Feeding those in Need
The Christmas season is a time our hearts are ‘tuning in’ to God. We see those in need and have compassion, or at least that’s what we hope happens. Sometimes we see beggars on the street and our hearts turn cold, thinking the beggars don’t deserve our compassion. Thankfully there are extra opportunities to help others during the Christmas season. Around just about every corner is a Salvation Army volunteer collecting spare change for the poor.
According to the US Hunger website, one in four people suffer what is now referred to as food insecurity. It doesn’t mean they have no food. It means they are not sure where their next meal will come from. Sometimes that means they depend upon soup kitchens. Sometimes it means they work only ‘day jobs’ and might not eat a proper meal every day. As Christians we must always fight to cure the ‘hunger problem’ in our society. Christ did command us to feed the hungry, after all.
I acknowledge it isn’t always a simple matter of giving someone food to eat. If you’re like me, you are approached by many who refuse food. Instead, they demand only cash. I don’t give cash, ever. I am blessed that our host parish operates a weekly soup kitchen in cooperation with other churches in our city. Through the consortium those in need can eat every day, but still there are those who demand cash.
Brethren, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.2nd Thessalonians 3.6-18
In today’s reading from Saint Paul, we hear his famous exhortation about work, “If anyone will not work, let him not eat.” It is clear Saint Paul considered it wrong to ‘sit and beg’ if someone was able to work. Here, Saint Paul isn’t speaking out against the poor, but against laziness. Anyone who can work, should work.
The most successful feeding programs are those that assist those in need to ‘get back on their feet’ so they don’t need more assistance. The consortium our host parish is a member of, has a location that includes a place for homeless to wash clothes and shower, receive mail, and even look for work. I know of many outreach centers that focus on getting people ‘back on their feet’ while they offer a hot meal. As part of your Nativity Fast this year, try to find a ministry that focuses on Saint Paul’s advice. Don’t just feed, give those in need a chance to feed themselves.