By Jean Blish Siers *
Isaiah 58:6-7: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bands of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, when the Christian community begins forty days of fasting, repentance, and reflection as we make the spiritual journey to Easter. So often it’s easy to feel like we just don’t have enough: income, house, vacation time. We don’t have enough stuff, quite frankly. Because we see others with more. It’s our human condition that we so easily see those few people who have more but not our many, many neighbors who have less.
Isaiah, in these very moving verses, says to the people in the post-Exile community, “Empty religious practices mean nothing. We are called upon to be a people of action and justice.” And so it is for us, particularly at Lent. Giving up chocolate or a trip to McDonald’s might make us feel better about ourselves for forty days, but does it really bring us closer to God or to the neighbors we are called to serve? Does it change us?
The average American (which means most of us!) throws out $529 worth of food each year according to the Nationals Resource Defense Council. As a country, we spend more than $117 billion on fast food, and 1% of our total income on alcohol. For those who regularly buy coffee at a Starbucks or other venue, they can say goodbye to $1,092 annually.
Change most often comes in small steps. This Lent, if you give up, give back. Spend Lent eating more simply and remembering those who eat simply every day because they have no choice. If you go without fast food or meat or chocolate or alcohol, give the money you would have spent to a hunger ministry. Society of St. Andrew, for instance, can deliver a serving of fresh produce for a little over two cents. A $5 fast food lunch would translate into 208 servings of fruits or vegetables. Share your bread with the hungry and find a more substantial feast at God’s table.
* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator, and a current contributor to this News & Events blog.