120,000 more children will die of malnutrition. Not 120,000 will die. 120,000 additional children will die of severe malnutrition this year, due to the effects of COVID on the food supplies for children around the world. Who will mourn? Someone once said, “Blessed are those who mourn …” But who is mourning when they read the headline: “Rising child malnutrition rates to lead to 120,000 excess deaths during pandemic”? Even more than that, who is doing something about it?
Not “just” donating money, although money is needed and is important. My question is, who is in a position of power that has the ability to do something about the root cause of this? And what are they doing? Even more to the point, my question is for Christians in those positions do do something, and yet do nothing. Where are you? Are you mourning?
Right now, as I’m writing this, Elton John’s Funeral For A Friend just started playing. It’s a reminder. Christians – do we realize that these 120,000 children are our neighbors? That’s 120,000 children who will die from a lack of food this year, who didn’t really have to die. Who wouldn’t have died, if something had been done.
I wrote something a while back that you might want to check out, relative to who could have, should have, did or didn’t do anything about something. It’s titled Is the Great Commission for Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody?
If you’re Christian, you should know why I ask that question. If you aren’t Christian, or don’t know why, hang on a moment. I’ll explain shortly.
But first, let’s get back to the title question.
Who will mourn?
Do you know why I ask who will mourn? Do you know who it is that once said, “Blessed are those who mourn”? Here’s a hint, if you need it.
Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Yeah – it was Jesus. He’s why I direct this question especially to Christians. Should we not mourn over 120,000 children who will die because of severe malnutrition?
He’s also the reason I put quote-marks in Not “just” donating money, although money is needed and is important. Jesus is also the reason why, for some of us, “mourn” means more than praying for these children. More than “just” donating money. But actually doing something more. Doing something about the root cause of the problem.
Not that we are even going to succeed in every case, but shouldn’t we at least try, if we’re in a position to do so?
For instance, is it really conscionable to have farmers plowing perfectly good food back into the ground because their normal supply chain is broken? Is there really no one, no Christian group, who is willing to transport that food to some of those children around the world who are going to die from severe malnutrition, due to a lack of food? And if not them, what about poor people in our own country who can’t afford to buy food now?
Or do you think that’s not what Jesus meant? That He really only meant for us to be sad for a moment, maybe a moment of silence, and then get back to life.
What mourn really meant to Jesus
Let me share something with you about that word mourn. The Greek word in Matthew, not the English word we use today. What mourn meant to Jesus. And therefore, what it should mean to Christians today.
25.142 πενθέω; πένθος, ους n: to experience sadness or grief as the result of depressing circumstances or the condition of persons—‘to be sad, to grieve for, to weep for, sorrow, grief.’
Maybe you’re feeling vindicated at this point? Thinking, “See – I was right!” Sorry. Keep reading.
πενθέω: πενθήσω πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτηκότων ‘I will grieve for many who sinned in the past’ 2 Cor 12:21; μακάριοι οἱ πενθοῦντες ‘happy are those who grieve’ Mt 5:4. The reference in Mt 5:4 is not to grieving or mourning for the dead but rather sadness and grief because of wickedness and oppression.
Oh. The word is about something else. It’s about the sin that led up to these 120,000 children dying. 10,000 a month, just this year. Because of a virus. A virus that too many claim isn’t even real. Or who insist on living their lives even if it is real, because that’s their constitutional right.
God will care for the dead children. He’ll also do something about those who led to this disaster. Because that’s His right.
πένθος: ὁ γέλως ὑμῶν εἰς πένθος μετατραπήτω ‘let your laughter be turned into grief’ or ‘instead of laughing, grieve’ Jas 4:9. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 304). New York: United Bible Societies.
And finally, laughter be turned into grief. There can really be no mistake about this one. As we laugh and have a good time, even joking about the virus and try to claim a right to essentially infect others, James says something very different.
How Christian is it to ignore all of this, and go on laughing about COVID? Or even getting so involved with fighting with others over it that we lose sight of what’s really happening? Because when we get into the fights, even when we think we’re right, isn’t it often because of the “good feelings” we get from doing that? But then, that’s not grief. Nor is it mourning. Ignoring or having COVID parties and laughing about it doesn’t do anything for those children who are going to die of malnutrition either.
Blessed are those who …
In case it’s needed, here are the Beatitudes, from which these questions arise.
5:3-12 pp — Lk 6:20-23
Mt 5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:
Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Mt 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Mt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Blessed are those who mourn is the second one, after blessed are the poor in spirit. That means in order for us to mourn in the sense that Jesus spoke of, we must have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Which in turn means we gave up our normal selfish thoughts and desires, in order to allow the Holy Spirit in. When we do that, and only when we do that, can we begin to mourn as Jesus said.
For a detailed look at the Beatitudes, including culture, language and the Old Testament, please see the series on The Beatitudes.
Who / what should we mourn for?
Not mourn for ourselves, but for others. And not just for people we know, but also for strangers. But remember, even strangers are our neighbors. Even those 120,000 children who are going to die from a lack of food.
10:25-28 pp — Mt 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-31
Lk 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Lk 10:26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
Lk 10:27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’”
Lk 10:28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Lk 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Lk 10:30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Lk 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Lk 10:37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
So these 120,000 children who are going to die from lack of food this year, 2020, are going to die because of the virus. 120,000 children who would have been alive, but will die for no reason other than this virus and the inability of the world to get food to them.
