There is an old folk parable that bears repeating.
In hell, a perpetual banquet was held in order to provide for the residents there. Each person was given a spoon that was two feet long. Unfortunately, the inhabitants languished in hunger because they could not feed themselves.
In heaven, a great, eternal banquet was also held. Each indweller was given a spoon that was two feet long. The citizens of heaven remained well nourished in their provision. They feasted and strengthened themselves by feeding one another.
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)
Where has our kindness gone? What happened to our generosity? How did we become a people without ethics? Why have we allowed anger to rule us instead of our sweet, loving, grace-giving God? When did we abandon the free gifts we received in order to take up our chains again?
We have become self-absorbed, so fixated on our own independence, on wealth, on acquisition and consumption, we have forgotten about those in need – family members; our neighbors; the poor in the next district, ward, precinct or parish; families who cannot afford to feed their children breakfast before they go to the school a few blocks away from you; seniors next door or in our church; and yes, immigrants.
“Sell your possessions and give generously to the poor. You can have a different kind of treasure in heaven: one that never depreciates, one that never defaults, one that can’t be plundered by crooks or destroyed by natural calamities. Where your treasure is reveals where your heart resides.” (Luke 12:33-34)
Do we live in hell, gathering so many possessions we don’t remember what we own? Are we chasing after more of this and bigger of that only to have our closets filled and bank accounts bursting but don’t have time for relationships with our spouses, our children or our friends? Are we so busy trying to feed ourselves more and more and more we’ve forgotten to connect with God?
Have we become so fearful we would rather close our borders than open our hearts? Have we become so callous we would rather blame than engage in conversation? Have we become so anesthetized, we would rather starve our souls than open our eyes? Have we become so afraid to feed each other on God’s unconditional love and extravagant grace?
“If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.” (Isaiah 58:9-10, The Msg)
After Peter turned his back on Jesus, He gave Peter a second chance to affirm and show his love. Peter denied Jesus three times; Jesus allowed Peter to declare his love three times. At once, Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
I pray we do as Peter did; declare our love and focus on feeding others.