A Hungry Child Has No Ears to Hear - Redux

Yesterday, my friend, Clay, referenced this post, What's That Got to Do With Jesus?.   Several of the author's propositions ring correct with me, primarily a nagging dislike of the video he includes and agreement with the idea that the 'Social Gospel' is not THE Gospel.   Of course, as a Bible-believing Christian, I believe that Christ IS the only solution to lasting change.   And yet, in my humble opinion, with all due respect given to my brother in Christ, I believe his post leans too heavily toward condemnation of those who are on the far end of a spectrum.

His original question, What's That Got to Do With Jesus? is easily answered.  Serving the poor, the orphan, the widow, the least has EVERYTHING to do with Jesus.    Our calling is not to ONE activity which supercedes another activity... i.e. feeding the poor OR sharing Christ.   Through the power of the Holy Spirit alone, we are to mesh the two.

This is a topic which goes straight to my heart... as we pick up and move to share Christ and life with the people of La Moskitia, Honduras, I have wrestled with God on this topic.   God has given us example upon example of what it looks like to 'share the Gospel' with words and without words.

Last year, I posted this...  below the post, there are some of the comments that were given on that original post. 

A Hungry Child Has No Ears to Hear

The statement "a hungry man has no ears" is often attributed to an unnamed missionary in Africa, but also is close in meaning to a worldwide proverb "a hungry belly has no ears." Either way, the principle remains the same. A hungry person cannot hear.

Obviously, a hungry person is not physically without ears. The statement is a figurative one. Whether the message be the gospel, socialist propaganda, or Scooby Doo, a person with an empty tummy has no concern other than satisfying the relentless hunger. This illustration is useful when evaluating the relationship between evangelism and social action in mission work mentioned in an earlier post last week - Orphan Care - Mission Work or Not?

We met a boy in Honduras, I'll call him Chico. He was born in a small village in the jungle. From the accounts we heard, his mother remarried after his biological father died or disappeared. Chico's stepfather brutally beat him and threatened his very life. Chico ran away. He traveled an unbelievable distance on foot to reach Puerto Lempira, a town of 6,000 or so. Providentially, he found an abandoned house which just happened to be next door to a Christian home for disabled children. After scrounging around for food to survive and watching the home for a few weeks, he finally got up the nerve to creep to the fence and ask a volunteer for a bite to satisfy his aching belly.

I'll stop the story here to simply ask the question, what would you do in this situation? What if you found out that, in this same town and surrounding jungle pueblos, there are many kids like Chico of all ages? Would you conduct a Bible drive here in the States and ship the Bibles down? Would you start a feeding program to feed Chico one hot meal per day?

What if I added more information... Chico cannot read well and neither can many of the children in this place who are malnourished and undereducated. Does this change what you might do for Chico?

Do you have the time to help feed Chico? Do you have the energy to play ball with this child who has a natural gift for soccer (futbol)? Do you want to build a relationship with this young man so that he trusts you and sees Jesus in you? Or do you just want to hand the Bibles out, preach a bit, give an altar call and head out since there are many more souls to save?

My words may sound brutal, but this either/or argument within American Christianity about evangelism or social work is simply absurd. Unequivocally, we must care for a person's physical needs, orphan or not. We must take the Great Commission and the Great Commandment and beautifully allow God to weave these two mandates together in a way that only He can do.

Several of my wise friends commented on this post at the time and in earlier discussions.  Their feedback adds to this discussion:

Liz...When Jesus was speaking to the multitudes and they all got hungry, He didn't ignore their need and keep on talking....He FED them first.

Holly ... "Social Work" did not exist until Christ chose the first missionaries. Christ came to answer Need. Why would we choose to doing otherwise?

Mrs. Edwards... The test of our works is not in the work itself but its power. True fruit--or mission work--that is done in the power of the Holy Spirit and obedience to Him is a "good work," but work done in our own power--even what seems to be good, will not stand the test.

My belief is that mission work must be both focused on the spiritual and physical needs of people. It is a false choice to suggest that we can do one without the other. However, it is very tempting to get caught up in the "good" that we do for people, thinking (like wealthy Americans) that making someone comfortable for their earthly life is worthy of praise. In our cushy lives we sometimes forget Who is the Bread of Life.

