Jump directly to the content
A Rich Christian in the Age of Food StampsCharlotte90T / Flickr

A Rich Christian in the Age of Food Stamps

Sep 17 2013
Why food insecurity is every evangelical’s concern.

The debate over food stamps continues in Congress this month, and the arguments are as red and blue as we would expect. Republicans, rallying for smaller government, argue for a reduction in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which would make 2 million fewer people eligible for the program. Democrats, supportive of government spending, favor the protection of SNAP.

And both sides are quoting the Bible, one saying, "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10) and the other, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these… you did for me" (Matt. 24:40).

I am a Christian without strong red or blue loyalties, but I do think rising food insecurity—defined by the USDA as lack of "consistent access throughout the year to adequate food"—should concern every one of us. As research continues to reveal the widening gap between rich and poor, many poor Americans struggle to overcome the systemic inequities that restrict their access to the resources necessary for their rescue.

Regrettably, I have only begun caring about the protection of SNAP since my teenage nephew came to live with us this year and began sharing with us his painful childhood stories of food insecurity. I confess to usually affording the insularity wealth buys, my life comfortably sheltered from the struggles of the poor. I am one of the rich getting richer, and borrowing Ron Sider's phrase, I don't often know how to live as a "rich Christian in an age of hunger." And yet I want to learn. I want to grow in generosity and compassion. I want to "do good, be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share," (1 Tim. 6:18).

My nephew, now 18, grew up hungry. Unlike my own children, who, by no merit of their own, landed into an upper middle-class family with two well-educated parents, my nephew (whose father died when he was young) was raised by a single mother who cobbled together an existence from minimum-wage jobs—and welfare. For a while, the live-in boyfriend delivered pizzas and brought in a little extra cash, but it was never enough to feed the little boy whose childhood passed in the quiet anxiety between government checks, as he looked forward to calling the toll-free number on the back of his mother's EBT card to see whether the monthly allotment of $100 been added.

Despite our stereotypes of lazy welfare queens (and some will argue that my nephew's mother, before her death, had been one), 4 of every 5 SNAP enrollees are either working or can't work because they lack access to childcare, suffer from a disability, or are elderly. Like my nephew, they are even children themselves. People who criticize or outright dismiss the food stamp program all have stories of the tattooed bum paying for his groceries with WIC checks (a caricature crassly painted by Daniel Flynn in his piece for The American Spectator)—or alternatively, the young mother giving birth to more WIC checks (excuse me, babies). But these people do not fairly represent the Americans who may have more legitimate reason for relying on food stamps. Perhaps we could even say that the majority of SNAP recipients are the widow, the orphan, and the alien—people whom God rises to defend (Ps. 68:5).

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

More from Her.menutics
Bring Back Blind Dating

Bring Back Blind Dating

Online matches put the pressure on us, while setups offer a sense of community support.
Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote a kids Bible so popular that they’re releasing an adult version.
We Don’t Age Out of Our Sexuality

We Don’t Age Out of Our Sexuality

Balancing love, desire, and the demands of midlife.
Why I Gave in to Barbie, Even Before Her Size Change

Why I Gave in to Barbie, Even Before Her Size Change

Barbie teaches my girls to play. I’ll let other examples teach them about being a woman.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Passion, Revisited: Remembering When I Was Radical for Christ

How can we stay ‘sold out’ for our faith?


  • #Urbana2015's @AfroRising (https://t.co/GSpIauewnP) named as a speaker at upcoming @Qideas conference in Denver https://t.co/pt0gWyKadQ
  • My dating life isn't just my business: @StephanieRische on community and relationships https://t.co/0QXj2RyPwG
  • RT @SHoddeMiller: Some reflections on #Lent, with help from @IFgathering, @angiesmith19 and @LisaRWhittle https://t.co/QQjQMiXHy7
  • Keeping Lent will not make us more holy in the eyes of God. It will not save us. Why some do it anyway: https://t.co/acxBZXaQsL
  • RT @kateshellnutt: Coming to @CT_women this week: Three female poets reflect on going through Lent with cancer. Hard and hopeful and profou2026

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
A Rich Christian in the Age of Food Stamps