Cyclone Nargis swept through Burma's low-lying Irrawaddy Delta on May 2. The 2004 Asian tsunami had stripped the terrain of much of its protective vegetation. Initial reports indicated that tens of thousands of people, unwarned by Myanmar's military junta, died in the howling winds, storm surge, and flooding.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
International relief agencies geared up to save lives in the critical first hours and days after the disaster, before a host of diseases and injuries drove the death toll far higher. But the government stymied their efforts.
Robert Gates, the U.S. secretary of defense, complained of the thuggish regime's "criminal neglect." With more than 133,000 feared dead and millions more affected or homeless, other observers, including Benedict Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, accuse Myanmar's overseers of committing crimes against humanity.
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Days later, an earthquake registering 8.0 on the Richter scale shook China's southwestern Sichuan Province, killing more than 69,000 people. Much of the region's infrastructure was destroyed. Observers, noting China's massive relief and rescue mobilization, couldn't help but also notice that shoddy construction due to government corruption greatly exacerbated the devastation.
Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
"We have been tremendously encouraged by the generosity of both our existing donors and donors giving to us for the first time," World Vision's Randy Strash said. "Massive natural disasters like these bring out the compassion in people; many see them as 'must-give' situations—recession or no recession. It's life or death. People understand both the urgency of the need and the impact their donation will make. That's why we're not seeing any signs of donor fatigue among our supporters. In fact, in the case of Myanmar, we expect to raise four times what we initially estimated."
Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."
Meanwhile, the prices of staple foods worldwide have jumped 80 percent during the last three years. The global food crisis is widely viewed as a failure of international planning and leadership, involving consumption outstripping production; diversion of significant areas of food acreage in the United States to produce bio-fuels such as ethanol; and government policies that keep farmers from growing crops in poor countries, among other factors.
They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"
The cost of rice is up 165 percent over the last year. According to the World Bank, wheat has hit a 28-year high and is nearly twice the average price of the last quarter-century. Robert Zoellick, the agency's leader, says the crisis could force 100 million people deeper into poverty. High prices have sparked riots in several countries, and the bank says 33 nations face potential social unrest. The United Nations estimates that adequately responding to the crisis will cost the developed world $30 billion annually.
He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Earlier Christianity Today articles on the food crisis include:
Crisis Inflation | Aid agencies struggle to up their efforts amid soaring food and gas costs. (June 9, 2008)
Food Crisis: No Free Lunch | Rising prices for essentials precede riots in some parts of the developing world. Are biofuels partly to blame? (Stan Guthrie, Liveblog, Apr. 21, 2008)
Famine Again? | Why some places suffer food shortages decade after decade. (May 11, 2007)
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