Will Gluttons Feed the Starving?

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Will Gluttons Feed the Starving?

This is the indelicate way I’ve come to think about the current budget crisis on display almost everywhere we look, with the obvious need to cut expenses and otherwise stop spending money we do not have.  Clearly, it is not wise to spend what one does not have.  In most cases it is, in fact, criminal.  But people in power often imagine themselves exceptions to the rule (this strikes me as a decent definition of injustice, come to think of it, but that’s another blog).

So almost everyone agrees we’ve got to stop spending or somehow acquire more to spend.  The latter turns most stomachs.  Thus, the former offers the more palatable and doable option.  We must decide not to spend a lot of money we and our systems are currently spending.

So what should we stop spending?  That’s the question.  Before addressing this more directly I will digress, but hopefully in a way germane.

I am certain that if someone in my neighborhood were starving, I would help.  I would do whatever I could to avert disaster for my neighbors.  No need to debate the issues or evaluate the starving—just the urgent need to care for people motivates.  I would make good on the call to love my neighbor.  For sure, this glutton (with way more than enough food to eat) would help the starving.

 If I knew that a sex-slave-ring were operating in my town I would do whatever to expose the scourge and marshal resources to shut it down.  No need to think long about it, just the urgent need compels me to rescue such slaves.  For sure, this glutton (with way more opportunities to feed my basic human needs) would help those so sorely deprived.

If I knew that some children on my street had no opportunity to get an education, that they’d never learn to read, wouldn’t come close to graduating from High School, and therefore couldn’t even dream of college, I would want to help and would place their need at the top of community must-address items.  For sure, this glutton (having enjoyed more opportunities to learn than I can count, many of them apart from anything I myself did) would be eager to create and share opportunity.

If my local municipality were financially strapped (which it is) I would surely abhor any attempt to fix our budget on the backs of the starving, enslaved, and educationally underserved.  In fact, the very possibility of doing so would strike me as obscene.  For sure, this glutton (whose surplus feels so good that he imagines everyone else feels it too) would want to supply those profoundly lacking.

In all these ways, I am sure this glutton would be desperate to feed the “starving.”

So, on a national and global scale now, where or what should we stop spending, we who are relatively “gluttonous” so that the “starving” might have at least some crumbs from our table—or better yet, a seat at our table?  I have no expertise from which to answer this question.  But I have some questions that may point the way forward.

Where does the bulk of our spending go?  Isn’t it on defending ourselves?  If so, then wouldn’t it make sense to swing the budget axe proportionately there more of the time?  But, if we did this, wouldn’t we compromise our security and safety?  Well, would we?  Really and truly?  If, to protect ourselves, we spend more for defense than the next 20 big-spending countries in the world combined, is it all necessary?  Aren’t we really being like gluttons, eager to protect our stuffed pantries when many, both near and far, have never had enough to make a pantry necessary?  Couldn’t we examine—ruthlessly examine—the systems that protect and defend us for ineffectiveness and waste?  Couldn’t we require the advocates and keepers of those systems to be creative and find ways either to live and protect with less cost or in different ways to get the job done without truly compromising anything?  And if they can’t, might there be some others who would perhaps rise to such a challenge?  I mean, why not require all parties who receive from our gluttonous bounty to be creative and innovative and come up with new ways to stop bad guys and protect good guys?  Why should we only require this of the starving or those who want to help them?

If it’s true that Corporate America (which is now more often Corporate Multi-national) gets seconds and thirds from the gluttonous smorgasbord before the starving have firsts, is this right?  And, if we argue that when the gluttonous are full and satisfied, the starving will be able to clean up after them—crumbs will inevitably fall tumbling and trickling down—well, does it really?  At some point shouldn’t we require the before and after pictures of the former starving to prove it?   And, if we can’t prove it, shouldn’t we stop making the argument?

The question remains, will the gluttons feed the starving?  Will we ask or demand that our leaders adjust budgets and downsize according to where the bulk or fat is?  Shouldn’t we demand that government enter a “Biggest Loser” contest, pull out all the stops, and WIN—for the sake of the starving?

And how should followers of the “Bread of Life,” who loves the starving and calls us to live by his love, answer such questions?

Comments 11

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    Thanks, Bishop Kendall, for being a voice where lots of people are reading! We agree with what you’re saying one hundred percent! God help us as a church and as a nation. We pray for our bishops every day and appreciate all you do!

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    The Government must learn to live within its means. It is immoral to borrow and expect our children to pay back the money. Certainly cuts should include the military. But Biblically, we are to “render to Ceasar what is Ceasars” and to “God what is Gods”. The responsibility to feed the poor is ours as Christians, and I find no Scriptural support for us to pass that responsibility off to the government. We Christians started hospitals, schools, and social agencies of every sort. Our great failure is passing these off to the government who then kicked us out along with our message. Shame on us. These are our Christian responsibilities.

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    Bishop Kendall,
    Thank you for your words. This has been on my mind before I even read your post.
    In Illinois, the budget proposed for 2012 is literally risking the health and lives of persons with mental and physical disabilities.
    Someone recently told me that state legislatures receive paid health insurance for themselves and family members for as long as they are living…even if the person only serves a two year term and does a poor job.
    I’ve been wondering about the role of the church in social justice issues. I’ve listened to the explaination of a distinction between a ministerial alliance and a collaboration of congregations that work on social justice issues. I find myself wondering why more churches aren’t proactive with matters that threaten the “least of these.”
    Being a little younger than you 🙂 🙂 🙂 I look back at the civil rights movement and wonder how people in our country were so ignorant. The church, especially African-American congregations, played a critical and very public role in that era, but today I am wondering about the role the church will play in advocating on behalf of persons living with disabilities. What will generations that follow mine think? More importantly, how do we stand before Almighty God?
    Thank you again for your words.

