Some thoughts on famine (Part 2)

Detail from Saint-Sever Beatus painting (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The word “famine” appears 95 times in the Bible, depending on which translation one uses, and the subject of famine and mass starvation is widely discussed in much of the other written records and literature which survives from the ancient world. For much of human history, the specter of famine was never far from anyone’s mind. For most of the past 200 years, it has rarely been experienced by most of the world’s population outside some regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, but there is reason to believe that the ancient scourge of famine is about to make a comeback in many places, possibly including where you live.

In Revelation 6: 5-6 John records that “When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Most scholars agree that this is a prophecy about a severe famine which will affect the whole world in the time just before the return of Jesus Christ to this world. Although I certainly don’t want to add my name to the long and shameful list of false prophets who gave premature warnings about where we are on the eschatological timeline, there is no question that we are already in the midst of a very severe crisis that shows no signs of getting better anytime soon.

Most of the people reading this blog will probably already be aware of the fact that the war in Ukraine has led to a disruption in the worldwide supply of all kinds of grains and other foodstuffs, as well as the fertilizer farmers in other parts of the world use to grow food. This is obviously very bad news, and it lends urgency to other reports from different parts of the world where extreme weather, unseasonable temperatures, unusual patterns of precipitation and storms, droughts, wildfires, etc. have caused the destruction of enormous quantities of food, as well as disruptions to the supply and distribution of food. Everywhere, the increased price of fuel and the shortage of vital components for machinery and vehicles is making the production and transport of food more difficult and expensive. Many grocery stores, even in wealthy countries, have been unable to keep their shelves stocked and what they have been able to supply to their customers has gotten more expensive.

In short, the system that has allowed the human race to produce and distribute the food needed to feed several billion people every day for the last couple of hundred years is under extreme pressure and is in danger of breaking down. In many countries around the world, it already has broken down.

The question, as always, is what should followers of Jesus Christ do under the circumstances?

The first thing we must do is pray DAILY for those who are suffering from hunger and in danger of dying from starvation. Pray for government officials and community leaders who have the responsibility to manage the crisis. Pray for your own family and community that you will be spared from starvation, because no matter where you live, your next meal is not something you can entirely take for granted. Last but not least, pray for farmers, truck drivers, food safety inspectors, and others who work to get food from the fields to your refrigerator. I don’t know if I’d ever prayed for a farmer before, but I started recently and I encourage you to do the same.

Second, if your health situation allows it, start fasting regularly. This is something we’re commanded to do anyway, and there’s immense spiritual benefits that come from it. But it also has practical benefits, including allowing you to stretch your own grocery budget and getting your body accustomed to taking in fewer calories. A gradual reduction in caloric intake will help your body in many ways, including by lowering your body’s expectations about what it means to ‘get enough to eat” so that if, for whatever reason, you are unable to get food, your body will be more able to absorb the shock. Last but not least, by fasting, we leave more food available for others who might need it more than we do.

Finally brothers and sisters, I urge you to plant a vegetable garden in whatever space you can, even if you’re like me and you live in a large urban area and you can only put a few pots of soil up in the windowsill. If you live in a more rural area and have a small patch of land in which to grow vegetables it is seriously one of the very best investments of time, effort and money you can make. In both World Wars people all over the world planted “Victory Gardens” in order to help their communities and themselves stay fed during the crisis. Many people reported that working for an hour or two in their little victory garden every day also helped calm them amidst the anxious times they were living through. I’ve written in previous blogs about the many lessons the Bible gives using allusions to agriculture, so if you’re on the pastoral team at your congregation that’s another reason to plant a garden and invite your community, especially children, to help work in it.

Example of a vegetable garden (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There are hundreds of videos on youtube which will show you exactly how to plant, tend and harvest such a garden, and there are probably other people in your community who are already doing it who will be happy to help you get started.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week brothers and sisters. I hope it blessed someone.