Let me ask you a question. I’ve asked it of a number of people through the years. It has two parts. Let me encourage you to be very specific in your answer. Don’t think your answer very long, just blurt out what first comes to your mind. What we’re aiming for here to reveal your first reaction; your gut instinct. Here’s the question:
Whenever someone says the phrase “food stamps” (here in Texas, it’s known as SNAP benefits), (1) what mental images or words immediately pop to your mind and (2) what do those images or words have in common?
Have you got your answers fixed in your mind? Good. Now are you curious as to what sort of answers I’ve received to that question? Let me share with you some of the most common responses I’ve received:
Part one: lazy people, bums, the guy on the corner who stands there all day long with a sign in his hand that says “Hungry and will work for food,” illegals, blacks and Mexicans, people who live off of others and who know how to work the system, dope heads, crooks, hookers.
Part two: they’re beggars and users.
Now without commenting at all on any of the preceding or its perceived connecting point, let me present you with another list, this one composed of answers I hear relatively rarely in response to my question.
Part one: broke, children, disabled, elderly, homeless, illiterate, migrant, sick, under-employed, unemployed.
Part two: they’re people who are vulnerable now and vulnerable to all sorts of further troubles and harm.
Which gives rise to two more questions in my mind:
(1) Am I missing something or are we missing seeing people in need?
(2) What would Jesus make of all of this; what might he say?