You Feed Them

Throughout Lent, I’ll be sharing a weekly devotion that draws on my travels to the middle east. Here is the second.

“Late in the day, the Twelve approached and said to Jesus, ‘Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find food and lodging, because we are in a deserted place here.’ 

He told them, ‘You give them something to eat.’”—Luke 9:12-13

Tabgha, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, is the traditional site of the feeding of the 5,000. The location was originally known as Heptapegon, meaning “the place of the seven springs.” Its lush gardens are an inviting place for a picnic or a service of worship. From the fourth century, Byzantine Christians were making pilgrimage to the site. Egeria, a Western European Christian woman and author of a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 381/2–386, described her visit to Tabgha. She wrote, “By the sea is a grassy field with plenty of hay and many palm trees. By them are seven springs, each flowing strongly. And this is the field where the Lord fed the people with the five loaves and the two fishes. In fact, the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has now been made into an altar. People who go there take away small pieces of the stone to bring them prosperity and they are very effective.” Today the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes has replaced the original Byzantine church. It features the remains of the stone table as well as a splendid early figured pavement (mosaic floor), depicting flora and fauna of the lakeside.

The miracle that Jesus worked at Tabgha began with two facts: hungry people and the reluctance of the disciples to do anything about it.  Jesus was clear with his friends: it was their responsibility to meet the hunger of their neighbors.  The disciples gathered their little bits: just a few barley loaves and some small, dried fish, the lunch of peasants.  But those little bits went a long way.  Some say it was a miracle of multiplication.  Some say it was a miracle of the Spirit, a satisfying “spiritual” meal.  Still others suggest that the willingness of the disciples to share inspired a miracle of sharing in others who opened their packs and passed around provisions. The outcome was a blessing for all and a bold precedent that faithful people have been following ever since. 

Questions for reflection: How do you need Jesus to feed you today?

How will you feed others?

Please join me in prayer . . .

Generous and provident God, you make abundance of the most meager beginnings.  Grant us the grace to know that you can feed us and satisfy our deepest hunger, today and every day. Renew us in the way of discipleship that notices and cares, feeds and shares. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Lord of abundance. Amen.

He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. — C.S. Lewis

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“I hunger for filling in a world that is starved.” — Ann Voskamp

Figured pavement, Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee

To Satisfy the World’s Hunger

Sabbath Day Thoughts — Luke 16:19-31

October sixteenth is World Food Day, an international day of awareness celebrated every year to commemorate the founding of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. We remember those who died on the battlefield during the second world war, but we do not always realize that many people lost their lives to famine. In 1943, famine in the Bengal Province of British India killed an estimated 3.8 million Bengalis.  During the winter of 1944-1945 in the Netherlands, a German blockade cut off food and fuel shipments from farm towns, threatening 4.5 million people with starvation. In the far east, great famines occurred in Vietnam and Java in 1944–1945, claiming the lives of some 3.4 million people. To address the crisis of a hungry, war-weary world, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization was formed to address the root causes of hunger and improve and develop agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and land and water resources around the globe. On World Food Day, we acknowledge that we are a global community of neighbors, called to alleviate the suffering of those who hunger.

Despite the efforts of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, hunger is again on the rise globally, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, war, and soaring inflation.  Although there is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, hunger affects about ten percent of the world’s population. What does that look like? 829 million people go to bed hungry every night. Since 2019, the number of people with acute food insecurity (who are malnourished and wasting) has surged from 135 million people to 345 million. 14 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, think of the ashy skin, dull eyes, and bloated bellies of famine’s children in sub-Saharan Africa. Here in the United States, one in five children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.  Here among our North Country neighbors, those numbers are higher.  One quarter of our children in Franklin County live in food insecure households, where families have more month than money.  On World Food Day, we are challenged to consider what we will do in response to hungry neighbors, near and far.

In our lesson from Luke’s gospel, Jesus shares a parable about a rich man with a poor neighbor.  It’s a study in contrasts.  The Greek word for “rich man” is plousios, and it means a wealthy landowner who does not labor for a living.  Lazarus, on the other hand, is ptoxos, the poorest of the poor, a beggar without the stabilizing resources of property, friends, or family.  The rich man lives behind the gate in a lavish home while the poor man Lazarus has fallen down or been left outside the gate. There he relies on the charity of those who pass him by. The rich man is clothed in a splendid robe of purple cloth and a fine inner garment of the purest linen. Lazarus is clothed in filthy rags and festering sores. The rich man rejoices in feasting sumptuously every day, yet Lazarus is hungry, longing to eat his fill from the refuse that falls beneath the table. The rich man would be respected by all. Lazarus is so powerless that he cannot even prevent the dogs from licking his scabby wounds.

