An editorial in this newspaper, "Food for America's famished," states, "With prices skyrocketing for staples such as bread, the poor need more food donations," and explains, "Donations to private food banks are off by 9 percent." The editorial concludes, "More than 1 in 10 Americans live with what the Census Bureau calls 'food insecurity' – they're forced to skip meals. Now is not the time for other Americans to skip out on their usual generosity" (April 22).
While fear of shortages may be motivating some to hoard food, the basic problem is the inequity between those who do not have enough food and those with food to waste – the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots.
Looking at the question from a strictly spiritual standpoint, one of God's children does not actually have more than another. God loves all of His children, and this is often evidenced in generosity toward others. The Apostle Paul may have been pointing to that when he wrote to the church at Corinth, urging them to be generous. As he put it: "I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (II Cor. 8:13, 14).
A man who regularly contributed to a food pantry also helped with deliveries. Once when he was making a delivery, a woman gave him rhubarb she grew in her backyard. He was both surprised and pleased because he'd been looking for the makings of a great pie but hadn't yet found them in the local grocery store. And the woman received the infrequent pleasure of giving out of her abundance. Understanding that in spiritual reality there is equity, we may find ourselves taking steps that will make this equity more tangible in the human situation. The 90 percent of the people who have sufficient, if not abundant, food may understand that their food contributions are more than just helping out others. They are moving society closer to where equity is the reality. While it appears in the US today that the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer, all efforts toward equalizing opportunity are important.
Looked at in this way, charitable giving is not just an unselfish act but the outcome of a truly just society where instances of inequality are cured by obedience to the biblical command to love one's neighbor. In a way, giving and receiving are a single act. The one who receives gives thanks, and often that gratitude is a happy reward for one who has met the need of another. And even when the giving is less personal, as in contributing to a food bank and never seeing those who receive the food, the reward of unselfish love is earned.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, once wrote, "Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 79).
"In the service of our Maker" delineates the larger motive that inspires truly constructive giving. Such giving does not relegate the receiver to inferior status.
Realizing that we are really serving God in our giving brings the realization, hinted at in the Bible verses quoted earlier, that the recipient is also fulfilling a divine purpose. The individual willing to accept food to feed his or her family is also acting "in the service" of God and is not just an object of charity or of less importance than the giver. When God's kingdom is come on earth and all its inhabitants are recognized as children of the one Father, equally blessed, the goal will be reached, and no one will be left hungry. And this will be true not only of those 10 percent of Americans but also of the hungry throughout the world. We can take steps toward that goal right now.