Last night my sister and I were chatting on Facebook. The discussion started because of a link she posted to a co-op type farm in Tennessee where people buy a “share” of the farm season in the spring, and then they get a box of produce every week throughout the summer and until October when the season ends. The idea was to get people to eat locally, as well as to provide healthy organic foods for those who participated. This system also helped to sustain small farmers who otherwise might not have the capital to plant in the spring and await the harvest.
I had commented on her post that my only problem with this was that I didn’t see green beans on their list of produce, and I gotta have my green beans in the summer. Also, there were an awful lot of greens on their list, and I’m not a big fan of greens. The idea of eating cooked collard greens kind of makes my stomach turn.
As we chatted we both agreed that we are quite picky about not only our produce but everything we eat. It could be in part because when we were kids we had a huge garden in our backyard and that is where a lot of the vegetables we ate came from. We like fresh, and even the tiniest bit of rust on lettuce will cause us both to throw it away. I am actually embarrassed by the amount of produce I throw away because it just doesn’t quite live up to my standards of perfectly fresh produce.
So why am I telling you this embarrassing fact about myself? Why am I confessing that I am super picky, sometimes (often?) to the point of being wasteful?
I am writing this because as we chatted the discussion turned to those who have little or nothing to eat, and how happy they would be to have what we throw out. I am writing this because I want to change my habits and pickiness, and be more mindful of how blessed I am to not ever have been in a position of being truly hungry and not knowing where my next meal would come from.
I am reminded again of the words of Jesus:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Matthew 25:35-36, 40 (NIV).
I’ve posted a few posts lately with this passage in mind, conveniently avoiding the next part of this parable of the King. This being the positive side of the equation, I suppose it is good that this be our main focus. But I think we avoid the next part of the parable at our peril.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me’. . . . ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25:41-43, 45 (NIV).
As I was writing this, my son asked what I was writing about. I said, “About wasting food and all the people who would love to have the grapes we throw out because there is one moldy grape in the bunch.” Sounds random, I know, but just last night he was going to eat some grapes until he saw there was a moldy one so he decided not to. His response to me just now was, “Then package it up and send it to them.” This reminded me of when I was a kid and didn’t want to eat something, my parents would say to eat it because there were starving kids in China who would love to have it. My response was the same as my son’s.
I know packaging up what we don’t intend to eat is not practical, but caring about the homeless in our own city or the starving kids in China or Africa can still lead us to action. We can be less wasteful, but that isn’t enough. If that is all we did we would still be one of those who did nothing “for the least of these.” But being less wasteful does leave us with more disposable income that we can use to donate to organizations that have distribution systems in place to feed the hungry. Or, as my sister did just last week, we can put together sack lunches and deliver them to the homeless in our own city. We can carry a stash of gift cards to local fast food restaurants and hand them out to the homeless who stand on street corners or freeway on ramps asking for help.
So what are you doing for the least of these brothers of the King? What am I doing for them? It’s an important question we all need to ask ourselves. Our world and our eternity depend upon the answer.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (NIV).