Lentil Stew and the Bible

By

3 May 2016
Bowls of lentil stew may not be what many consider the stereotyped Christian dish. There aren’t (as far as I’m aware) any Gospel passages where Jesus tucks into some lentil stew with his latest catch, although assumedly he did at some point.
Curries and lentil stews do tend to be more likely associated with Buddhism and Hinduism, perhaps with parts of India, Africa and vegetarian Asia. So, what do lentils have to do with the Christian faith?
Last year, some friends and I participated in a fundraiser called Live Below the Line, which took place again last week between May 2-5. It is an initiative of the Oaktree foundation, an anti-poverty NGO run by young people.
With clever marketing and ingenuity, this movement aims to raise over a million dollars each year by convincing Australians to live on $2 a day for five days. The proceeds go to Oaktree’s work in developing countries.
Most participants go shopping at markets at the beginning of the week with a $10 budget (teams get $10 per person) and fill their tummies with lentils, vegetables, rice, pasta and noodles.
Rarely is there enough in the budget to afford meat (which caused a minor meltdown in my friend as we got to the end of the challenge. Fortunately, we found a $1.50 chocolate cake mix, that, while past its used-by date, was still extremely tasty, and brought a smile back to her face.)
The idea is that people sponsor you, and you blog and reflect on the reality that most of the world lives with this kind of poverty. It can be a little contrived and quaint; indeed, it only includes food.
Those who do actually live on $2 a day have to find school fees, housing, water, clothing with that meagre amount. But, it’s a good process for awareness raising. Catholic NGOs like Caritas, Catholic Mission, and St Vincent de Paul have similar types of ‘solidarity fundraisers’.
Caritas does Project Compassion in Lent each year, often running pancake Tuesday launches and Fish Fridays. Vinnies organises the CEO sleepout to create awareness of homelessness. These campaigns are more than just our usual ‘slacktivism’, where we perhaps click ‘like’ or follow an easy ‘donate’ link in an email. They allow us to enter into, however loosely, the reality of most of the world’s people.
And while at the time of writing I’m still undecided about doing the Live below the line challenge this year, I’ve done two PrayerPods this last week with social activists who have opted to be vegetarian, and it has got me thinking. Both are Catholic and work in the area of social change. So, I’ve got lentils on my mind.
A quick google search brought the following information about these reddish-brown pulses. Lentils actually are mentioned in the bible in Genesis (25:34), 2 Samuel (17:28; 23;11), Ezekiel (4:9). I also read that bread made from lentils is the food of the poor of Egypt. So, perhaps rather than fish on Fridays in Lent, we should be preparing steaming hot bowls of lentil stew? All of our recent popes have been emphatic about the importance of faith and works, and Pope Francis gives the following non-negotiable: ‘I invite all of the institutions of the world, the Church, each of us, as one single human family, to give a voice to all of those who suffer silently from hunger, so that this voice becomes a roar which can shake the world.’
He has also said that throwing away food is like stealing from the mouths of the poor. And so, at the very least, we could start pondering what might happen if we do all live a little leaner. It might be a commitment to be intentional about food waste or exchanging some healthy grains for our steak from time to time. Indeed, it may actually make a difference, and be kind of biblical too.
Beth Doherty is the editor of PrayOnline and the author of the new book Tweet others as you would wish to be tweeted. The book can be ordered from www.worldcommunicationsday.org.au or on amazon.com
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