I think this article from the CEO of Panera Bread is an important article to read. After I talked about the SNAP program in a recent blog I received some “anonymous” critique by mail (which I shredded with all the other “anonymous” input I receive). Lots of people seem to spend a lot of anxiety on how hungry people might waste assistance (mostly people who have plenty to eat, I note, like me). This article may help bring home the point that as long as one person is hungry in this world, we are all starving to death in some way (to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr.) Further, I always assume that when I stand before my Lord on judgment day, whatever that may involve, I will want to be guilty of giving too much to people who may not have deserved it than to be guilty of seeing the hungry “and giving nothing to eat.” (Matthew 25). Just what I’m thinking today.
So, I was thinking as I read about the fact that too many kids in our country don’t have enough to eat; as I noted that we have used up pretty much all the money we had for assisting the poor already this year; as I learned about cuts to the SNAP program; as I read the advice from one pastor that we should not talk about the plight of the poor because it is too political, that God must spend a lot of time weeping. In an age where we seem very concerned about rights: marriage rights, gun rights, freedom of speech, etc., we don’t seem to spend much time thinking about what Jimmy Carter (among others) called the two most basic human rights: to live in peace and have enough to eat. I was also thinking that life would be easier if I just kept my thoughts to myself…. but, there is this call I received, and vows I took. So, here’s my thinking today.
Whether we agree with the position of the prophets and Jesus on the poor or not, it is clear that God seems to, on the one hand have infinite concern for the widows, orphans, those aliens in the land who have nothing, the poor, the people who live on the fringes and on the other, gets very impatient with those who have means and don’t take care of the poor. The prophet Amos says in this week’s lesson “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…” (Amos 8:4) Is the warning of God’s anger for us? Read through this article from Sojourners about the poor and the SNAP program: Just Picking On the Poor: The Facts and the Faces of Cutting SNAP – Jim Wallis | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.
Now, I know that there are concerns that some programs for the poor create dependency and keep people from work. I support every effort made to find long-term solutions to problems and to help people become the people God calls them to be — which biblically speaking, includes meaningful work. But, as one who meets the people who come in our door desperately searching for help, very few are the “lazy reprobates” everyone seems to fear. They are quite the opposite, in fact.
I also know that government excess is a problem and that “the government” is everyone’s favorite bad guy (even though in a Democracy, the enemy is us). But we can’t be a people who allow the “pain” of fiscal responsibility trickle down so the poor pay the freight.
It comes down to compassion and love, for me. If my God cares about the poor; if my God died to save me as a poor brutalized human; if I am called to love God AND my neighbor (read “humanity” ala the Good Samaritan) then caring for, supporting and giving voice to the poor is a calling for all who call upon the name of Jesus. That’s just what I was thinking today.
Pax Christi, Tim