And you thought the Feed My Sheep series here at the Thang was dead… Oh, how wrong you were. So far we have discussed the relationship between sheep and shepherds in scripture and who the scriptures define as Christ’s sheep (and who they say aren’t His sheep). In the next couple of posts I will discuss what it is we are supposed to feed these sheep; or in other words, what is the sheep food?
It seems to me that the first type of food we are supposed to feed the sheep is, well, real food.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2: 19)
And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you-that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God-I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. (Mosiah 4: 26)
Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy; (Alma 4: 13)
Now there are lots of ways to go about feeding the hungry, but as Mormons we have a way that we are asked feed the hungry first: Through Fast Offerings. If any readers are not familiar with this term, Mormons worldwide fast (go without food and drink for at least two meals) one Sunday per month and donate funds to the church that are specifically earmarked to be given to the poor and needy. These donations are called Fast Offerings and are separate from the 10% tithing that faithful Mormons also donate.
Church leaders have encouraged generosity in these alms to the poor and Christ certainly seemed interested in seeing to it that his sheep were physically fed. We have discussed fast offering vs. other charitable donations here in the past and the advantage that I see in making offerings to the poor via fast offerings is that the funds are mostly distributed through the Bishops of the church. I happen to have faith in the mantle of a bishop and think that as a general rule God himself is able to work with these men to see to it that funds are distributed properly.
So what do you think constitutes a generous offering to the poor? I have a buddy who served as a bishop and he suggested that for most middle class families he would consider a 1%+ offering to the poor generous. For a family with a $50,000 per year annual income that is $500 per year, or about $40 per month. What do you think? I suppose that someone who was much wealthier than that might have a higher threshold for what constitutes “generous”. For example, someone earning $200,000 per year might not be stretched at all to donate $200 per month to the poor ($2400 per year). Maybe someone in that position would want to do more for the poor and go for a much higher monthly number or something.
Because each family is different the Church has intentionally avoided defining “generous”. But this is just a blog so we can take a whack at it. Is my buddy right? Is offering 1%+ to the poor generous for a middle class U.S. Mormon family? And what about after we pay off all of our debts (including mortgage) as we are counseled to do? What would constitute generous then? How are we doing at feeding the sheep real food?