“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16 (NIV)
“Mommy….look at her eat that turkey and mashed potatoes! She must be sooooo hungry!” my then four-year-old daughter Mackenzie whispered in my ear. Her eyes were riveted on a beautiful, chubby-fingered toddler. The child’s coiled chestnut hair nearly cascaded into her plate as she leaned forward and eagerly consumed her holiday meal, complete with all the trimmings.
On Thanksgiving Day that year, my husband and I opted to skip the normal extended-family holiday feast and instead signed up to serve at a soup kitchen in the heart of the inner city. We took our preschool daughter along. Since then, all three of our children have had several opportunities to don an apron and serve mothers and fathers. Children and grandparents. Precious people who normally don’t enjoy a well-rounded, home-cooked and piping-hot meal.
We often choose to serve a noontime meal at the soup kitchen while we skip breakfast ourselves that morning. As a result, our stomachs growl and our mouths water as we pass out the relishes, serve the rolls, or scoop the sweet potato casserole. After serving we discuss how, in a very small sense, we are switching places with the people we are ministering to that day. We get a tiny glimpse of their hungry plight.
Many of them live at poverty level. Some are homeless. For them, the noontime meal at the soup kitchen is the only hot nourishment they receive each day. They are accustomed to going hungry while watching well-fed others around them.
Our family has experienced financial struggle, to a much lesser degree, over the past year. My husband was laid off one Christmas Eve and spent over 9 months waiting to get called back to work. During this budget-tightening time, our children learned to go without; to see others acquire what we could not afford. To make ends meet, we ate more simply at home, and cut out restaurant trips. We bought only the clothing necessities on sale at deep discounts or at a resale shop. We learned what it was like to live at an economic level that was less than what we were used to.
And God was faithful. Many dear friends helped to lighten our load by giving us food, gift cards, and gas vouchers. They helped to smooth the rough bumps in our financial load.
So often, as in the verse quoted above, it is easy to talk the talk, yet utterly fail to walk the walk. What good is it to say, “I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but do nothing about another’s physical needs? What is the point of declaring, “God bless so-and-so” in our prayers, yet never lifting a finger to bless “so-and-so” ourselves?
Let’s vow together to put feet to our prayers; to love on people in tangible ways. Let’s commit to step out of our comfort zones and help others enjoy the necessities and pleasures we often take for granted. Even during our own financially difficulties, we can volunteer our time or offer someone a needed hug.
Perhaps you can grab the kids and trek off to purchase some department store gift cards to drop off anonymously to a financially strapped family. Or a gift certificate to a grocery store for a single mom to help out during the holiday season. Or even sign up to work a shift at the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
This holiday season, let’s try switching roles and serving rolls. I’m convinced if we do, we’ll experience the immense privilege of being Jesus to a hurting soul.