According to world hunger and poverty statistics, we currently produce enough food globally to feed about 10 billion people (about 1.5 times what is needed). And yet, about one sixth of the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night. I realize eating every last pea on your plate, instead of throwing out the remnants, does not actually benefit anyone in Sub-Saharan Africa. But cultivating a lifestyle of taking “just enough” and sharing broadly with others begins to create change to systemic issues, like hunger.
I think one of the many lessons I learned in Guatemala, while working at an orphanage and teaching English, dealt with this issue. I went down there thinking that I would be helping orphans, and caring for people in need, but I came back with a sense of having learned so much more than I ever could have offered. One of the things I learned was a sense of “sharing all in common,” and understanding what “enough” actually means.
In Acts 2, the early church is described as “sharing everything in common,” pooling their money and resources together and “giving to each person as there was a need.” This is a far cry from what we see in the Western world today, where amassing wealth has become the paradigm for many.
Out of necessity at the orphanage, all who lived and worked there lived in a shared lifestyle. We shared our time, our meals, and for many, even clothing. It was like nothing I had ever experienced myself. There was a giant garden on the property that was cultivated by some staff and some children, and the produce fed us many of our meals each week. Additionally, it was donated to families in the community that didn’t have access to fresh food.
Each person at the orphanage also had a “job” by about age 10. It was not child labour in any sense, but a gifting that had been recognized and shared with the community. Some of the girls helped make tortillas once a week. Some of the boys helps moved produce from the garden to the kitchen. Some of the kids played in a band for worship on Sundays. Some of the students aided in passing out snack at the school—all simple tasks that provided meaning and a necessary contribution to the community. Some of the older students helped with cleaning or learning a trade on-site. But it was all in the sense of having a meaningful position in the family.
Additionally, I learned what it meant to have “enough.” This was one of the more fortunate orphanages in the country of Guatemala in terms of safety, welfare of the kids, and necessities. But nothing was taken for granted either. All of the kids and staff received three meals a day, plus a snack at school. They received an education through 12th grade. They also received trade skills if they were not college-bound (hair styling, making jewelry, fixing cars, etc). The school-aged kids wore uniforms to school, and outside of that, the children wore donated clothing. Anything that was not readily used on site was given away to other orphanages in greater need.
But the lifestyle was far from lavish. The meager toys and books available had mostly been donated. There were several soccer balls and a small metal “playground” on the school grounds. But none of the kids partook in vacations, had any tech devices, had their own toys even. Everything was shared in common.
What struck me the most, probably, was what some of the students did on their “spring break.” Most kids stayed and played in their free time. But a small group of selected teenagers went on a mission trip. They understood the blessings they had been given, and gave up a week of their free-time to travel to the “basurero,” the city garbage dump, where many people lived. They took the clothes and resources that they did not need with them to the “basurero” to give away to those who needed them more. And they saw what others lived like. For me this was an image of “enough.” The students living at the orphanage had enough, and shared what was beyond “enough” with those who needed it. Check out some videos or pictures of this online. The living conditions are so poor that one documentary coined the term “4th world,” referring to life in garbage dumps.
My point is this: what is enough? So many of us live just barely within our means, and some of us actually go into debt to live above our means. Ask yourself, your family, what is enough? Most people in Canada live well above the poverty line, certainly by global standards. (*If you do find yourself on the other end of this, truly not having enough, please contact me. The church has assistance readily available for food, transportation, housing and utilities).
Another way to think about what is “enough,” is through an Old Testament principle. Scripture talks about gleaning. In agrarian societies, people would plant their crops all the way to the edge of their fields. But they wouldn’t harvest to the edge of the field.
In Leviticus 19:9-10, God commands His people to do this when setting up farms: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” It was common practice for anyone who had need to then go into a field and pick whatever they needed from the edges of the field. In the book of Ruth, she herself a foreigner and a poor widow, does just that.
This concept is not just for the benefit of insiders, or God’s chosen people, but for the benefit of anyone as they have need. We have lost many practices like this over time, but we can certainly practice this in different ways. And some parts of the world still practice gleaning to this day. Giving away 10% of your money is a recommended tithe, as our first fruits going to kingdom purposes. But another way to look at it, for those who have been particularly financially blessed, is to think through the question, “what is enough?”
John Wesley understood what it meant to live by this principle later in his life. When he was a minister and professor at Oxford, he decided that he needed between 28 and 30 pounds to live on. That was his “enough.” He lived off of that one year and gave a few extra pounds away. Then his income started to increase in larger margins, but he continued to live on that and give the rest away. Finally, one year he made over 1400 pounds, and still lived on the 30 and gave the rest away. (View full article here). What a legacy to live by!
*Brian Loritts, a pastor in Memphis Tennessee, preached an awesome sermon on this topic at the Global Leadership Summit 2015.
I think if we are being good stewards corporately, we can happily share with others, and we can also decide on what “enough” is in each of our lives. I have seen the abundant blessings of God in my own life, and also know the richness that comes with being able to give some of our blessings away. As you go about your week, think about what it means to share things in common. What would that look like in our community? How could that reshape some of the cultural paradigm of amassing wealth?
Activity: Watch the “Action Against Hunger—The Sharing Experiment Video” on Youtube individually or with your family. What emotions does it elicit? How does this make you think about stewardship? How might this change your view of stewardship? How does sharing impact the way we perceive blessing?
Challenge: Sit down with your budget and the rest of your household, and consider what “enough” is for you/your family. Factor 10% giving into your budget for giving. If you already give 10%, then consider what “enough” is, and give away the rest. Part of the fun is deciding where to give the rest!
One of the causes my husband and I give to, in addition to the church, is Compassion International. They offer special giving as well as child sponsorship, and we have been able to see first-hand the impact it has on whole communities.