As Jesus tells the story, death brings a great reversal. Lazarus finds himself seated at the heavenly banquet in the place of honored, next to his patriarch Abraham, who comforts and encourages him, while the rich man is endlessly tormented by flames in a shadowy underworld.  Even in Hades, the rich man presumes that he can command Abraham and be served by Lazarus.  The parable gets really uncomfortable when we hear that the rich man’s suffering cannot be relieved because it is a consequence of the choices he has made in life. With his indifference to his suffering neighbor, the rich man dug a great chasm that separated him from God and his neighbor.  Lazarus had been at the gate, entrusted by the circumstances of his life to the care of his affluent neighbor, and the rich man never even noticed. Lazarus at the gate had been an opportunity to love generously and provide for the common good from the bounty with which God had blessed him, but the rich man could not be bothered. 

The Bible scholars tell us that Jesus’s story about the rich man and Lazars is an apocalyptic parable, a vivid description of the afterlife that is intended to change our behavior, here and now.  It’s a wake-up call that reveals a truth that Jesus wants us to see.  Our failure to heed the warning can have the direst of outcomes.  Jesus reminds us that Lazarus is at our gate, but we must open our eyes to see him, and we must be ready to love him. Our failure to engage the suffering of others has terrible consequences for our at-risk neighbors—and, according to Jesus, it has terrible consequences for us.

On World Food Day, we acknowledge that in the grand scheme of things, we may not be Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, but we are the rich man. Lazarus is at our gate. Our hungry neighbors need our care and compassion. For about forty years, we have shown our passion for feeding hungry people with the CROP Walk, taking to the streets to raise awareness and funds to address the reality of hunger around the world and right here in Saranac Lake.  CROP Walk is an initiative of Church World Service, which seeks to address the root causes of hunger by enhancing the capacity of people to feed themselves. I’ll share a couple of examples.

In Honduras, the Miguel family has been subsistence farmers for generations, growing three crops: rice, beans, and coffee.  But then they enrolled in a program through Church World Service and learned how to diversify and grow new crops. The program transformed their small farm as they added vegetables, fruit trees, and grain. Next, they were taught how to raise barnyard animals like chickens and rabbits. Most recently, they have created a pond on their land to farm tilapia. Over the years, the Miguel family has been able to cultivate more land and add corn, squash, bananas, onions, cabbage and tomatoes to their fields. In fact, they have become so successful at growing produce and raising animals that they have been able to sell their surplus at market and put money in the bank. Their daughter Lesly is the first person in the family to attend school. This fall, they sent Lesly to university where she is studying to be a social worker.

In West Timor, Indonesia, Church World Service has launched a Zero Hunger Initiative that seeks to provide seeds, tools, chickens, and clean water access for all. One beneficiary of the program is Yabes.  Her daughter Sifrallili was chronically sick and malnourished, due to contaminated water and lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. CWS helped Yabes with a protected source of clean water and provided seeds and training to help her start a home garden. Things really turned the corner for Yabes and Sifrallili when they were given the gift of a rooster and three hens. Now they are collecting eggs and raising enough chickens to turn a profit. The chicken manure is used, too, to fertilize the garden and boost their veggie crop. Yabes reports that she has saved almost enough money to build a latrine for her family.

When we raise funds through CROP Walk, we are helping global neighbors like the Miguel family and Yabes to feed themselves and escape the cycle of hunger and poverty. Yet when we participate in CROP Walk, we are also taking a bite out of hunger right here in Saranac Lake. One quarter of the money that we raise returns to the community.  This year, we have designated the Wednesday evening Community Supper as the local beneficiary of the walk. The supper offers the opportunity for neighbors who are hungry or hungry-of-heart to gather weekly for a hot, nutritious meal.  Families with children, single folks, seniors from the DeChantal, and more are served, free of charge.  The supper provided meals throughout the COVID pandemic with a team of volunteers delivering take-out to people in their homes.

On World Food Day, we remember that our care for vulnerable neighbors is good for them, but according to Jesus, it’s a moral imperative that is also good for us.  We dream of the day when Lazarus no longer languishes at the gate, a day when all truly have enough.  Let’s lace up our walking shoes and make it happen. Amen.


Barbara Rossing. “Commentary on Luke 16:19-31” in Preaching This Week, Sept. 25, 2016.  Accessed online at workingpreacher,org

Lois Malcolm. “Commentary on Luke 16:19-31” in Preaching This Week, Sept. 29, 2013.  Accessed online at workingpreacher,org

Church World Service. CROP Walk 2022 Resources and Activity Guide. Accessed online at CROP Hunger Walk Resources

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Home | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (

Luke 16:19-31

19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 25 But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” 27 He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29 Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30 He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31 He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’

CROP Walkers head out for the Saranac Lake CROP Walk.


