“No Free Lunch” is a Lie
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
--Isaiah 25:6 NRSV
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The adage is meant to mean “you can’t get something for nothing” or “there are always strings attached.” The idea may be true for our culture or for every culture for all I know, but it is an unbiblical worldview. God promises a free lunch and so much more, and God invites us to be a part of the free lunch movement.
Throughout the Bible there is the image of a banquet God intends to give to God’s people, an image that spoke of abundance and plenty for the people of ancient Israel where most people lived hand to mouth at the best of times. Many of the images of God’s overflowing banquet are future events, but Jesus spoke of such abundance as not only a future event but a present reality wherever God’s people trusted in God’s abundance and were faithful with what God had given them. God insists that one day everyone shall have more than they need, but in the meantime, it is up to us to share what we have been given and to believe our instincts are wrong which lead us to hoard good things only for ourselves.
Such a mindset is a dramatic break from our culture which declares everything is a transaction. You cannot get something for nothing because no gift is freely given. Most of our livelihoods and our retirement accounts are based upon the idea of supply and demand, selling what people want or need, and understanding the world as a place of scarcity where only some can be winners and most must be losers. Yet, God invites us to see a different kind of world where we have more than we need, and we are created to share it with others.
If that sounds like nonsense to you or perhaps even some kind of communist plot, I invite you to consider this story from the Washington Post today:
Restaurants in small towns in northeastern Oklahoma have started to post tickets and receipts for meals on their walls which customers have paid for but not eaten. Anyone, no questions asked, can take a ticket off the wall and get a meal for free. Even the tip is paid for in advance.
The mayor of one of the small towns, Miami, Oklahoma (pronounced My-am-uh) said about the practice, “Maybe if we can show people what it’s like to take care of your neighbor during a time of need, it will spread throughout the United States.” Miami is a former mining town where 23% of the population live in poverty—probably more now that the Covid pandemic and this winter’s “Artic Blast” have taken their toll. The mayor said, “We don’t like to ask questions in Miami and we don’t judge. Sometimes, people just need a little help. They need somebody to believe in them.”
These free meals began at one restaurant and quickly spread to restaurants around the area. One restaurant owner said, “It’s a discreet way for somebody to get a good meal without feeling embarrassed. Our waitresses know not to make a fuss or draw attention to it.” She went on to say, “I’ve had people tell me this is the first time in a long time that they’ve been able to have a meal in a restaurant. So there is still a lot of hurt and hard times out there.” Some of those who have taken a free meal have later returned to buy a meal for someone else when they are able to do so. Another restaurant owner took a call from a man in Chicago who read about the free meals and paid for several meals because he felt inspired by it.
Generosity begets generosity. Selfishness begets selfishness.
There is such a thing as a free lunch or a free dinner or a free breakfast. The Bible says so. God says so. All it takes for a “free lunch” to happen is people who trust they have enough to give to others with no strings attached. It’s too bad most people who say they believe in God don’t actually trust God enough to be generous with what God has given them.
I wonder what would happen if each person who reads these words would ask God to show them whom they should give a “free lunch” to?
I wonder what would happen if each person who reads these words asked God the same question every day?
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.