We Are Hungry

Posted: December 23, 2009 in news
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Everybody is hungry.

Some are simple hungry, some twice hungry, some triple hungry — brain and heart and stomach simultaneously starving to death.   There are the physically hungry people and the psychologically needy and the spiritually hungry and the love hungry and the hate hungry too.

Our world is not cleanly divided up into rich and poor. It’s mixed up. There are poor people with rich people’s surfeit and rich people who are hungrier than poor people.

I’ve met homeless people who were profoundly selfish, self-centered and isolated, like some of the rich.  Some poor experience the poverty of pride, thinking inaccurately, “I am not like the greedy rich.” We are more alike than we will admit. Everybody tends toward looking down on someone.  In this way, being poor can make you more poor – relationally poor.  A poor person may be angry at everyone else, angry at the universe, angry at God or whatever might be god.  

And some people who are rich are so pathetically poor; they are the rich-poor. The Bank of America took 46 billion dollars in bail out money from the government in 2009. And it gave out 3.6 billion in bonuses to it’s Merrill Lynch executives. This is a form of emptiness, taking and giving lavish benefits while people are losing their homes. There is an unsatisfied hunger in evidence when we take too large a serving for ourselves from the community pot. Such grabbing betrays unmitigated hunger.

The hungry, empty rich? Many people would like to be this kind of empty. 

How does this emptiness make sense?

Personal wealth may be accompanied by and even contribute to all kinds of poverty: love poverty, good-sense poverty, spiritual poverty, moral poverty, relational poverty. If we prop ourselves up with bank accounts and houses and food and savings and retirements and accomplishments and reputation and insurances and neglect our inner persons, our sense of right and wrong in relating to others, some kind of relationship with something bigger than self, we can experience a radical, hidden form of soul thinness, of spiritual deprivation, of divine starvation.

Recently, I went to out to lunch.  I had delicious, gourmet fish tacos. I ate fast. Why? I ate alone. I hate to eat alone. A great meal is meant to be eaten with someone. A great meal is a relationship. A great meal is made to be shared.

But the raw and stunning truth of life is that not everyone shares in the meal, and furthermore, it is shocking who gets left out. Mary, the mother of Jesus, said about God, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” 

What a kick in the stomach! God sends the rich away empty.  How empty? Well, obviously empty of a relationship with God, if he sends them away, and empty of good relationship the poor who stay and eat. So is God prejudiced against the rich?

That can’t be right. Just because you are rich, doesn’t mean you can’t know God and receive from God. If God made everything, then everything we have is from God, so even the rich’s riches are from God and so rich and poor are similar in being dependent on a common source of wealth.   

A wise proverb says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” 

Godly people have been rich. Abraham was rich. Esther the, Jewish Queen, was rich. King David was rich. Solomon was rich. All knew God, were favored by God.

Jesus identified with the poor, but he too accepted moneyed people, tax collectors like his follower Matthew, business owners like Peter. But they did leave their businesses to follow him. And Jesus told one rich person to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor and to follow him. The obvious issue with this person was that his wealth would be a barrier to becoming God-rich and need would be part of a life of following God.  

So here is something a little problematic. If being hungry can bring you good things, then a lot of people are now up for good things, but they don’t seem to be getting the good things they need, and their poverty doesn’t seem to be uplifting. A billion people go to bed hungry each night. In the recession, as many as 200 million people are now unemployed worldwide.

50 million Americans live in food insecure households. Roughly 16 million people are unemployed in the United States. There have been over 200,000 home foreclosures in the United States since the recession began.  

He has filled the hungry with good things – but are all unemployed, homeless, hungry people filled? No, that isn’t true.

Hunger isn’t a virtue, it isn’t ennobling, and yet, it can open you to God. How? Hungry, you may realize, you need him. I met a man named William last week. He is HIV positive. William is homeless. He told me, “I could not have made it without God.” What did he mean? He meant he could not have made it without feeling God’s comfort, strength, provision of food, provision of love.

To receive from God, the rich and the poor must both be hungry for God. They must hunger to know God, to encounter God, to encounter Jesus as the bread of life.

They must admit their psychic poverty, admit their spiritual poverty, admit their weakness, and open both hands.

To be fed by God, we must all come to see that we are impoverished in some way. It is our choice, to recognize our poverty or not, admit our hunger, or not.

The spiritually fed, the emotionally healed, will be those who see they are poor and hungry, who suffer over their lack, no matter what they have physically, and who open their souls to God to fill them with good things – all the amazingly good that comes from a close relationship with him.

It’s complicated, but simple. We are all alike in one way. We are all hungry. And if we are triple filled, we will all be filled from one entrée – God.

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