Ending hunger by 2030 is the goal that shines ahead of us on the horizon, but the hope for it springs from the deepest parts of ourselves. The Bible is a guide for my life as a Christian, a life of sharing the grace of Jesus Christ and carrying out God’s justice. The goal of ending hunger that we work toward at Bread for the World is rooted in Scripture, and it is informed by distinct themes found throughout the Bible that embody our values as an organization and my own values as a pastor. The following are five biblically informed reasons to advocate for a world free from hunger and poverty:
1. We should love God, and we should love God’s people. The heart of God’s guide for our lives lies in the commandments, and the two greatest of these are contained in both the Old Testament and in the Gospels. The most important call that we have as Christians is to love God with everything that we have. God loves us with a love “that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19), and we are to love God with all of our beings as well. In carrying out that commandment, we also address the second one, the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:31; Luke 6:27-31). But a neighbor does not have to live near us, look like us, talk like us, nor believe like us for us to love them. An especially important calling that we have is to love and serve those who are in need (Luke 10:25-37: the parable of the Good Samaritan). We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), and since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7). Therefore, as Christians, we have a responsibility to respect the dignity of every human life, and hunger and poverty are direct threats to the lives of so many of our neighbors.
2. Each one of us is made in the image and in the love of God, a truth that is revealed to us in the very beginning of the Bible (Genesis 1:26). With the second covenant, God shows His willingness to be brought to our level; He is manifested in human form through the person of Jesus. In doing so, God cemented the divine dignity that each one of us carries within. In his own time, Jesus recognized that dignity when he encountered the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-30), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2-5), and the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:20-22). If Jesus, in all of his humanity, could treat people with dignity and respect without regard to race, gender, and class, we certainly can too, and our advocacy is one way in which we make this effort.
3. The poor and hungry who need and deserve our voices today represent the same people that the Lord championed in his own time (Psalm 146:5-9; Psalm 72; Proverbs 22). We can see throughout the Old Testament, from Exodus to Isaiah, that God is especially concerned with the well-being of the most vulnerable among us. It’s from Isaiah that we know of the great prophesy of good news for poor people. Jesus advocated for release of the oppressed (Isaiah 61:1-2; Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 4:18-21). Through advocacy, we are able to champion the poor and vulnerable and are able to work for a world in which everyone is freed from the oppression of hunger and discrimination.
4. God provides out of His abundance. In the very beginning of the Bible we learn that everything is a gift from God (Genesis 1-2). Through manna from Heaven for the Israelites (Exodus 16), Jesus’s gift of fish for 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13- 21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14), and wine for the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11), God makes it clear all throughout the Bible that He will provide for all people. We can place our trust in this guarantee of provision, and advocacy gives us an opportunity to be agents of God’s unending generosity.
5. God loves justice and requires us to carry it out (Isaiah 61:8; Psalm 99:4; Psalm 33:5). In our own societies, the institutions and structures that govern us should be conducive to the sharing of God’s generous provision. In Deuteronomy, we are told: “… do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). In Exodus 16:13-19, God similarly instructs the Israelites to be just in the portions of manna that He provided them so that there may be enough for all. In his day, Jesus spoke of the importance of justice as an element of faithfulness: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). Justice is a constant theme throughout the Scriptures, and in all of its manifestations, it’s clear that what God considers the greatest objective of justice is the guarantee of human dignity.
In our work, we seek to ensure that the dignity of mothers, children, men, women, the elderly, and the young is respected. God has provided us with a world of plenty, making the injustice of hunger so much more egregious. If we hope to end hunger by 2030, we need a fundamental shift in our national priorities by 2017. That shift has to come through our communications with our representatives in government (Congress) and with our votes. Advocacy allows us to bring the world into a closer communion with God, aligning it with the beautiful visions set forth in the Bible.
David Beckmann will be giving the opening keynote address for the Global Agriculture Summit, focusing on the biblical call to flourishing for all. World Food Prize laureate David Beckmann is one of the foremost U.S. advocates for hungry and poor people.
The Global Agriculture Summit on March 3-4, 2016, will host a faith-driven dialogue on agriculture that is designed to create connections and relationships locally and globally that lead to coordinated, market-based, community-building actions. Register today and plan to attend!