I’ve been singing the following song with Anina a lot lately, which sparked a blog series. Today is Part 3, discussing Line 3.
God is great, and God is good.
And we thank him for our food.
By his hands we all are fed.
Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.Author: Anonymous
I did not expect to be mentally ambushed by this song when I began to sing it with Anina, but that’s exactly what happened to me on line 3 as I sang “By His hands we all are fed.”
I’ve been singing it all my life, very calmly, even gratefully. I’ve sung it in private Christian schools and warm homes and maybe an occasional picnic blanket on a grassy hillside with a cooler stocked with sandwiches and yogurt and homemade cookies.
I think you know where I’m going with this. At the grand old age of 40, I suddenly have questions about line 3.
Here are some of them.
Who is the “we” in “We All are Fed”?
I think in my childhood, “we” meant the people in the same room with me.
Now, I know that “we” includes my emaciated neighbor who spends too much money on cigarettes. And the five children crammed together on my other neighbor’s stroller. And the red-haired person at the homeless shelter who looks like a trouble maker. And the Muslim refugees in tents in Lebanon.
This brings me to the next question:
Are We All Fed?
It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.
In the United States, in general, food is available. But that doesn’t mean that everyone gets it. The truth is, not everyone is fed, even in America. Cast the net to include the whole world, and the picture is much more sober.
I went to my bookshelf and pulled down an old favorite, If the World Were a Village (affiliate link). This book, a great one for children, imagines the world as a village of 100 people. Using this clever image, the book shares what percent of the world are a certain age, speak a certain language, have access to clean water, etc.
Here is a quote from the Food page.
There is no shortage of food in the global village. If all the food were divided equally, everyone would have enough to eat. But the food isn’t divided equally. So although there is enough to feed the villagers, not everyone is well fed:
–50 people do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some or all of the time.
–20 other people are severely undernourished.
Only 30 people always have enough to eat.If the World Were a Village, David J. Smith
This, in turn, leads me to another question:
What is Meant By “His Hands”?
I think when I sang this line I used to picture God’s supernatural-sized hands reaching out of the sky with provisions.
Now, as I sing it, I wonder, does “His Hands” mean us? As in, His hands are His people?
I had to research a little to see whether Christians being “the hands and feet of Jesus” is referenced in Scripture at all. I don’t think it is. But judging from the number of times that individuals are said to be part of the body of Christ, I don’t think the expression is far off. So perhaps we could sing, “By God’s people, all are fed.”
If you think I’m about to go on a tirade about how Christians don’t care enough, I’m not. I have two observations, though.
First, I think Christians do a better job of feeding the hungry than any other group in the world. I’m talking from my own experiences in refugee camps and after disasters, not from hard statistics in a spreadsheet. I’ve heard of Muslim people who complain that their own people aren’t hospitable, but the Christians are. I’m sure this isn’t true of all situations. But I don’t give a lot of stock to claims about Christians not helping people. In practice, I see Christians all over the world helping people.
Second, if I’m an accurate sample of the population, most Christians can still do better on their own doorsteps. Again, I’m talking from my own experiences of my own struggles to give of my time and energy to people around me. I’ve had some stretches of time where we invite people for a meal on a certain night of the week. It’s both one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and the most exhausting. Sacrificing a night is not easy. But it’s an opportunity that most people reading this post have within their power to do.
By Our Hands, They All Are Fed?
There are people around all of us who actually need to be fed by our hands. Both in our actual neighborhoods and in the fliers in our mailboxes from organizations working with refugees or people experiencing famine or political upheaval.
I hope I haven’t ruined “God is Great and God is Good” for you. But I think line 3 is exciting. I think the Christian church, flawed as it is by humans, is the only force in the world powerful enough to make an authentic difference. One of the best opportunities is eating with people.
By His hands, all can be fed. I want to be a part of that mission!
P.S. I got really passionate about evening meal hospitality as I was writing and started compiling tips. But I saw it was turning into a rabbit trail and getting too long. I think I can slip those in next week with “Give us Lord our Daily Bread.”