Sabbath Day Thoughts — Luke 16:19-31 “Gluttony”

This is the fifth in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins.

For many people, an unexpected consequence of the pandemic has been unwanted weight gain.  42% of US adults have reported gaining an average of 29 pounds.  What did we expect?  We were homebound and stressed out. The gyms were closed, yoga and dance classes cancelled, and we stopped jogging with our buddy.  We were ordering take-out and having groceries delivered.  If only we hadn’t started baking sourdough bread and discovered the recipe for the Cheesecake Factory’s original cheesecake.

Obesity has been on the rise in the US for decades.  In the year 2000, 30.5% of us were obese.  By 2021, that statistic had swelled to 42.4% of us.  All that weight puts us at increased risk for diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and cancer.  The annual cost of obesity to our health care system is $147 billion.  Weight loss is a growth industry, raking in $253 billion in 2021.  According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, our weight problems won’t be improving any time soon. Unless we change, half of all Americans will be obese by 2029.  One in four Americans will be severely obese, that’s more than 100 pounds overweight.

A parallel consequence of the pandemic has been an increase in world hunger.  In 2021, 957 million people across 93 countries did not have enough to eat, a jump of 161 million people from before the advent of COVID-19.  239 million people are in need of life-saving humanitarian action.  21.3% of the world’s children suffer from stunted growth, due to chronic malnutrition.  Hunger is a problem that cannot be solved by emergency food aid alone.  We need a concerted global effort to develop sustainable food systems.  There is more than enough food produced to feed everyone on the planet, but we have lacked the global will to ensure that everyone has enough.

Our Lenten consideration of the Seven Deadly Sins continues this morning with gluttony, from the Latin gluttire, to gulp down or swallow. Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, taught that gluttony is the unrestrained desire for food that harms the individual and prevents human flourishing.  The Roman philosopher Cicero saw gluttony as a matter of wrong priorities, saying, “It is necessary to eat in order to live, not to live in order to eat.”  The influential medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas saw gluttony as a moral wrong, an inordinate desire for food that adversely affects our spiritual life. Aquinas cast gluttony as a form of idolatry in which our god is the belly.  Within the Christian tradition, we have seen over-indulgence in food as particularly egregious when it exists side-by-side with the hunger of our neighbors.  Dante envisioned a special Hell for gluttons, lying in filthy, cold slush amid a never-ending icy rain while watched over by a giant stomach with three worm-like heads.  Eeeew!

Contemporary thinking on gluttony invites us to consider the social, psychological, and spiritual context of the sin.  In her book Glittering Vices, Prof. Rebecca DeYoung of Calvin College casts gluttony as a sin of self-gratification, an ultimate expression of “Me” culture in which it is all about us.  The social sciences invite us to see how our human relationship with food has shifted over the course of centuries.  Once upon a time, only the elite could over-indulge in food, but with the rise of the middle class, a well-stocked table was seen as a sign of vitality, prosperity, and success. Somewhere along the way, that sign of prosperity and success went off the rails.  We eat for any number of reasons other than necessity.  We eat out of boredom, stress, tiredness, and anger. Overeating can just be a habit.  Or, we may have never learned proper portion sizes.  Who belonged to the “Clean Plate Club” as a child or was told that there were starving children in India or China or Africa who would love to have our dinner?  Professor Graham Tomlin of Oxford University suggests that beneath those social and psychological forces that promote gluttony, there is a deep spiritual need.  We mistakenly use food to try to satisfy the deeper craving within us.  The craving for God.  What a poor, dissatisfying substitute.

Our biblical paradigm of gluttony is Jesus’ story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man feasts sumptuously every day, seemingly oblivious to the suffering of the neighbor who begs at his gate.  Lazarus is poignantly described: starving, sick, too weak to keep the dogs from licking his festering sores.  Death brings a great reversal.  While the rich man suffers eternal torment, Lazarus is welcomed and comforted like a beloved child. We learn that the rich man was not unaware of his neighbor’s suffering—he recognizes Lazarus and knows his name.  In life, the rich man simply chose to not see or assist his starving neighbor.  Instead, he indulged his own lavish appetite.  Jesus suggests that our unbridled consumption and our choice to be blind to the need of our neighbors creates a willful gap that allows suffering to flourish in this world, a gap that has eternal consequences for the life to come.

The remedy for gluttony is found in the virtue of temperance. Temperance is an antiquated word with negative connotations that spring from America’s failed experiment with Prohibition.  Perhaps better words for temperance these days are moderation or self-discipline.  Aristotle characterized temperance as finding the “Golden Mean”—doing the right thing in the right amount in the right way.  Aquinas believed that we don’t need to abstain from the pleasure of good food, but we do need to make discerning choices about what and how we eat, shunning those pleasures that are “immoderate and contrary to reason.”  In Paradise Lost, 17th century poet John Milton had the archangel Michael extoll the virtue of temperance which leads to a long and happy life.

