God's Abundant Table: Thinking Biblically About Ending Hunger

Still from A Place at the Table, courtesy Magnolia Pictures
While there is more than enough food in the world to feed all people, millions go hungry. Now is the time to gather the political will to follow Jesus' teaching and ensure a place at the table for the least of these.

Throughout scripture, we see God's intentions for human wholeness, manifested in Isaiah's description of abundance: "The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast..." God's kingdom is envisioned with ample food and drink and a place for all people at the table.

Stories that demonstrate God's abundance and provision fill the Bible. When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God provided manna for them to eat and "those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed" (Exodus 16:18).

This call for human wholeness is embodied in Jesus, who came into the world as a restorer of both spiritual and earthly needs and addressed suffering in many forms. His compassion led him to heal an epileptic boy, to cast out demons, to restore sight to the blind.

And Jesus fed the hungry, time and again.

Stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes appear in each of the four gospels. Matthew describes Jesus' compassion for his hungry followers and the plentitude at his hands:

He took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. All of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. (Matthew 15:36-37)

Early in his ministry when Jesus told the disciples to lower their nets in a place where they had given up fishing, "they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break" (Luke 5:7). Later, after his resurrection, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples in the same way, by filling their nets to overflowing and eating with them (John 21:1-7).

In another manifestation after his resurrection, Jesus shared fellowship at the table with two of his disciples after walking along the road to Emmaus. It was while eating and drinking with Jesus after the journey that his followers recognized him. Luke writes that the two then proclaimed his visit, saying that "he was known in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24:35).

The Acts of the Apostles describes how the early church created communion and cared for those in greatest need:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need ... they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47)

Even in our rapidly changing world, God’s intention for human wholeness remains. Abundance and provision are in our midst. Yet, while there is enough food in the world for everyone to eat, many of God's people do not have access to the food they need.

So, as followers of Jesus, we can respond to his concern for "the least of these" and ensure that all people have a place at the tables of the world. In addition to feeding our hungry neighbors ourselves, Christians must urge their elected leaders to ensure that people will "hunger no more, and thirst no more" (Revelation 7:16).

Further Reading

    Preaching to End Hunger - The Rev. Dr. James Forbes Jr., is traveling the country, conveying God’s message that we can end hunger. See if he is coming to a church near you!

Bread for the World
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