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Thursday, June 3, 2010

To Feed Them or To Teach Them

I've been thinking a lot lately about our "social" responsibilities as Christians.  Obviously, we are called to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).  In particular, I've been wrestling with this notion that "a hungry stomach can't hear anything"....meaning someone in need of the most basic necessities of life must be cared for first (ie; fed, clothed, etc.) before they are ready to hear/receive the Gospel.  Something about this just doesn't seem to line up with Scripture.  It lines up great with how we have done things for decades.  But does it line up with Scripture?

Disclaimer: I am reading a book right now that is influencing my thoughts on this topic.  Its called "Revolution in World Missions" by K.P. Yahannan.  I would very much recommend that you go to his organization's website (www.gfa.org) and ask to receive a copy for free.  They are giving them away.  Yahannan was born and raised in India.  The man has first-hand experience of what it means to truly be hungry, poor, and hopeless.  He didn't even know what shoes were until he was 17.  God called him into the ministry and has done amazing things in his life.  But its Yahannan's take on "social" responsibilities versus "Gospel" responsibilities that has me thinking a lot right now. 

The problems in the world's poorest nations appear to be things like hunger, shelter, renewable resources, safety from rival tribes/groups, etc.  The Western approach to these issues for decades has been to blanket the world in rice, build orphanages for the children, teach them to grow their own food, set up government organizations that are stable and peaceful, and on and on.  These are all great things.  But are they the Gospel?  Not so much.  They are effects and results OF the Gospel, but the Gospel they are not.

What causes hunger?  Ask anyone in the Western world and that seems obvious.  Lack of food.  Travel to a place like India and the answer becomes a bit more difficult.  If I said spiritual bondage caused hunger, what would you think?  Don't take my word for it, lets see what the man who lived it says about it...

"Asian Christians know that these horrible conditions (starvation, disease, etc.) are only symptoms of the real problem - spiritual bondage.  The key factor - and THE MOST NEGLECTED - in understanding India's hunger problem is how its belief system affects food production.  Most people know of the 'sacred cows' that roam free, eating tons of grain while nearby people starve.  But a lesser-known and more sinister culprit is another animal protected by religious belief - the rat.

According to those who believe in reincarnation, the rat must be protected as a likely recipient for a reincarnated soul on its way up the ladder of spiritual evolution to Nirvana. 

Rats eat or spoil 20% of India's food grain every year.  A recent survey in the wheat-growing district of of Hapur in North India revealed an average of 10 rats per house.

Of one harvest of cereals in India (wheat, rice, millet, etc.) this 20% loss from rats amounted to 26.8 million metric tons.  The picture becomes more comprehensible by imagining a train of boxcars carrying 26.8 million metric tons of harvest.  With each car holding about 82 metric tons, the train would contain 327,000 cars and stretch for 3,097 miles.  The ANNUAL food grain loss in India would fill a train longer than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.

The devastating effects of the rat in India should make it an object of scorn.  Instead, because of the spiritual blindness of the people, the rat is protected and in some places even worshiped. 

Clearly, the agony we see in the faces of those starving children and beggars is actually caused by centuries of religious slavery.  In my own beloved homeland of India, thousands of lives and BILLIONS of dollars go into SOCIAL PROGRAMS, education and medical and relief efforts every year.  Yet despite all of these massive social programs, the problems of hunger, population and poverty continue to grow.  The real culprit is not a person, a lack of natural resources or a system of government.  It is spiritual darkness.  It thwarts every effort to make progress.

The single most important social reform that can be brought to Asia is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  More than 400 million of my people have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.  They need the hope and truth that only the Lord Jesus can provide."

          K.P. Yahannan - Excerpt from "Revolution in World Missions"

The tactics of the enemy are so CLEARLY seen in places like India.  What makes us think stepping onto that battlefield with bags of rice and social programs is going to accomplish anything?  Sure, we see what appears to be results ("your contributions have fed this family for a whole year!"), but these are just temporary band-aids.  We have gone into battle armed with our goods and our programs long enough....maybe it's time we try going to battle armed with the Gospel?

What about Jesus?  Didn't he feed the 5,000?  Look at the text (Mark 6:33-44).  He taught them first....THEN He fed them.


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