John D. Barry
In our developed world, we don’t consider famines very often. If there were a famine in our lands, we could navigate through it because of our importing infrastructure. This isn’t the case for the developing world: famines mean walking miles to find food and water, and often dying or suffering terrible violence just to stay alive. (Currently there are two major famines in Africa bringing these desperate situations to life.) When I used to read about famines in the Bible, I thought of hunger, but I didn’t necessarily think of pain and persecution. Now that I’m more aware of what’s happening in the world, stories of famine in the Bible are very vivid for me.
Consider Naomi, whose husband died during a famine, and the pain she must have felt over that loss and the loss of her two sons (Ruth 1:1–7). She was left with her daughters-in-law. As widows, they were completely desolate. Women were considered a lower class at the time; they could not own property and could not provide for themselves in an agriculturally based society. When I see photos of hurting women in the Horn of Africa, I’m reminded of Ruth and Naomi.
I think this is what the Bible is meant to do. We’re called to read it historically and culturally. But we’re also called to read the Bible with a sense of urgency about what’s happening in our world today. We know there is no end to extreme global poverty and unnecessary pain. We can’t rightfully imagine that those of us who have resources and who can help will have stepped up to eradicate these issues. But we can make the biblical story our story. We can feel their pain and think as they think. And we can act. Imagine God showing providence in your life like He did Ruth’s and Naomi’s, and then help those who need you.
What can you do today to make a difference in the life of a person living in extreme poverty?
This article was originally published in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.