There is a huge gap in our world between rich and poor, and many people go to bed hungry each night. That’s a political, economic, and social problem. And for Christians, it’s also a spiritual problem, for Scripture witnesses to God’s desire for economic equality. That’s the message of this sermon, the fifth in the series called “Jensi’s Story.”
After church, Jensi said to her great-aunt Elizabeth, “Did you hear the words from Isaiah today? They brought together some of the things we’ve been talking about lately, like light in the darkness and the role of humility in the life of faith. And they also mentioned something else I’ve wanted to talk with you about: feeding the hungry. That’s one of the things that the voice of Jesus said the child in my womb would focus on. I know, Aunt Elizabeth, that hunger ministry is important to you. When did that begin?”
Elizabeth said, “More than 50 years ago, when I was in college. I saw pictures of hungry children that have never left my mind. I determined then and there to support food pantries and hunger appeals.
“My commitment was intensified a few years later by our pastor. He had a unique way of encouraging support of our church wide hunger program. He was a hawk watcher, and he asked us to make a financial commitment for each migrating eagle he saw during the fall migration. Every Sunday morning, he would stand in church, and do this: ‘Okay, everybody, arms out. It’s time for eagle flaps. Here we go. How many eagles did Pastor see this week? Count it down with me. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Stop. That makes a total of 87 eagles this year. But what’s most important isn’t the eagles I see, but the gifts you make to the Hunger Appeal. Thank you for your generosity!’
“That pastor’s been gone from our congregation for many years now. But we caught the spirit, and continue to give generously to the Hunger Appeal.
“So the photographs and the pastor’ somewhat unusual method initiated my commitment to hunger ministries. But what really kept me going is Scripture. Because the social issue the Bible most often talks about is economic security for all people. For example, there’s these words from Leviticus, chapter 25: ‘Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.’
“Hey,” said Jensi, “those words are on the Liberty Bell. I didn’t know they were from the Bible.”
“Many people don’t,” said Elizabeth. “And many people take them to refer to political freedom. But in their Biblical setting, the words refer to economic freedom. God told the people of Israel to proclaim a Jubilee Year every half century. During Jubiliee, all people were to be set on the same financial footing, which in those day meant land was to be returned to the original family of ownership. And since the land had been divided equally when the Israelites first came to it, everyone would have the same amount.”
Jensi thought a moment, and then said, “Didn’t our Pastor tell us a story about that in his email devotions?”
“I think he did,” replied Elizabeth. Pulling out her cell phone, Jensi did a quick search of her emails. This is the story she found.
Moses led the people of Israel to Mt. Sinai. There they received the Torah: stories of God’s mercy, and God’s instruction on how to live. Moses would go to the top of the mountain, and God would talk to him. Then Moses would tell the Israelites everything that God had said. Moses taught the people how God wanted them to live with one another.
Among the people was a young girl named Yenna. Her mind was sharp; she enjoyed thinking, and she wondered about many things.
One day she was wondering, “What would happen if some of our people did not have enough to live on?” It made her sad to think that one day her friends might not have enough to eat, and that they would have no place to live. It bothered her so much that she went to see Moses.
“Moses,” she asked, “does God ever worry that the day may come when some of our people are hungry or without a home?”
Moses smiled at her, and said, “Ah, Yenna, what a good and godly heart you have! If all the Israelites had a heart like yours, my job would be so much easier.
“Yes, Yenna, God thinks about such things. God wants everyone to have what they need. Do you remember when we were traveling toward Mt. Sinai? We did not have enough food. That’s when God began to give us manna every day. Do you remember what I taught you about this manna?”
Yenna replied, “You told us that every morning the manna would appear, and we should gather what we needed that day. You warned us not to take more than was necessary, for the excess would only rot. And you said that God was not only giving us food, but was teaching us that everyone should have enough, and no one should have too much.”
Then Yenna stood still for a moment. Moses saw that she was thinking about something. Then Yenna said, “Will God always give us manna?”
Moses said, “No. When our people reach the promised land, the manna will stop. Instead, every family will be given land on which to grow food.”
Yenna said, “Farming is hard work. What if something goes wrong? What if someone in the family gets so sick that they can’t harvest the crop? Or what if fire or weather destroys the crop before it is harvested? What will they do for food then?”
“That could be a problem,” said Moses. “Sadly, in some cases, a family may have to sell their land, or perhaps become slaves to other people. Over the years, then, some folks would have too little, and some would have too much. But God has a plan to keep that from happening.
“It will work like this. Every fifty years, a special trumpet will sound. And a shout will go up, “It’s the Jubilee Year! Everyone is to return to the land their families first owned. Everyone who has become a slave is set free. In the Jubilee Year, liberty will be proclaimed throughout the land. It will be a time of great joy. For this is God’s way of making sure everyone has enough, and no one has too much.”
“Wow!” said Yenna. “That’s really good news.”
Then Yenna was quiet, and Moses saw her thinking. Finally he asked, “What are you thinking about?”
She said, “I’m coming up with a way to tell everyone this good news.”
Moses said, “How will you tell it?”
“Like this,” said Yenna.
“Enough for you, Enough for me, That’s why God has set us free.
“Food for you, Food for me, That’s why God has set us free.
“Land for you, Land for me, That’s why God has set us free.
“Enough for you, Enough for me, That’s why God has set us free.”
Moses smiled and applauded. Then Moses gave her a hug, and said, “Yenna, you have a heart to obey God. May your heart always be true.”
After reading this story, Jensi said, “Aunt Beth, the world has never followed God’s plan of economic equality, has it?”
“No,” replied Aunt Beth. “And it must make God cry every day, to see how so many of his children have so very little while some hoard much more than they need. Economic equality is as big a problem as it ever was. There is a huge gap between rich and poor. That can be viewed as an economic problem, or a social problem, or a political problem. It is all three. And for Christians, it is also a spiritual problem. For God’s justice is that everyone have manna each day. God’s justice is that everyone have daily bread. Amen.