Do you remember your elementary school cafeteria? If the answer is no, you are probably not alone. Many of us forget small details about our distant past, and a school cafeteria certainly isn’t anything special to remember.
For me, however, the memory of my elementary school cafeteria is burned into my mind. I remember walking into the cafeteria to eat lunch with all of my friends, opening up my little lunch bag, and pulling out my solitary sandwich. I remember looking around at my friends, most of whom had lunch boxes full of snacks and candies and chocolate milk, and wondering why my sandwich came solo. Compared to the others, my lunch was thin and scarce. And while I could always make it through on just a small sandwich, I remember noticing the obvious difference between my lunch and everyone else’s.
While my case of food insecurity was minor, the point is that food insecurity is not always easy to identify. The San Diego Hunger Coalition defines food insecurity as the inability to provide three nutritious meals per day to themselves or their families, but food insecurity comes in all shapes and sizes and can be easily overlooked. For many people, food insecurity is far more devastating than having a small lunch. For some, it means skipping full meals and being incredibly malnourished. If there was ever a time to stop overlooking food insecurity and to stare it directly in the face, the time is now.
The numbers really are staggering. In my current home city of San Diego, for example, an estimated 905,000 people (1 in 4) experience food insecurity, and many of these are children. According to the USDA, more than 34 million people in the United States — including 9 million children — are food insecure.
Nearly three years after the start of the pandemic, we are facing inflation rates and poverty rates that should be of major concern to Christians. And when I say concern, I don’t mean we should be worried. I mean that we should take notice and be moved by compassion.
I’m not writing this article to evoke your emotions or manipulate anyone to take action. I’m writing it because the Bible is explicitly clear that being generous to those less fortunate is central to the Christian faith. In order for Christians to walk in righteousness and live out justice, we have to give attention to the hungry, the thirsty, and those without shelter. This is central to the Gospel, central to Jesus’ ministry, and there simply is no Christianity without it!
The book of Proverbs also has a lot to say about the relationship between righteousness and giving to the poor. In Proverbs 19:17, for example, we are told that we are lending to the Lord when we help the poor. The passage goes on to say that God Himself will repay us! Proverbs 29:17 tells us that “the righteous consider the cause of the poor.” Finally, Proverbs 29:7 expresses that whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
I know the word “curse” can sound intense, but here is the main point: As God’s children, we are called to walk in righteousness and justice by serving the poor and the marginalized. A sin of passivity (a.k.a. not doing what God has called us to do) is every bit as offensive to God as a sin of activity (willfully doing what God has asked us not to do.) If we are serious about this whole Christianity thing, we have to show it with our lives.
That is why I am so grateful for the women and men who lead food distribution ministries at their churches throughout the world. At Rock Church, we call our food distribution ministry Provisions, and it is incredible to see hundreds of families served each week throughout the entire year — not just during the holidays! The Provisions ministry at Rock Church stands up to food insecurity with the tangible love of Jesus, and it is no competition!
Rock Church also works to serve those in need through our annual Toys for Joy event which is coming up on December 10th this year. This is our 26th year of providing free toys and bags of groceries to meet the needs of the community. Last year, we were able to serve over 223,962 people in San Diego, and we are believing for even more blessed families this year!
I know that hunger probably is not the first word that comes to mind when you think about the holiday season, but for thousands of families in your own home city hunger and food insecurity are ongoing realities that shadow their daily lives and spill over into the Christmas season.
As we approach Christmas, I want to encourage you to walk in righteousness and justice by doing something to help those less fortunate. Be intentional. Give to a food distribution ministry. Bring your family along to serve at a food bank. However, you decide to serve your neighbors this holiday season, remember that whatever you do to serve those in need, you are doing it unto Jesus himself (Matthew 25:40).
Food insecurity may be a looming threat at the moment, but there is no way it can stand up to a united Church who knows its role in the world. We are called to make a difference, friends, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can see our cities look more like Heaven!
Miles McPherson is the Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He is also a motivational speaker and author. McPherson's latest book “The Third Option” speaks out about the pervasive racial divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.