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    Thank you Bishop for being a prophetic voice to the Church and to the nation. I would agree that the “first responders” to the crushing poverty of so many really ought to be the Church. But the arguement becomes less convincing when our local church budgets mirror the government in heavily weighting our “limited funds” toward self-preservation, edification, and protection of our properties. If we truly believe that it is our job after all, what are we waiting for?

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    There is no question that some ‘haves’ are getting more than their fair share, a.k.a. corporate welfare. And as a society, North Americans are gluttonous beyond measure.
    You appear to me, however, to be in the ‘glass half full’ camp, which feels the pie is stagnant & must be divvied a certain way. I am not willing to side with ‘command economy’ types, particularly in guvamint, who espouse taking from those who produce & have in order to more grow the gross behemoth state, while they supposedly give to those who often make less & have even less.
    It is more appropriate for the guv to let a free people decide for themselves how and how much to give, thereby empowering more of the people, including the ‘have nots,’ to produce and to give, each according to their ability. This is the birthright of a free people.
    P.S. Once guvamint decided to enter the charity arena a hundred or so years ago, the very Church you serve became less empowered to function properly, giving up our place to bumbling bureaucrats! And in the ensuing fattening of America, that Church has lost its voice, mostly failing to challenge those very fat cats who so desperately need to diet. A Christian conundrum, yes.
    The glass is actually half full, and quite capable of running over, if Washington and most local governments would re-acquire a more legitimate size AND the Church reclaimed its proper prophetic voice in the world!

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    Hi Ivan,
    I think we are much more in agreement than not.
    In viewing the government that must–I mean it they must–deal with the huge fiscal realities that call for less spending, I am indeed a glass half empty type, since I see little if any resolve to make hard calls, except those that affect the weakest members of our society, the poor and without power. I am half empty indeed, perhaps even more empty at that point–where are the civil servants who will evaluate the areas of government that are most funded with the same rigor as other areas?
    I am glass half full, however, when I think of the church’s potential to offer prophetic corrective and challenge, to encourage its members to advocate and vote for fiscal responsibility and so forth. those who claim allegiance to Jesus are huge proportionately in our nation. what if they called for decisions about budgetary matters that reflect the heart of Jesus. i am half-full, perhaps two thirds full on that!
    then, also, just a word about the church’s abdication of responsibiity to care for the poor. No argument from me there. That it happened is certain and that we are languishing in some ways as a result I am also certain. but it would be a grave error in a democracy like ours simply to think that the church needs to take back responsibility to the poor and that this is the only response we have to make. We are called to be light and salt; we are called to remind the holders of power that they are accountable; and some of us are called to enter into those arenas of governance and economic spheres to advocate for and promote public policy that is responsible and righteousness by the standards of Jesus’ kingdom. I am not talking here about redistributing the wealth, but the just and Jesus-way of using revenue and of making hard decisions about what we need to do and need to stop doing. Surely Jesus and his way can inform our leaders, even if they do not want to follow him. At least, we must be sure they have clear understandings of how we believe Jesus would shape public policy to more nearly conform to his kingdom.
    Let’s pray and work together so the church will be more the church Jesus envisions and our government will do what is best for all, but especially for those who have no voice or influence (which includes our children and grandchildren some of whom are yet to be born!).

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    Ezekial 16:48 “Sodom and its nearby villages . . . were arrogant and spolt; they had everything they needed and still refused to help the poor and needy. They thought they were better than anyone else”.
    Matthew says it will be better for Sodom in the day of judgment . In Matthew 25 we are told that the NATIONS will be judged and individuals separated on the basis of whether they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome aliens, look after the sick, and visit those in prison, not because they are deemed as deserving (we are clearly told to judge not) , but because they are in need. Israel was rescued from slavery and oppression in Egypt and told repeatedly and in the strongest terms that their national status was NOT to be elitist, but to be representative of mercy. Jesus gave the same mandate to the church.
    Got that Ellie May?

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    Ode to Budget Cuts
    written by Lynn Jarman
    Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep
    And if it’s in your master plan, I pray that you would help my friends
    For we are being now advised, that charity is not so wise
    That governments are not the ones, that should assist their fallen sons
    For those whose birth was not well planned, or for the sole who cannot stand
    For children born to poverty, for old and young struggling to breath,
    For those who eat just once a day, and those with nowhere safe to stay
    For seniors who have lost their will, who no longer can afford their pills
    We ask that you would bless all these, and show them mercy if you please
    And touch the hearts of those who plan, who try to balance budgets grand
    Remind them of the truth behind, your acceptance of all kinds
    That if they claim to follow you, that certain things must still ring true
    That those who’ve lost the will to hope
    Those down and out, those high on dope
    For those who cannot pay their bills, and feel the touch of winters chill
    For those who live with violence’s pain, and those who struggle to be sane
    That all these mentioned up above are still included in God’s love
    And all of us whose blessings pour, who feed our children and keep them warm
    Who sit in pews on Sunday morn, but fail to head their brother’s thorn
    Will one day face the eyes of God, and watch all those who were down trod
    As they parade before I Am, and he decides who’s saved or damned
    So just remember as we speak, of who is worthy to receive
    That budgets cut on broken men, is as egregious as any sin

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