The first person I met was a man huddled by the side of my path. He was moaning, clutching his stomach, and crying. He looked up at me in agony and stretched out his hand. “I am starving,” he said. I have tried to fill myself with this,” as he motioned to the dirt and grass at his feet. “But nothing satisfies. Do you have bread for me?”
I told him that I had bread but that I could not share it. It was, after all, mine. And what leftovers I had should go to people who look like me, live like me, are nearer to me. And I walked on.
The next man I met was also sitting at the side of the road. Beside him was a plate with moldy crust of bread. As I came upon him, he picked it up and took a bite. He looked at me and said, “I found this crust and it begins to satisfy my hunger. But I long for more. Do you have some that you can share with me?”
Again, I gave him the same response. Yes, I have bread. And yes, I know where more can be found. But I must save it for the people I know, the people near me. After all, they have problems, too. And I walked on.
The third man I came to had a plate full of bread beside him. It was fresh and hot and ready to be eaten. But both of his hands were twisted, crippled and bent. He had no way to get the bread to his mouth. He cried out to me, “Can you help feed me? I have bread – but I cannot consume it because the needs of my body are too great. Can you help?”
I gently told him no, that there were others in greater need, that he at least had bread, and therefore I did not have to be concerned for him.
And finally, I came to my own land, to my home. Everywhere I looked there were piles and piles and piles of bread in all shapes and sizes. Everywhere I walked, I could easily find bread. Now, not everyone was eating it – but it was available. So available. At their fingertips. Some were heartily eating. Others pretended it wasn’t there. Some were angry that there was such an abundance because they didn’t really want bread. And still others just passively ignored it. Everywhere I looked, there were bread hawkers as well, shouting about their wares. “Fresh, hot bread! Come and get your fresh, hot bread!” So. Much. Bread.
And I was happy to be back in the land of abundance. The land where bread is plentiful. Where it is free to have it and free to eat it. And the place where I could forget the look in the eyes of those that I met. After all, they were not my concern. There were many people around me not accessing the bread they have. They are my main concern, right?
And then, just as I was happily contemplating my lack of responsibility, I was stopped by a hand on my shoulder. I turned and looked into the eyes of the One Who is the Bread of Heaven. His face was sad, His eyes filled with tears.
“Why, My child, do you hoard what you have been given? Freely I gave – freely you must give.”
“But Lord, I do give! Why, look at all this bread we have! I am sharing it with anyone here who wants it.”
And He replied, “For God so loved the world. Not your world. THE world. The WHOLE world. He so loved the world that He gave Me, the Bread of Life. Stop hoarding what you have; start freely giving the Living Bread to every man. Look beyond the people who share your soil, those who are like you. There are millions who are starving to death, dying without knowing Me. To whom much is given – that is you – much will be required.”
There are approximately 200 language groups in Papua New Guinea alone who have never heard the gospel. They are isolated tribes whose language has never been written down. They are hungry and in their hunger, they try to fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in them with witchcraft. Curses. Talismans. And futility. And that is just one country.
There millions more in the world who have pieces of the Word of God, partial understanding, but limited access. They live in countries where it is illegal to own a Bible or to go to a church that is not government sanctioned. Our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in these places are daily in danger of dying for their faith and yet have little to no access to the encouragement of the Word of God.
And then there are millions more who do have the Word because it has been translated into their heart language. They have missionaries in their countries. But those missionaries cannot stay because of a lack of support. Or those people cannot hear because their physical needs are so great that the spiritual needs take a back seat.
And then there is us. The U.S.
We are saturated with “bread”. Gideon Bibles in every hotel room. Christian radio stations across the land. Christian television programs. Bibles in more translations that I can list here, in free apps and on the web, in book form and audio resources. CDs. Podcasts. DVDs. Churches in every town. Often, MANY churches in every town. Awana. Upwords. Vacation Bible School. Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And so many more great organizations. We are drowning in “bread”.
And yet we hoard what we have. We say, “We have problems of our own. We have to reach our ___.” We fill in the blank with our own pet project or people group or area. And YES, we are called to share the gospel wherever our feet find us. Those things I listed above are good things. But we are in such danger.
We have been given MUCH. The wealth we have comes in every form. Spiritual wealth. Physical wealth. Freedom to worship. Freedom to share our faith. Freedom to choose not to do so. We are stinking rich! Even the poorest among us are rich compared to the rest of the world. And we will be held accountable.
Because Jesus did not tell the disciples, “OK, guys, stay here in Jerusalem. There are tons of problems here. Lots of people here don’t believe in Me. So hang tight, and I’ll take care of the rest of the world. After all, they aren’t your problem.”
Nope. He said, “GO into ALL the world and make disciples. Teach them what I have taught you. Baptize them in my name and the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit. I’ll go with you, I promise. And yes, start in your hometown (Jerusalem) but then go out a little farther to the region (Judea). Then go to the people who are NOT like you (Samaria) and finally to the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, Kathy-phrased)
None of that was a suggestion, by the way. It is a command.
And there is no “or” in the command. It is not “Jerusalem OR Judea OR Samaria OR the uttermost”. It is AND. The Body of Christ is commanded to cover all of those bases. Not just our own. Not just the people who look like me. Or sound like me. Or live near me. Reach them, yes. But then reach farther to the rest of the world.
So what can you do?
First, educate yourself. Take a trip to a place that is off the tourist routes and outside US soil. Look and allow yourself to see how the rest of the world actually lives. Talk to a missionary. Don’t know any? I can introduce you to a few. Listen to their heart. Feel their passion. And ask them why they do what they do. Take a look at the groups at work around the world. Discover what God is doing beyond our borders.
Next, pray. Ask God what your part is in all of this. Because you DO have a part if you are a Christ-follower. I know your first assignment because we all share it: you are called to pray. And then you are either called to send someone in the name of Jesus or to go yourself. Doing nothing is only an option if you want to be disobedient.
And then obey. Whatever it is God is asking you to do, obey.
Because millions upon millions are starving for the bread you possess in abundance. While you share it? Or will you hoard it? The choice is yours.
But please, please remember: to whom much is given, much will be required.