Reflection: What Does It Mean to Serve Hungry Neighbors?
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. — Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)
Recently, a friend asked me, “Do you always stop and help people who are hungry?” This question caught me off-guard because it wasn’t a theoretical question about what one should do, but about what I actually do. The truth is, I don’t always stop and engage with unhoused neighbors who ask for help. It can be hard to know how to respond in any given interaction.
When I worked at Hope for New York, people asked me all the time about how they should interact with hungry and unhoused neighbors:
“What should I do?”
“Do I need to carry snacks with me?”
“Should I give homeless people cash?”
“Do I always need to stop?”
These were well-intentioned questions from people who were trying to follow Jesus. They were people who wanted to know the guidelines for getting it “right" when living out their faith.
Doing the right thing is also what motivated the Pharisees in the New Testament. They learned all the rules. They sought to know God’s law and to follow it. They just wanted to do the right thing.
One of the main disputes the Pharisees had with Jesus was that He broke the law by healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-13, Mark 3:1-6, and Luke 6:6-11). But, as the Son of God, how could Jesus have broken the rules?
The truth is that Jesus understood how to honor the Sabbath even better than the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t really break the rules. He understood the rules better than anyone. He knew that honoring God meant loving those in need every day.
Yes, there are practical guidelines (like these from City Relief) for caring for food insecure and homeless neighbors, but it’s about more than just doing the right thing. It’s about knowing the God who tells us what is right.
We are entering a giving season where we will be asked to be more generous than any other time of year. And it’s good to give what we can and what is necessary! God commands us not only to feed anyone in need but to love and care for them.
When you obey the Lord, remember who it is that you serve and remember why you serve. Yes, God wants you to give, but he wants you to do it gladly and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). You will be bringing his light into the world when you do.
So consider volunteering this season with one of HFNY’s affiliates that serves our neighbors in need.
- When you think about our hungry and unhoused neighbors, what is your attitude towards them?
- Do you think about God when you interact with people who are hungry? How do you picture him?
- Do you struggle to give resources like food or funds to people who are hungry or does generosity come easily?