By Brad Hauge
There’s this incredible scene in The Gospel of Luke where Jesus delivers his first public sermon in his hometown of Nazareth. Having just come back from the wilderness where he dealt with extreme hunger and temptation, Jesus stood before those gathered at the synagogue where he chose to read the words of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll that was handed to him and preached,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
After realizing that he had their attention and that every eye in the place was still fixed upon him, he added his own mic drop to the words of Isaiah, saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke goes on to write of how well Jesus’ words were received and how amazed and excited those gathered at the synagogue were by these powerfully hope-filled statements. Amazed and excited for a few moments, that is.
Jesus continued his teaching and told his now-adoring crowd some hard truths about what he’s up to and how his reign probably won’t go as they expected or desired. There’s much that could be said of this exchange, but just know that in the blink of an eye the crowd’s reaction went from amazement and awe, to conspiring to throw Jesus off of a cliff to his death!
Jesus began his public ministry by telling the world he has come, today, to bring good news to the poor. How cool is that? And how cool is it that, today, we can be a part of that work through the 30 Hour Famine? Advocacy for the least of these around the world, monies raised to battle unnecessary hunger through both emergency food rations and long-term development, and awareness raised around the globe for hunger-related issues is indeed good news.
It is good, and right, to sit back in awe and amazement of the Jesus-centered work we can be a part of today. But, the hard truth, the sort of thing that may make us want to throw Jesus off a cliff, is that raising money and awareness through 30 Hour Famine isn’t the fullness of what it can mean to bring good news to the poor.
Jesus made it clear with the words of his sermon that he came to bring good news to the poor, but he also made it clear with his actions that he would live his life among the poor. His good news didn’t come from an arm’s length or from the other side of the world—it came from shared stories, communal meals, and eye contact.
In his book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne describes a survey in which those who identified as “strong followers of Jesus” responded to some questions about bringing good news to the poor. 80% of those who responded said yes, Jesus spent time with the poor. However, when asked later in the survey if they regularly spent time with poor, less than 2% of folks responded affirmatively. Less than 2% of those who call themselves strong followers of Jesus knew those who were poor. Shane goes on to state that he had “come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”
Do you and the teens in your ministry know the poor? We have to ask ourselves this difficult question because it’s difficult to bring good news to the poor if we don’t even know their names.
- Do we serve food at the homeless shelter but fail to learn the names and stories of those who are hungry?
- Do we pray often for those in our communities who are struggling to make ends meet without actually meeting with them to see if we can be bearers of good news to their situation?
- Do we donate to worthy causes but fail to show the hurting neighbors in our backyard that they are also worthy children of God?
This work is, admittedly, harder than 30 hours of fasting and fundraising. This work demands vulnerability, trust, and an expectation of awkwardness. But, if we trust in the life and words of Jesus, it will be good news to those who most need it.
Let me make myself abundantly clear: I love the work and mission of World Vision and the 30 Hour Famine. It is, undoubtedly, bringing good news to the poor. I just think Jesus would include a little mic drop to say something like, “If you aren’t also living life among the poor in your neighborhood and bringing good news to those whose names you now know and whose stories you now share, you aren’t experiencing the full measure of life as you could be. Today.”
May we see this hard truth, even in the midst of celebrating so many beautiful Famine-related stories, not as a reason to push Jesus off a cliff, but as inspiration.