When I was a 21 year old college graduate starting out in my new career, the first thing I did with my very first paycheck was to sponsor a child from Save The Children. Each month, I would send my check to support this child and I continue to do that to this day, even adding several more children over the years. But other than that it makes me feel quite altruistic, I don’t give these children much thought as I go about my day to day life.
Today, my pastor shared an update from a couple in our church who recently traveled to Swaziland. During their time there, they visited an orphanage where the children receive one bowl of rice per day, and on weekends sometimes they don’t even get that. I felt sad hearing this story, even as I thought of what I would have for lunch after the service.
When God became human through Jesus of Nazareth, He didn’t come here to wave a magic wand and make everything all better, He came to show us that He understood what it means to be human. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, dealing with temptation, hunger, thirst. Throughout his ministry, He suffered terrific pain and loss. By entering into the human experience, God was no longer this great being in the sky that we had to appease through burnt offerings, but instead He became someone we could relate to, talk to, someone we could love.
There is no question that charitable donations are helpful, but unless I can better understand the plight of the people I am trying to help, I am merely assuaging my guilt. Jesus, through his actions, has taught me that true compassion means suffering along with those towards whom I feel compassion.
But could I go a whole day without eating anything but a bowl of rice? I’m not sure I could even go a day just skipping lunch, but this is Lent and for 40 days I agreed to put God first in my life, and if this is what He’s asking me to do, I better do it. And tomorrow is as good a day as any. But next year for Lent, I’m just giving up chocolate.