Hunger is no new problem. The Old and New Testaments speak of it. But until recently hunger existed on a local or regional scale, not a national or international one. Every year people starved to death, and in the rest of the world it went unnoticed. Before the development of readily available communication and transportation, nations that had more food than they could consume could do little to relieve hunger outside their own borders. And anyway, few countries had any large surpluses.

In the nineteenth century the great Irish potato famine, though it was in some measure offset by outside help, was disastrous. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a population that had been 8.5 million in 1845 had by 1851 decreased by nearly two million through death and emigration.

Today the problem appears to be quantitatively worse than ever before. In less than 150 years, the number of living human beings has risen from one billion to just about four billion. Although the food supply has increased, it isn’t nearly enough to meet the dietary needs of all the world’s people. The United Nations says there are forty-two nations in the “most seriously affected” hunger category; a few years ago there were only thirty-two. Even if there were enough food each year to feed all people adequately, there is little likelihood that it would be distributed to all.

It is said that millions of Americans are underfed. If the greatest food-producing nation in the world does not or cannot take care of its own people, how will it take care of the rest of the world? Ought not the United States to provide for its own hungry people first? Would not these citizens rightfully feel wronged if their affluent fellow citizens fed others without first feeding them?

Difficult questions abound in this area. To what extent should nations be helped when their food needs increase year by year because of high birth rates? Since there is not enough food in the world to feed everyone, which countries should nations like Canada and the United States help? What should we do about India, which, though many of its people are starving, allows millions of cows to forage freely and consume grasses from lands that could be used to raise cereals for human use, and which then refuses to kill the animals and eat the meat.

In September Senator Mark Hatfield introduced into the U. S. Senate a “concurrent resolution” stating that everyone has “the right to food.” Earlier he had sponsored a Senate resolution asking Americans to set aside November 24 of this year as a Day of Fasting. We commend him for his Christian convictions and for his humanitarian commitment.

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Senator Hatfield’s concurrent resolution asserts that “every person … throughout the world has the right to food.” If this is true (no basis for it was given), the sad fact remains that the right means nothing if the food is unavailable. This thesis could also be dangerous. When hunger-stricken countries have the atom bomb, as India does, could they not use force—in particular, nuclear blackmail—to get what is their “right”? And if food is a right, can nations like Canada and the United States be charged with denying hungry nations what is rightfully theirs if they do not supply them with food?

For spokesmen for America to proclaim from the podium of the World Food Conference the “bold objective” that “within a decade no child will go to bed hungry, that no family will fear for its next day’s bread, and that no human being’s future and capacities will be stunted by malnutrition” is unconvincing and even farfetched. The crisis is getting worse, not better. Moreover, food, unlike coal, iron, and silver, is an undependable resource. Drought and other abnormal weather conditions are beyond man’s control, no matter how good his intentions. The two great grain-producing countries of North America experience drought periodically. A severe drought in the great plains of the United States and Canada could make the current food crisis seem minor by comparison.

Christians must do all they can to feed the hungry. No Christian can shrug his shoulders toward the billion hungry people—or one hungry person—on this planet. Affluent Christians—and compared with people elsewhere, most of us are in this category—should reduce their food consumption, renounce their gastronomic luxuries, eat more cereals and vegetables and less meat, and give sacrificially to others who, no matter how hard they try, cannot get enough food for decent living.

We should have no illusions that the world will reach the place where “no family will fear for its next day’s bread.” But we Christians should do all we can to come as close to fulfilling this idealistic vision as possible. As long as that fear exists, we have work to do.

The New Cars

Many an American family now spends more for transportation than it does for food. A great deal of concern has been voiced about the price of gasoline. But repair costs have also been rising. And the soaring prices of the cars themselves actually have been the major factor. The car payment is probably eclipsing the size of the mortgage payment in a growing number of households. Worse yet, the tithing Christian may be realizing that transportation bills are in the same league with “the Lord’s tenth.” The trend toward smaller cars evident in the 1976 lines is an encouragement, but demands for more drastic measures can be expected.

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Zapping Zionism

Last month the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee of the United Nations took a giant step backwards, a step that threatened to make the U. N. appear irresponsible, prejudiced, and anti-Semitic. A resolution it approved and sent to the General Assembly for adoption stated that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

Zionism, the movement that led the way to the establishment of the Jewish national homeland in Palestine, admittedly has political, economic, and religious ramifications. Jews themselves are divided over it; some disagree with the Zionist viewpoint that Jews outside Palestine are “in exile.”

