As a pastor, I’ve eaten at my share of church potlucks. Potlucks are community meals in which everyone brings something to share. Some potlucks have more than enough food to go around, while others have a limited amount of food.
I’ve noticed that people tend to fall into two categories at church potlucks– regardless of the amount of food present. Some people take a limited amount when putting food on their plate their first time through the line, to make sure that there is enough food for all in attendance. Others fill their plates with no regard for anyone else.
I have thought a lot about these two categories of people at church potlucks during our global pandemic. I thought about these two types of people at the beginning of the pandemic, when I experienced firsthand what it means for some to fill their plates at the expense of others. Some continued to stockpile certain products throughout the pandemic. Most recently, potential gas shortages drove some to stockpile cartons filled with gas.
Putting One’s Needs before Others
This behavior has continuously been an issue for the human race. Consider what is typically normal in American society:
- Individual wants and needs are put before the wider population’s needs; “looking out for number one” without considering others is an understood and condoned behavior.
- Consumer culture encourages excess for those at the top, at the expense of overworked and underpaid employees.
- Those with the means to stockpile in a crisis do so, without caring about anyone else’s access to necessities like food, medicine, and gas.
It’s become a pandemic within a pandemic– a disease of selfishness that only thinks of oneself. This selfish disease is incredibly contagious. Seeing others panic buying and stockpiling, we feel the need to follow suit.
God, however, invites us to fight this selfish disease, and think of others as much as we think of ourselves. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and to “look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). In addition, Jesus teaches against greed and stockpiling (The Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21) and teaches us to provide for “the least of these” (The Parable of Sheep and Goats, Matthew 25:31-46). Buying an extra or two of something we know we will use is one thing; buying as much of something we can get our hands on means, quite simply, others suffer.
Over and over again, we hear in Scripture not to take goods for ourselves at the expense of others. For example, when Paul heard that Jesus followers in Corinth were acting selfishly, he wrote these words:
When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!1 Corinthians 11:20-22
Paul is angry that those in Corinth are eating and drinking to excess, while others get nothing. This inequity is spoken against strongly; those who follow Jesus are called to share with others.
God’s ultimate vision for our world is a heavenly feast, at which all people can eat, drink, and be satisfied:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoplesIsaiah 25:6-8
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
This is the vision of what God wants for us– everyone has what they need, everyone is satisfied. Rather than stockpiling and thinking only of ourselves, God calls us to share with one another so that there is enough for all.
How is God calling YOU to share with others?
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