: we are to share out of our abundance. We mentioned in our previous article that everyone in the United States should have access to a consistent supply of healthy food. And many other organizations that provide food for those in need concur. We can and should apply these instructions to the present challenge of food insecurity by freely sharing what we have and reducing the waste we create.
Other Types of Hunger
The word “hunger” refers to an unmet need. Physical hunger – the kind that results from drastic food insecurity – is one of the most urgent and important needs a person has. Food is a basic need to sustain life. But there are other hungers that signal more complex needs. There is spiritual hunger when we feel deprived of a sense of purpose, passion, pleasure, or joy in our lives. There is hunger for relationships. When we are deprived of social contact, we crave personal interaction. Think of the pandemic when we were locked down in isolation. We are not solitary creatures, and a lack of human interaction can be as debilitating as hunger for food.
We turn back to the Old Testament and the Book of Psalms and read about the plight of the Israelites.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; 7 he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town. 8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.Psalm 107:4-9 (NRSV)
After being freed from slavery, they wandered the desert. Not only did they face physical hunger, but their spirit was broken. In that season of desperation they cried out to God and they were filled “with good things.” They were fed mind, body, and soul. This is the lesson of trusting God to provide all we hunger for.
Who Will Feed the Hungry?
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.Psalm 146:7 (NIV)
We are told throughout Scripture that God will feed the hungry. In the case of the Israelites, God had a direct role in providing food. Does that mean we should all sit back and wait for God to solve the problem of food insecurity? Absolutely not. Ultimately we all play a role in the solution.
God gives food to the hungry by providing for them through His creation. Throughout the generations, people have used their creative minds to combine the natural resources available with the agricultural and production techniques of the time to deliver the food needed to sustain life. Each person who has ever lived has been granted gifts and abilities that allow them to learn and solve problems in their own environments. And God has placed people in communities so they can mutually support one another.
All of these gifts are the means by which God feeds the hungry. When we read in the Psalm that God “gives food to the hungry,” we are reminded of the interconnected and generous ways that God provides for us.
Project-44’s Efforts to Feed the Hungry
We partner with a number of local churches to distribute food to those who are experiencing food insecurity. But we also believe it is not enough to just feed the belly. We are called to feed the soul. That’s why we also offer counseling services to those who are spiritually hungry. We encourage gathering together in worship and fellowship to feed the human desire to be in relationship with others. We are committed to using the gifts God has given us to feed anyone who is hungry – physically, spiritually, or otherwise.
Visit our Services page to see how we feed the hungry in our community. If you would like to make a financial contribution to support our efforts, visit our Donate page or use our Contact page to request more information.