What are your views of the food-stamp program and the proposed cuts to it?
“if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.” – Isaiah 58:10
“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” – Jesus, Matthew 25:35
Well – there it is.
My Book of Faith contains the Old and New Testaments, there’s not much getting around this one. In the first passage, the God of Israel speaks to his people through the prophet Isaiah. But Isaiah isn’t the only prophet who spoke about caring for the poor or hungry; so did Amos, Jeremiah, and Micah.
With regard to the second passage, which takes place during the week leading up to Good Friday, Jesus is in Jerusalem where he knows he will die. His disciples have been distressed about this; Jesus has tried to prepare them several times already. What kind of stuff would you do if you knew that you’d be dead by the end of the week?
Matthew tells us that soon after his arrival to Jerusalem, Jesus spends time in the Temple. He does a lot of teaching – using parables to explain the Kingdom of heaven. He fields questions concerning the paying of taxes, the resurrection, and the Greatest Commandment (love of God and neighbor). He speaks prophetically about the eschaton, or the End of Days. None of this is light stuff.
And as Jesus is teaching like a man on fire; the clock is ticking away. This is important information he’s sharing! It’s information he wants us to remember. And so he caps off his series of discourses with a cliffhanger: The Judgment of the Nations. The Son of Man will sit on his throne to judge all people – separating the sheep from the goats. And how will Jesus tell the difference between a sheep or a goat? Or the righteous from the unrighteous?
The righteous will have fed the hungry, given water to those who were thirsty, clothed the naked, taken care of the sick, and visited those in prison. The unrighteous goats don’t do any of that. Jesus’ message contains a clear Gospel imperative. “Look out for your neighbor. Don’t let them slip between the cracks.”
Houses of Faith have always been about the business of extending charity to those in need. It’s what we do – or should be doing. The question of whether the Government should be involved in feeding the hungry is a complicated one. In the New Testament, Jesus doesn’t mention anything about how the Roman government should be creating relief programs to feed the hungry. His directions seem more directed to individuals.
But – no matter what we believe about government food programs, the figures related to hunger in the US are startling. Here are some recent eye openers:
1. “Hunger affects more than 49 million Americans, 17 million of whom are children. That means about one in four kids in the US worries about not having enough food… More than 85 percent of food stamp recipients – children, the working poor, the disabled, the elderly – live below the poverty line.” – The Portland (Maine) Press Herald. (Stats from 2010.)
2. Over 70 percent of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits go to households with children.
3. In 2011, SNAP provided an estimated $51 billion in benefits to families with children, over half of which went to families with preschool-age children.
4. SNAP kept about 2 million children out of poverty in 2010
5. In 2011, SNAP kept 1.4 million children out of extreme poverty.
— Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
In addition, it stands to reason that hungry people have more health problems – which will increase their health care costs. Hungry children will fall behind developmentally and academically, creating issues that will last a lifetime.