“There is, said Michael, if thou will observe

The rule of not too much, by temperance taught

In what thou eat’st and drink’st, seeking from thence

Due nourishment, not gluttonous delight,

Till many years over thy head return:

So mai’st thou live, till like ripe Fruit thou drop

Into thy Mother’s lap, or be with ease

Gather’d, not harshly pluck’t, for death mature.”

Nowadays, advocates of Positive Psychology, which focuses on individual and societal well-being, teach that temperance is one of six core virtues that increase happiness when we build upon them.  Temperate people develop the capacity to handle the complexity of life. They choose to face things calmly and insightfully. Temperance allows us to control our impulses and delay our gratification in pursuit of future goals.  For Christians, temperance equips us to weather difficult times with grace, because we see the long view and trust that God is with us and change can come. Temperance finds its expression in us when we find a healthy moderation and balance in life, creating the right environment for us—and our neighbors—to thrive. 

Our biblical model for temperance is Jesus.  His critics may have alleged that he was a glutton and a drunkard, but Jesus made choices about food to serve the Kingdom of God. Jesus chose fasting in the wilderness as an act of spiritual preparation.  Yet, the first miracle of his ministry was one of feasting.  In Cana, the Lord turned water into wine to save the day at a wedding banquet.  Jesus used meals to build community. He welcomed to the table outsiders, like sinners and tax collectors, and insiders, like Pharisees and disciples.  Jesus was concerned about hungry people.  He fed multitudes with meager resources and miracles of multiplication.  Jesus gave us a holy meal, the Lord’s Supper, to remind us of his great love for us and the ultimate sacrifice that he would make for our sake on the cross.  Jesus liked to eat, just like the rest of us, but he made intentional choices about where, when, and how he ate in order to achieve his mission and give glory to God.  Now that’s temperance.

How might we follow Jesus in practicing temperance?  We can be informed by scripture.  The psalmist affirms that food is God’s good and generous providence: all creation looks to God “to give them their food in due season.” By God’s generous hand we “are filled with good things” (Psalm 104:27-28).  We have a role to play as stewards of that generous providence of God, not only for ourselves, but also for the world around us.  We remember that when the disciples wanted to send away hungry people, Jesus stopped them with the words, “You feed them” (Mark 6:37).  Our personal concern with food needs to be a global concern for feeding a hungry world, for ensuring that Lazarus does not languish at our gate while we feast sumptuously.  Changing our thinking about food can draw us closer to God and closer to our most vulnerable neighbors.

Changing our thinking about food can also change how we understand ourselves.  Learning and implementing temperance in our personal relationship with food may feel harder, but the behavioral science surrounding weight loss tells us there is hope.  We can set dietary goals and be accountable, even if that means keeping a food journal or finding a trusted friend to encourage us.  We can be aware of what tempts us most and take time to notice when the craving kicks in.  We can practice some selective abstinence from foods that are most likely to sabotage us, whether we stop buying the potato chips or we take a break from sugar during Lent.  We can make better choices, cultivating an appetite for healthier foods.  We can also look to things other than food for our personal satisfaction, like a good book, music, fellowship, scripture, nature, creativity, learning, prayer, or exercise.  Healthy change is possible with the help of temperance, the Holy Spirt, and some hard work.

So, let’s give temperance a try.  What do we have to lose other than the 29 pounds we gained during the pandemic and the hunger of 957 million of our world neighbors? 


Valeria Sabater. “Temperance is Key to Your Psychological Well-Being” in Exploring Your Mind, Nov. 15, 2021.  Accessed online at

Lesley Lyle. “Developing Temperance” in Positive Psychology, March 2013. Accessed online at

Gernot Laganda. “2021 Is Going to Be a Bad Year for World Hunger” in Food Systems Summit. Accessed online at

Kaia Hubbard. “The Pandemic Has Worsened the US Obesity Epidemic” in US News and World Report, Sept. 15, 2021. Accessed online at

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Accessed online at

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. Accessed online at

Francine Prose. “Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony” from Gluttony (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2006). Accessed online at

CNN Staff. “Obesity in the US Fast Facts,” May 27, 2021. Accessed online at

Graham Tomlin. “Gluttony” in The Seven Deadly Sins (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2014).

Kimberly Winston, “Gluttony and the Seven Deadly Sins” in Religion News Service, Nov. 22, 2016.  Accessed online at religion

Luk 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Photo by Jonathan Borba on