Summary: It’s healthy to feel hunger and thirst, and if these are never satisfied, health will deteriorate. To satisfy spiritual hunger, do something for the Kingdom and for others, and you will feel fulfilled.
Hunger is something we feel at every stage of life and every day of our lives. In fact, when you are no longer able to get hungry, you know you are very sick. Being hungry is a sign of health.
Hunger is something felt by the youngest infant, from the very beginning. I had the rare chance this week to hold in my arms a child less than a week old. While I worried about whether I still remembered how to handle so fragile a subject, and while her mother went to get the camera, what did I see but a tiny mouth begin to make sucking motions? Six days old and hungry already! But that means a healthy baby!
Those of you who are parents of teenagers: can you assure that mother that the situation will improve any time soon?
But hunger is felt by those not so young, and again, being hungry is a sign of health. One of our senior members was in the hospital recently for a surgical procedure, and, in reporting on his progress, he said, "I knew I was getting better because I was ready to eat again, even hospital food.” Now that’s hungry, when you even like hospital food! But it meant he was getting well.
Hunger is, then, not only something you feel at every stage of life; it is also a sign of health to be hungry. The only thing that is unhealthy is for hunger to go unsatisfied. It’s healthy to feel hunger; but if you just stay hungry and never feed the hunger, then you are in danger. If you have a thirst but never slake that thirst, then you are in trouble.
Too large a portion of today’s world is caught in that trouble. Too many in today’s world face that danger. On this World Hunger Sunday, the sobering statistics have not improved much, if at all, since this time last year.
Figures recently published by Bread for the World tell us that every year 40,000 American babies die before their first birthday. A large number of these die because they are poorly nourished. Now that’s 40,000 per year in the United States. If you go worldwide, it becomes 40,000 children a day – 40,000 children a day! Can you even grasp that statistic? 40,000 children a day die from hunger-related causes around the world.
And if you want to know why, if you wonder why such things happen, one answer is that, more than anything else, misplaced priorities snatch food from the mouths of children. We have read for years of the starving children of Ethiopia; yet that government has spent 60% of its national budget on defense and has maintained the largest army in Africa. Its neighbor, Sudan, with perhaps 11 million starving people, spends a million dollars a day on its military machine. Elsewhere in the world, more than 300,000 Cambodian refugees have been eking out a campground existence for more than twenty years. Nearly 4 million Afghans are camped in Pakistan, with no prospect of returning to their homes. Following the Persian Gulf War, the Kurdish people of Iraq suffered untold misery, sent into exile by Iraq’s war machine and all but ignored by other nations. Thousands died as victims of war though no bullets were fired at them. Misplaced priorities, a hungry, ravenous war machine.
I tell you, if God is just, there will someday be a very, very warm spot in the deepest hell for those who have cynically maneuvered the nations of the world into vast, useless, degrading arms expenditures! If God is just, the hunger of the masses of this world will not go unnoticed. And I just dare to believe that the dramatic political changes of the last two or three years are in some measure the justice of God at work. Mind you, I don’t think He’s finished yet, either.
But just hold those thoughts in your mind for a while. I’ll return to them. Right now I just want to focus on our basic premise: that hunger and thirst are things which we feel at every stage of life, and to feel hunger and thirst is healthy. I am saying that it is only when you do not feed that hunger and slake that thirst that you are in trouble.
I do not think I would get any argument if I were to remind you that there are different kinds of hungers and thirsts. In addition to the very physical hunger I’ve been mentioning, you and I know that there is also a spiritual hunger and an emotional thirst. We wouldn’t be here today if that were not the case. It’s at the core of what it means to be human to sense a spiritual hunger, a desire for God. It’s central to what it means to be alive to feel a spiritual thirst, a longing to be in touch with someone who refreshes the heart and cleanses the spirit. "As the hart pants after the waterbrooks, so thirsts my soul after Thee, 0 God.”