Kerri...  The GC (which I consistently have to keep in mind) "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.""
(Mat 28:18-20) Making disciples means investing our lives, teaching, mentoring, living out a Christian life in front of others and caring for physical needs is included in that I think.  ...
We are called to a life of obedience to the Word and to the best that we can discern God's will for us. James 1:27 says that "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." If someone can find a means to do this full-time - - how awesome, honorable and blessed!

One excellent resource on this topic is John Stott's book Christian Missions in the Modern World.  I believe it has relevance for our Post-modern world as well.


Lara said…
My sister and I have discussed this topic at length. Do we invest dollars in sending food or missionaries? I suppose I tend to lean to the social gospel, as St. Francis said, "Preach the gospel always; use words if necessary." I believe we do Jesus' work and in doing so our lives are loudly proclaiming the gospel. I believe that as we are feeding the hungry person we tell them why we are feeding them.

I get frustrated with Christians willing to send Bibles but not food.

I recently read Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. It was very good, but he was entirely opposed to the "social gospel." He had some interesting points, but I am a bit of a bleeding heart.
Araratacres said…
Personally, I think that if we just throw words and Bibles at social problems (such as) despairing poverty, we are falling right into the hands of athiests, agnostics and purveyors of other religous entities who mock the Christian faith. Frankly, I can see where they are coming from when you look at it like this. It is oh so easy to contribute money and words,when what is needed is a multitude of the "hands and feet" of Jesus who are willing to serve and "get dirty and get uncomfortable" while doing so. Unfortunately, it is alot easier and more comfortable to do the former rather than the latter, and until more professed Christians realize this, we are fighting external issues and internal ones (within the modern "feel good Christian" teachings). Adding actions to words certainly would bring more crediblity back to Christianity and would go a long way towards spreading the real Good News.
Laura said…
Lara - I have also read Revolution in World Missions and agree with several of his points. Sending Bibles to people who cannot read them is a waste of precious resources. There is a group called 'Faith Comes By Hearing' which sends audio Bibles. We love this group and want to purchase some of the New Testament audios in Miskito. This is such an important subject in evangelical Christianity right now... that is why I had to write about it again. I think I'll be discussing this until I die.

Liz - You are so wise. The statement about agnostics, atheists, etc. is right on. We say we are for the underdog, the sinner, the broken and then we all but ignore their very real physical needs. Even worse, we manipulate them into praying the 'sinner's prayer' in exchange for desperately needed medical care. This has actually happened in Honduras and I'm certain in other countries.

I do not feel that the original blogger's intention was to divide the categories so exclusively. However, his post was lopsided and patronizing and it just lit me up. So... another post from my burning and bleeding heart.

Yikes. What will come out of her mouth next??? Shut that woman up and find her husband :).

Hugs to you both,
Laura - I just had time to catch up here and WOW!

Praise God for you on fire heart and burning passion for the true commission...to make disciples. That means all of what has already been said here- invest your life into another person. It is not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth that we make disciples. It is by our love for one another. It is by our true sacrifices and even though that may be money for some - that is easy to give when you live in America. But stopping what you are doing and investing in another life is hard to do. Thus, our own body of believers is sinking and unable to stand on faith because no one has even invested in them to know what true worship is and what the WORD of God really says.

There are too many good intended people out there with agendas and not enough truth being lived out.

No change will come from anything we do without Christ as the center and focus of it all.

He came so that we could live more abundantly in Him. Now why do we go and make that difficult to understand. Living outside of Him is a waste of time, energy and resources. He never said send bibles around the world - HE SAID GO INTO THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY LIVING CREATURE. That means we need to send out those who are able and willing to teach what it means and looks like (ie love) to follow after Jesus. Not in a four day trip or a feel good mission trip that we can come home and say OK I did that. I went. I did my part.
Nope that I believe will burn up. As much as short term missionaries are needed - they often go for themselves and not to relieve the long term missionaries and LOVE on them and REFRESH them.

Oh gosh I'm writing a book sorry!

I'll join you in prayer on this one!

Love and hugs,

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