This week, our local food bank put out a message that they are in “urgent need” of food for the food pantry. I’m sure you’ve seen it before in your community. Certain times of the year are great for people giving food and volunteering, but then the warmer weather comes, people are still hungry and we forget about them. Many times, when a request for food donations is made, this passage comes with it:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40, The Message)
Maybe you’ve read it before. It’s what we often use to tell people that they need to give to the ministries that do these things. Give food. Help build the shelter. Donate school uniforms. Send prison missionaries.
But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond the food. Jesus is the one talking in the passage above. How did people feed Jesus? They invited him to sit around their table. Table fellowship is exemplified over and over and over in the Gospels. Jesus and the disciples gathered around the table and shared a meal with all kinds of people. Their friends, tax collectors, children, sinners.
Feeding the hungry goes beyond the food. Yes, donating food/money to the local food pantry is important. Please do, but also consider how you can go beyond the food. Consider how we might share around the table with those who are food insecure. Instead of just handing the drive-thru bag to the person on the corner with the cardboard sign, how about parking, walking over, and inviting him/her to join you inside for a meal as your guest? Instead of just dropping off a bag of groceries to that neighbor anonymously, what about inviting that family over for dinner once a week and sending the plentiful leftovers home with them? Instead of just giving a box of food to the pantry, what about giving time to help distribute the food, serve a meal, or sit and have conversation while eating with the guests at the shelter?
That whole “you did it to me” thing goes beyond the food. It goes to relationship. If giving food to the hungry means that we gave food to Jesus, then perhaps being in fellowship around the table means that we’ve actually been in fellowship with Jesus.
Think about that one.
Hanging out with the overlooked and ignored might just mean we’ve hung out with Jesus.
It’s time to go beyond the food.