A Thanksgiving Reflection

Does any other country have as much to be thankful for as we have? And is it enough for us to have so much just to enjoy it?

In Luke 12:48, Jesus says, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required." (NRSV)

What does Jesus require of us ... in order to inherit eternal life?

To "love our neighbors as we love ourselves." (Luke 10:27-28)

How each of us responds personally to the challenge of that great commandment is a matter of individual conscience. But how do we respond as a nation, as the wealthiest nation on earth?

There are 22 donor nations in the world — nations whose affluence affords them the ability to give to the poor nations. In 1996, the donor nations made a commitment to give seven-tenths of one percent (0.7%) of their gross domestic product to the poor nations. Only a few countries of the European Union have met or exceeded that goal.

On that comparative basis — that is, compared with our unequaled affluence — the United States is dead last on the list. We give only one-tenth of one percent of our gross domestic product in development aid to the poor nations — half of what we were giving in the 1980s.

We citizens of the United States account for 4 percent of the world's population and we consume 40 percent of the world's resources. Simple math shows that if only another 6 percent of the world's population consumed as we do, then the 10 percent of us would use up 100 percent of the world's resources.

That doesn't leave much with which to love the other 90 percent "as we love ourselves."

But "charity begins at home," as the saying goes.

At home, 31 million Americans live in poverty and 39 million have no health insurance.*

Does "United We Stand" extend to Americans in poverty?

In the epistle of St. James we read: "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:14)

Some people say the United States is a Christian country. I wonder.

~ Jim Stoffels
Thanksgiving 2001

* U.S. Census Bureau figures for the year 2000.

Copyright 2001 by Jim Stoffels