Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more preemptory urgent matter, than the command of giving to the poor.” Jonathan Edwards, The Duty of Charity to the Poor.
I have been reading a book called Nothing to Envy which is about ordinary lives in North Korea written by Barbara Demick. I just finished a chapter that talks about starvation in North Korea and what ordinary working North Koreans were forced to do to survive. It is eye-opening, and certainly makes me realize that my foregoing oatmeal-raisin cookies for Lent is hardly a sacrifice.
We like to think that hunger and poverty is not a problem in the United States, but that is not reality, not even close. I won’t bore you with statistics. I like to think that my poor excuse of a lenten sacrifice is a reminder of a much higher duty that I and all of us have to the poor. Story after story in the New Testament is about Jesus’s concern for the poor and victims of injustice. He pushed the boundaries of his society, stretching all who would listen to embrace the poor and marginalized.
When we think of Lent and our discipline we need to think bigger than oatmeal raisin cookies. Bishop Curry reminded us recently when he said, “This is a movement commissioned and commanded by God to transform this world from the nightmare we’ve too often made it, and into the dream that God intended all along.”
When I read about life in North Korea for the ordinary, the word nightmare immediately comes to mind. Sadly, I suspect there are millions of lives in the United States that can be described as a nightmare as well.
The hungry, the poor, the oppressed have always been the concern of God, shouldn’t they be ours as well?