Rising child malnutrition rates to lead to 120,000 excess deaths during pandemic
The article on msn.com starts with:
The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a stark increase in child malnutrition across the world which could lead to at least 10,000 extra deaths per month by the end of the year, a UN Committee has warned.
The analysis, published in the medical journal The Lancet, warns that the “unprecedented global social and economic crisis” means 6.7 million more children could suffer from ‘wasting’ — a severe form of malnutrition – in low and middle income countries (LMICs) by the end of the year.
Not only will there be 120,000 more children dying, nearly 7 million will suffer from severe malnutrition. Seven million! And that’s “normal”? That’s obscene, that’s not normal.
Not surprisingly, children dying of malnutrition happens in low income countries. But also in middle income countries. Actually, that’s not too surprising, since even in high income countries – like the U.S. – people have trouble getting food on the table without assistance from food banks. Not only poor, but even middle income households during these times need help.
Given what’s happening here, what chance is there for those in poor countries? And just like our government can’t even get it together to take care of those who need help, there’s even less chance of some of the so-called third world countries having a government that can deal with this crisis.
That represents a 14.3% increase in the number of children reportedly suffering from wasting before the pandemic, which stood at 47 million. Up to 80% of the increase in cases are expected to occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to the report, penned by the UN’s Standing Together for Nutrition consortium.
As we see, it’s not like this is new. Already, even before COVID, 47 million suffered from severe malnutrition.
Malnutrition, the report warns, could make the effects of COVID-19 more severe in women and children. In LMICs that have pursued a policy of lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, UNICEF estimates that some countries have seen an estimated 75 to 100% reduction in “essential nutrition services coverage,” particularly in areas that were already experiencing humanitarian crises.
Adequate assistance wasn’t there before. But now, it’s more likely to be even worse, not better.
The report also suggests that rising rates of global poverty will contribute to the rise in malnutrition. More than 140 million more people could face “extreme poverty” — meaning less than $1.90 a day — by the end of the year, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. That represents a 20% increase from last year.
Those numbers are so depressing. There’s really nothing additional that should need to be said.
What are Christians to do about the poor?
You may remember something Jesus said about the poor.
12:1-8 Ref—Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Lk 7:37-39
Jn 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Jn 12:4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Jn 12:7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Jn 12:9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
That doesn’t mean ignore the poor and focus on Jesus. Here’s something to consider.
12:8. Jesus’ reply probably contains an allusion to Deuteronomy 15:11, which urges generosity to the poor, who will always be in the land. He thus does not play down giving to the poor but plays up his impending death; he must be his followers’ first commitment. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 12:8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
The Deuteronomy reference is in the passage below. As you read it, try to imagine how living like that would affect the incredible gap between the rich and the poor in the world today.
15:1-11 Ref—Lev 25:8-38
Dt 15:1 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD’S time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. 4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
Dt 15:7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Definitely, the world would be different if we lived that way. God’s way.
But for the immediate topic, see that last verse.
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
God didn’t say anything like, there will always be poor – that’s just the way it’s going to be. Hardly.
Yes, there will always be poor. It’s a fallen world. By that same token, there will also be incredibly rich people, because it’s a fallen world.
But the point here is this. God tells us to deal with the poor in an open-handed way. Certainly not to ignore them. And there are plenty of poor people when 120,000 children will die from a lack of food.
And then consider this:
12:8 There would never be a time when there would not be poor people on whom others might lavish their kindness. But the Lord’s ministry on earth was swiftly drawing to a close. Mary would not always have the opportunity to use this oil upon Him. This should remind us that spiritual opportunities are passing. We should never delay doing what we can for the Savior. MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1536). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Once again, Jesus doesn’t say ignore the poor. Since the Old Testament, God told His people to take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans. Jesus said the same things. But, as with the incident between Martha and Mary, Jesus does point out that He is only here for a short time.
Also note – We should never delay doing what we can for the Savior. Guess what one of those things is.
Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When Jesus told us (Christians) teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, guess what one of those things is. Taking care of the poor.
For better or for worse, we are Jesus’ representatives here on earth now. I don’t believe He intended for us to be lavish with ourselves, as His representatives. After all, we’re not God. He is.
What He meant, I believe, is for us to care about and for the poor. To mourn over things like the situation where 120,000 children will die this year because of extreme malnutrition because of COVID. And like everything related to believing in Jesus, mourning includes doing something. I invite you to check out Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God? for more on that.
Conclusion – 120,000 more children will die. Who will mourn?
We don’t all have to do something about these children. In fact, we can’t. But for those who can, are you mourning? For those who can, are you doing something with that mourning? If you’re Christian, and if you’re able, are you doing what Jesus commanded us to do?
It’s not like we all have to boil the ocean. We don’t all have to go into action for every cause that exists. Some don’t have the resources or the ability to get into any cause. But, for the number of Christians that exist in the world, shouldn’t there be more of an impact? Are we not really Christian? Are we not really mourning?
What might Jesus say to us today?
What will Jesus say to us at the end of our life?
I never knew you?
|↑1||Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 304). New York: United Bible Societies.|
|↑2||Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 12:8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.|
|↑3||MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1536). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.|