Saturday, May 24, 2008

Giving like we just can’t help it!

I don’t write letters to newspaper editors very often, but the last few times I’ve done so, it’s been in response to articles that highlight our society’s commitment to the high life while so many desperately poor people suffer all around us. I wrote such a letter to the National Post in response to an article in Friday’s paper entitled, “The problem with the right to food.” The article was a reaction to the UN declaring that because having food is "a right," wealthy nations are obligated to help the poor. I felt that the writer's reaction to this declaration was very much a “take care of yourselves” kind of attitude toward the people of the two-thirds world. The letter I wrote to the Post ended up being one of the “Letters of the Day” in Saturday’s paper, though it was somewhat abbreviated. Here is what I wrote in full…

Dear Editor,
In Karen Selick’s case against the “right to food,” she seems more concerned about the right for the wealthy well-fed West to have the right to “rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours” than about the fact that, as you also reported, six million children under the age of five in Ethiopia alone are presently at risk of acute malnutrition. This is the problem with a culture obsessed with affluence – we’re so concerned about what we might have to go without while trying to think as little as possible about those who might need it more. If insisting on the “right to food” is so problematic to Ms. Selick, then why not change the focus to the right to give? We have incredible resources in North America. We consume far more than any other part of the world to sustain our lifestyles, and my salary actually puts me in the top 2% of the world’s wage earners even though my gross salary is less than $50,000. My feeling is that, as a resident of this planet, with great abundance comes great responsibility. Whatever rights to food that the starving masses of the world have or don’t have, I believe that we have a responsibility, and the right, to care about their plight. So let’s not get distracted by any “one-world socialism” conspiracies while literally millions are dying of starvation while we pile our plates high with food everyday.

Ken Peters, Winnipeg, MB

The Bible is clear that everyone has a responsibility to look out for the interests of the poor: Government leaders, spiritual leaders, God’s people, citizens of the world, everyone. Even a godless city like Sodom was judged for having “abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy” (Ezek. 16:49). If God expected that of Sodom, all the more reason that God’s people should be concerned about the poor. And when someone writes something for all of Canada to read, saying that it’s wrong to tell someone that they have to give up some of their food just because someone without food feels they have a right to eat, I want to stand up and shout – Did we do something to deserve to be born in this affluent nation? Is the privilege we enjoy purely a result of our own hard work or is it a gift from God? And what did those starving, dying children in Burma or Ethiopia or Haiti do to deserve their low, impoverished place in this world? If we have abundance, it’s by the grace of God. And if we don't like someone telling us that because they feel someone has a right to something we have in abundance, we have to give some to them, then what do we think of God telling us that? I guess the question for the Christian then is -- Is this something that God tells us that we must do, or is it something He'd just kind of like us to do?

There’s no shortage of Biblical support for being generous toward the poor. My feeling is that it’s simply not optional. God expects it of us. He provides grace and resources to us so that we can obey Him in this. And when God’s people choose to give generously and sacrificially the way God wants us to, we become extremely bright lights amidst the desperate neediness of this world.

© 2008 by Ken Peters


Daws said...

"And when God’s people choose to give generously and sacrificially the way God wants us to, we become extremely bright lights amidst the desperate neediness of this world."

It might even make us peculiar like Todd was saying today :)

Great job on the blog Ken! It looks and reads great!

Ken said...

Thanks Dawson! That means a lot to me coming from someone of a much more computer-literate generation!