"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."
It would surprise me very much if you have not heard that proverb before. I can't tell you when the first time or the last time I heard it was. I can't tell you where it comes from (though I'm sure I could Google it and find out). But I think it is one of the truest and most important proverbs I have ever heard.
Basic concept: You can offer charity and assist a hungry person. This is a very good thing to do. But the better thing to do would be to take a look at what causes the person's hunger and address that issue. We talk about it in the fight against hunger and poverty. It is one thing to offer charity (a very good thing), but it is a completely different thing to fight against the root causes of hunger and poverty. This fight works to eradicate the problem so that our charity becomes unnecessary.
But this post is not about hunger or poverty. I was thinking about the proverb in the context of current society. I often find that I struggle when I hear people decry the current immorality rampant in our society. I agree that our culture is infested by a plague of immorality whether that be an obsession with sex and pornography, violence, abortion, etc. And I often find myself applauding the efforts of those who combat those vices. But I think we are spending ourselves in giving fish away rather than teaching people to fish.
I believe that the immorality we currently see in society is a symptom of a root cause that goes much deeper than wantonness and impropriety. We as a creation have forgotten our First Love. We have become a self-obsessed people with an insatiable need to consume at fantastical rates to appease that self-obsession. We have forgotten a God that formed us from the dust, loved us intimately, sent His one and only--the very extension of Himself--to live, die, and rise for us. I am concerned for a humanity that fights stem-cell research, terrorism, and other such hot-button issues as if the answers to these issues could bring life and hope to our decaying world. Are we not like the pharisees saying to Jesus here is this woman caught in adultery when we campaign for and against our hot-buttons? Have we not become so focused on the sin that we have forgotten the person, the people whom God loves so deeply?
I do not know what Jesus wrote in the dirt the day the adulterous woman was brought before Him. But I know the message that He is currently scratching out to me: "Love her. Love them. Offer charity and hope, but most importantly show them love. Show people love and teach them to know their First Love again. Save your soliloquies and look to me. Return to me with your whole heart, and I will be Your God."
I truly believe that it is time that we take up the cause of Christ. That we take the Gospel firmly in hand and offer Good News to the world. It is time for us to stop focusing so much of our efforts on handing out fish, and to instead teach our hurting world how to fish. And I believe that means loving the best we can and pointing our whole lives toward Jesus. Letting every answer to every question be Jesus. Encouraging one another to press on towards Jesus. And fighting against the ills of our society not only by attacking its symptoms, but tearing out the root. Only then do I believe that we can know and be able to offer true hope.