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Hunger Games with a Purpose

There’s a popular movie showing in theaters across the country called The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Although I haven’t seen it, I’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy (don’t judge me), of which the current movie is based on book two. The High School Ministry of our church held a twenty-four hour fast this past weekend, which they, too, called, “The Hunger Games.” Our teens prayed, worshiped, studied, and played strategic “hunger games” such as carrying buckets of water on their head to illustrate how many people in third-world nations have to carry water for miles just to survive. Everything the students did connected with a special offering our church receives each year to provide for under-resourced people in our city, region and world.

I love it when students come together for a purpose like this. We didn’t advertise. We didn’t tell students to come and check out the coolest band, the most entertaining speakers, or even offer that we’d throw in free movie passes if you brought a friend. Students invited students. Friends invited friends. And all of them experienced on a very small scale what roughly 870 million people around the world experience every…single…day. Of the 870 million who are chronically under-nourished, 3.5 million are children who die every year. That’s almost 10,000 children a day.

My two oldest children had the opportunity to participate in this event, and they both came away with a much deeper understanding of global poverty and how Jesus calls us to help with both spiritual and physical needs. I like the “and.” Some people think Christians are too heavenly minded to do any earthly good. And others think a person is theologically liberal if he or she emphasizes feeding the hungry. The implication is that you are shirking the proclamation of the Word if you give heed to physical needs.

Fortunately, Jesus does not advocate an “either/or.” Jesus says those who will inherit the kingdom are the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:34-40). But Jesus also says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Jesus didn’t compartmentalize; He synthesized. He loved the whole person. If someone is hungry, we should feed him. If a person is “soul thirsty,” we should bring him or her to the well of Living Water found in Jesus (John 4:14). The apostle John writes, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). And while we serve, we do so “through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:30).

The apostle Paul carried this holistic view even to the deep level of personal holiness. It’s not only our body that is to remain pure, it is our “whole spirit and soul and body [that is to] be blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

We are to minister to the whole person with the whole Gospel for the whole purpose of being conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). If it takes a “Hunger Games” fast to drive home that point, so be it. Whatever it takes, may we take resources and the life and love of Jesus so that others will hunger and thirst no more (Revelation 7:16).