what really matters

What Really Matters?

In Matthew 22, we find this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees:

34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

While most of us in the church are very familiar with this passage, our application of it can vary wildly—especially the part about loving your neighbor as yourself. Certainly, there is plenty of latitude here for a broad range of applications; however, I fear the diversity of application has less to do with theological interpretation than it does our desire to make it fit our personal conveniences.

To love someone like Jesus is talking about requires action, and not a passive when it’s convenient for me kind of action, but a relentless till it hurts kind of action. It is one thing to wax eloquently about our convictions on Sunday morning, but an entirely different thing to not only be inconvenienced by them, but actually sacrifice something on their behalf.

We serve a God who sacrificed everything. Who loved us so much, He sent His son to die. If our love costs us only marginally, how deeply can it possibly run?

Hunger isn’t What You’ve Been Told it is Part 2

salt and light ministries Urbana, IL

hungry          adjective / hun·gry / ˈhəŋ-grē

  1. a: feeling an uneasy or painful sensation from lack of food: feeling hunger (merriam-webster.com)

In Part 1 I revealed the misleading marketing used by those benefiting from the
hunger mythology, and how that marketing has influenced misperceptions of the realities of hunger in the U.S. These misperceptions have prevented the public from
1) understanding the real problem our communities are facing, and therefore, 2) fairly evaluating the efficacy of the programs we have employed to address it.

At a minimum, this misleading marketing is a serious breach of the public’s trust,
and more seriously, it is a disservice to the individuals who struggle to meet this basic need.

In the ten years Salt & Light operated as a typical food pantry what I came to realize was the majority of individuals standing in our food pantry line were not facing crisis situations requiring emergency relief. Instead, they were more often in a state of chronic need—which required a more developmental solution. Something else I learned through my own experiences was that if you intervene in a chronic situation with an emergency intervention (giving stuff) you develop dependency and create entitlement. Period. More importantly, one-way giving models to address chronic need diminish and disempower the very people they are trying to help.

So what are we to do?

Many people are struggling to meet their basic needs. Many people do need support, sometimes significantly, if they are to affect lasting change in their lives. The question isn’t whether or not people need help; the question is, “What is the best way to help?”

The reality of poverty is that it is very complex. For every family we encounter at
Salt & Light there are multiple factors contributing to their material poverty. From systemic injustices to personal choices, no two situations are exactly alike, so no one solution is going to “fix” it. Therein lies the problem. Not only are the programs we have employed to address poverty generally unhealthy, they do not allow for individualizing our response. An emergency room where every patient was treated as though they suffered from the same ailment would be unfathomable, yet that is exactly how we have approached poverty alleviation—and the results have been devastating.

Hunger isn’t What You’ve Been Told it is: Part 1

Salt and Light Ministries Champaign, IL

hungry          adjective / hun·gry / ˈhəŋ-grē

  1. a: feeling an uneasy or painful sensation from lack of food: feeling hunger (merriam-webster.com)

You have probably seen countless commercials, billboards, and advertisements lamenting the number of people suffering from hunger in the U.S., and if you’re like me you have felt some degree of shock, outrage and responsibility to do something about it.

The problem is, the messaging simply isn’t true.

Before you read any more I want you to picture all of the images that come to mind as a result of the advertisements and “public service” announcements you see and hear regarding hunger in the U.S. At the end of this article I want you to compare these marketing-induced images with the realities of the majority of those standing in our food pantry lines. When you have done this, you can decide for yourself whether we are being misled.