Brrr! Buenos Aires cannot make up its mind. Winter. Spring. Hot. Cold. Yesterday we sat in a park jammin on the guitar in flip flops and t-shirts, today it poured down rain, and tomorrow they are predicting a low of freezing. Laying in my warm bed, I remember my friends from Retiro. I think of how cold they are. I think of their babies and the danger that this weather presents. I am here in Buenos Aires, among many things, attempting to live in solidarity with the poor. With full understanding that my power to choose radical identification with those who are poor inherintly disables me from fully comprehending poverty.
This morning in Sunday school at church, someone made a comment about how they gave thanks for God´s blessing that they had food to eat each morning. This comment struck me as problematic initially, as half of the people at our church live or have lived on the street while the other half have homes. I thought to myself, I believe it to be good and right to thank God for food, but if we say that it is God´s blessing that we have food to eat, are we not also implying that these two men two my left and this woman to my right who live on the street are in fact are not receiving God´s blessing because they do not have food to eat?
I was so troubled by this idea. How can I look at my brothers or sisters, knowing that they are such beloved sons and daughters, creations of a mighty God, yet claim this blessing of food for myself, while they go wanting? I cannot claim they are not blessed, I cannot claim they are not beloved of God. They are.
So, this person that made this comment happens to be my host dad here in Buenos Aires. Convenient for discussion´s sake, over hot lentils and tea this evening. "How can we claim this food as God´s blessing without implying that the other is not blessed?" I asked boldly. The response went something like this, (but much more rhythmic, Argentine, Spanish-speaking middle-aged male sounding) The situation is like this- it is a blessing from God that the earth produces food to nourish humanity. On this planet, there is enough food for every single human being to eat. If food were distributed, everyone would be fed. When we thank God for having food to eat, the blessing is that the earth produces food. God does not micromanage the world, giving some people food and not allowing so many people to be fed. It is the greed of humanity that impedes everyone being able to take their share in the blessing of food. In the Old Testament, we see God commanding for a portion of the crops be left in the fields for the orphans, widows and foreigners to come and glean. It is God´s heart and desire for everyone to be provided for, particularly the marginalized, yet it was not God´s actions that directly provided for them. It was people living out God´s desires that we would love our neighbor as ourself.
In conclusion, God has blessed the world with nourishment for all humanity. There is reason to be critical of those who claim excessive prosperity and luxury as God´s blessing, as their greed blinds them from seeing their hungry neighbor. Yet, it is good to thank God for the blessing of food. As we grow nearer to God´s heart, it is impossible for us to not desire that our neighbors know the blessing of their basic needs being met. It is impossible for us not to fight the injustices of this world that institutionalize greed and breed poverty.
James 2: 14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.