The Arabs who used to live in Palestine are understandably unhappy about their displacement from what they consider to be their homeland. Equally understandable is the deep-seated urge among the Jews to establish a national Jewish state. If this desire constitutes “a form of racism and racial discrimination,” then few nations are innocent of similar charges.

If religious considerations are part of the indictment in the committee’s resolution, it is only fair to observe that in this area Judaism is no match for Islam and its strictures against non-Muslims. Muslims who have converted to Christianity can tell the world of the social, economic, and political sanctions that follow as a matter of course. For the Arabs to press this line tells us more about them than about the state of Israel.

The Jews have not tried to destroy any other group of people. Rather they themselves have been the victims of attempted genocide. And it is the extremist Arabs who want neither a Jewish state nor an Arab-Jewish state that pose the real threat of genocide to the Jews.

The state of Israel is here to stay. The Arab nations will have to make peace with that fact. Their only alternative is to kill off the Jews in Palestine. And this the democracies of the world cannot allow. Christians must remind themselves of the biblical prophecy of lasting peace between Arabs and Israelites. But right now there is little cause for rejoicing; that kind of peace seems as elusive as ever.

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Non-Nutritive Rhetoric

Feeding the world’s starving and malnourished is getting to be an increasingly popular cause in the churches. This is cause for rejoicing. But the attempt to use the problem of hunger as a vehicle for promoting theories that stand to worsen the plight of the poor is regretful.

At its fall board meeting, the National Council of Churches spent a lot of time on the matter of food and passed a wordy pronouncement on the subject. The statement saw most of the solutions in governmental action. It did not, however, call for immediate elimination of the capitalistic system. It thus stopped short of the denunciation of capitalism included in a statement adopted at a NCC-sponsored consultation on hunger held a month earlier in Wisconsin.

The NCC Governing Board only received the consultation paper. It neither adopted nor rejected it. Therefore, critics of the council are prevented from blaming the board—the NCC’s top body—for the conclusions of the consultation. The board did, however, decide to set up a coordinating group to implement the consultation’s findings within the NCC and cooperating bodies.

These actions by the Governing Board add up to less than a responsible course of action on a critical matter. The board missed an opportunity to condemn the regrettable action of one of its own children. And by setting up machinery to handle the recommendations of the consultation, it implied at least partial approval of what was done at the Wisconsin gathering. By passing its own wordy pronouncement, it simply muddied the waters. The world’s hungry need better friends than the NCC.

What Is True Wisdom?

Higher education is intended to increase one’s knowledge, but knowledge without wisdom may be worse than ignorance.

What is wisdom? James examines the matter and explains what wisdom, and the person rightly deemed wise, is like and is not like. First, wisdom is accompanied by a good life, with works that are evident to others (Jas. 3:13). Wisdom is not restricted to the life of the mind but affects the whole of life. A bad man may be smart, but he is not wise. The truly wise are “full of mercy and good fruits” (v. 17).

Second, true wisdom is accompanied by meekness (v. 13). We are accustomed to hearing bright children flaunt their knowledge and scorn their less gifted peers. Often intelligent adults, too, are very childish in the ways they boast of themselves. Happily, those with the greatest intellects do not usually display the arrogance widely observable among those who are merely above average.

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Third, true wisdom is not jealous of the achievements of others and the accolades they get, nor is it ambitious to gain credit for itself (v. 14). Jealousy of others—their intelligence, beauty, physical skill, popularity, health, income, or other advantages—is, regrettably, very common. But jealousy is, by implication, a protest against God for having made us with the particular combination of assets and attributes he chose for us.

Fourth, true wisdom is “pure … without uncertainty or insincerity” (v. 17). What passes for wisdom in the world is often sullied with personal or partisan considerations. It would not stand the test of full disclosure. The Christian, as one who lives in the light, is not to fall into the worldly pattern of evasiveness, “cover-ups,” and hidden agendas.

Fifth, the one who is truly wise is “peaceable, gentle, given to reason” (v. 17). The harsh and dogmatic stance of many who know a lot is incompatible with wisdom. James demonstrated in this very letter how one can take a firm stand on certain matters, but he is careful to give reasons for his pronouncements. We can be sure that the sincere questioner would have found James willing to discuss the issues instead of hurling dictums from on high.

Wisdom is not just for those who are exceptionally smart. Wisdom as James describes it is something that all can demonstrate, from whatever level of knowledge and intelligence God has entrusted to them.

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