What to Give the Spiritually HungryCharles Spurgeon used to tell the story that, during the reign of Nero, there was a great shortage of food in Rome. There was plenty of food in Alexandria, and ships laden with grain often came from that city. But Nero had ordered the ships to bring back only sand to be used in the arena. When hungry people gathered at the dock to await the shipment, they were miserably disappointed. People needed wheat, not sand.
Then one of the merchants spoke to the shipmaster and said, "Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but wheat; and whereas aforetime thou brought in the vessel a measure or two of sand, bring thou not so much as would lie upon a penny this time. Bring thou nothing else, I say, but wheat, for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food to them."
In the religious world of today, sand is being shipped by the boatload to the spiritually hungry. The sand comes in many forms. Churches offer such things as recreation programs, fellowship meals, entertainment events, political forums, day care centers and organized observances of man-made holidays. Apparently the feeling is that people who are lost and dying in sin can somehow be saved by softball and soccer, pot roast and potato salad, Christmas candy and Easter eggs. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
Nowadays, most people think it odd when they hear of a church that doesn't offer sand. "Faith-based initiatives" have gained a lot of acceptance and praise in recent years; but the truth is that the phrase "faith-based initiative" is nothing more than political code for churches offering the world every kind of aid except the one thing that could truly make an eternal difference in people's lives - God's word. Churches, politicians and the nation at large have failed to understand both the mission of the church and the needs of the lost. In the New Testament, the church at Thessalonica understood both, and they were commended for it. "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place" (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
We need to make sure that the church is dedicated to no business other than carrying the only food that starving people need — the bread of life, the gospel of Jesus Christ. No sand!
At this point, some of us might be feeling smugly self-righteous. We might be tempted to boast that the church that we are a part of would never offer sand to the spiritually hungry. "We have no recreation programs or carnal community outreaches!" Sadly, some who would make such a boast have no spiritual community outreach either! While they are not giving the hungry what they do not need, they are also failing to give them what they do need. There is little or no attempt being made to take the bread of life to the starving.
Our mission is not merely to prevent sand from being taken to the hungry, it is to take bread. Let us load the ships and set sail! Ask a neighbor to study the Bible with you. Invite friends to our gospel meetings. Be on the lookout for opportunities to share God's word day by day.