It’s true. There are starving people all around the world who would appreciate access to food much more than we do. Of course, getting it to them is an issue. It’s often best to teach farming techniques in their own countries, so they can sustain their nourishment instead of relying on outside sources. The “clean plate club” isn’t as encouraged (or demanded) as it once was, because we’re trying to teach children (and adults) to only eat what they need. The motivation is less about appreciating what others need than the fact we need much less than what we’ve become accustomed to, but the basic premise is the same:
We add more fat to ourselves instead of feeding others.
There are physical applications to this principle, but what about the spiritual application?
What’s the ratio of ministry programming to those who are within the four walls of the church versus those in the surrounding community who might never see the inside of the walls?
How much money is spent sustaining the church building, staff, and programs versus the needs of the surrounding community?
The irony is those within the four walls of the church often complain about how their needs are not being met. The worship music isn’t their style or services aren’t held at convenient times. The small group they want to join doesn’t provide childcare. The doors are locked at an inconvenient time, or the flavored coffee just ran out. Okay, hopefully it’s not that intense, but I’ve known women who can get just a little irritable when they attend a retreat and there’s no French vanilla creamer. (Bring your own if you’re that picky, ladies.)
The more we get, the more we want and expect. Perhaps you’ve never complained about any of the above issues, but have you ever asked why you “have to” do so much when others aren’t matching your standards? Have you complained about the direction of the leadership? What about when someone in particular didn’t visit you or a family member in the hospital? After all, you have certain expectations, and if they’re not met…
What about others’ needs? What if you put their needs in front of yours? Oh, I know, you already sacrifice so much. You tithe. You give money to charities. You serve on boards and committees. You take meals to people in need.
But are you adding more fat to yourself than you are feeding others? Look around. Your everyday lifestyle and comfort will tell the truth.
We don’t impress God with our sacrifice unless we’re willing to give it all to him. We can’t barter with him. And let’s be clear about something: the prosperity gospel—the one that says God will bless you as you give more—isn’t about ledger sheets. You can’t out-give God. He gave everything. He gave his Son to die an excruciating death on earth to make a way for you to have an eternal relationship with him. Do you want to compete with that? You can’t.
Clean your plate? Absolutely. Share it with someone. In fact, just give it all to someone. God’s going to provide for you. He’s providing for others, too, and sometimes that provision goes through your hands. If he places it in your hands, he’s trusting you to pass it on. He often multiplies it in the process.
They said to him, “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish.”
Jesus said, “Bring the bread and the fish to me.” Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking to heaven, he thanked God for the food. Jesus divided the bread and gave it to his followers, who gave it to the people. All the people ate and were satisfied. Then the followers filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of food. There were about five thousand men there who ate, not counting women and children. (Matthew 14:17-21)
Receive what God gives and feed others. Today.
I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)