A Bible Study on Hunger and Faith
Micah 6:1-5, 6-8
Introduction (for the leader):
It is always easier to speak of our justice and the injustices against us than it is to speak of our participation in anything unjust. Many of us, however, are the direct beneficiaries of injustice. Much of our wealth (particularly in the context of the United States) is at the expense of others throughout the world. Even in the cases where our wealth is not related in any way to injustice toward others, we acknowledge that most of us enjoy blessings while there are others who struggle for their existence. And, we know that we could share what we have with those in the world who do not have.
As Christians, we turn to the Bible to look for hope and consolation in the face of difficulties. Often, we find not only comfort but also a call to repentance and reconciliation. The prophet Micah is an example of such a call.
The prophecies of Micah come from a time over 2,700 years ago in the latter part of the 8th century B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). As a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, Micah was concerned with issues that many prophets were concerned with: unfaithfulness and the worship of other gods. Like most other prophets, Micah has numerous speeches of doom along with speeches against false prophets and rulers as well as visions of the destruction of unfaithful cities and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The passage chosen for this Bible study is considered to be like a court scene where God makes his case against Israel in front of the earth and mountains as God's witnesses. God has been faithful to Israel. In turn, God wants our faithfulness: justice, mercy, and humility.
The Bible study
- Photos of people from areas of the world who suffer from famine and hunger (most hunger relief organization sites have such pictures).
- Photos of people who represent us in our wealth and abundance (advertising images of fashion, food, excess, etc.)
- Candy (see Opening Activity)
- Small and medium sized paper bags
- 3"x5" note cards
- Paper and writing utensils
- Newspapers and magazines with stories that talk about injustice of any kind with particular attention to issues of hunger, malnutrition, water, famine. Print out similar articles from the Internet, as well.
Suggestions for music:
- "Must Be," track 11 This, Lost and Found and Limb Records, 1998.
- "Justice Means," Track 16 from Boundless Love, Dakota Road Music 2003.
- "Where Justice Rolls Down," by Bob Stromberg, Rick Carlson, Michael Pierce Donley. 1994 Stream Mountain Music, Hark Productions, Inc., and Arvid's Girl Music.
- "I See God's Face in You," by Jim Morgan. 2002, Richmond Mill Pond Publishing.
- "Do Life! Ubuntu," Ken Medema, 2002, Brier Patch Music.
Gathering (5 minutes before and 2-3 minutes at beginning of the scheduled time):
Establish an environment that lifts up justice and hunger issues through music and visual images:
- Have music playing while people gather in the room (any of the above listed songs, or anything that you feel is appropriate and might lead people to think about issues of justice and hunger).
- Place posters and pictures of people suffering from hunger and poverty on the walls, tables, desks, or on the chairs where people will sit. Place images of wealth (advertising, fashion, food, excess, etc.) next to these images of poverty.
- Once everyone is gathered, play "Must Be," by Lost and Found. (see above)
You will need to purchase a quantity of small candies for the group ahead of time. Use the distribution formula below to figure out how much you will need (for example: a group of 12 participants, including the leader's "bank," will need about 270 pieces). Small bite-size candies work very well for this game. Individually wrapped hard candy also works well and might be more appropriate and affordable if you have many participants. You may also use pennies or plastic game chips if you don't like the idea of using food or candy.
Each person is to receive a small paper bag with game pieces in it. Distribute the candies or game pieces into the bags ahead of time as follows:
- One half of the group has 10 pieces of candy each.
- One fourth has 20 pieces each.
- The remaining fourth has 30 pieces each.
- In each bag, there is also a 3x5 card. Each person should draw one stick figure on the left side of the card held sideways. (The idea is to leave room for spouse and children. The leader should draw an example.)
- You should have an additional five pieces for each participant reserved in the leader's "bank."
During the activity, the leader announces a series of steps that will "re-distribute" the wealth (candies or game pieces). When you are instructed to "eat" a piece, you may either eat it or give it to the leader.
Read each step that follows and allow time for the participants to take the appropriate action. Do not discuss what is going on until after the activity is completed.
- Everybody "eat" one of your pieces of candy in order to keep yourselves alive. You need to eat something.
- You just got married, unless you have more than 18 pieces, and then you may decide if you get married or not. You receive one piece of candy.
- If you are married, you have a child. Each person in your family needs to "eat" a piece of candy. That is three pieces per married family with one child. If you are not married, "eat" one piece.
- If you have more than 14 pieces, you may give up three pieces and receive a college education. You may write college on your 3x5 card (or "college x 2" if both adults can afford it.) Or, if you choose to pass up college, you may choose to receive 2 pieces instead.
- You have worked very hard; each adult in your family receives 1 piece.
- If you have more than 20 pieces, you may invest three of your pieces in the "bank" and get 6 in return.
- If you have less than 10 pieces, famine has just struck your country and there is less food. You must give up two of your pieces.
- Each person in your family should "eat" one piece.
- Everybody receives one piece.
- If you already have a child, you now have a second child.
- If you have a college education, you receive a promotion and receive 3 pieces. If you already have 20 pieces or more, then you receive 5 pieces.
- If you have more than 15 pieces, you may choose to get married. (Let them decide first before reading what they get.) Your spouse brings with them 10 pieces into the marriage. Each new marriage receives 10 pieces.
- Every family receives two pieces.
- If you were already married and have less than 10 pieces, you have another child. If you have more than 10 pieces, you may decide if you want to have another child or not.
- Each person in your family should "eat" one piece.
- You need to keep up your strength and protect yourself from disease. Each person in your family should "eat" another piece, if you have it. If you don't have enough, you "eat" half of what is left.
- Each family receives 3 pieces.
- If you have less than 7 pieces, your country has experienced disease, and you must give up half your remaining pieces, and one of your children has died.
- If you have more than 15 pieces, you must pay 2 pieces in taxes. If you have more than 35 pieces, you must pay 4 pieces in taxes.
- Every adult in your family receives one piece.
- If you have more than 20 pieces, every person with a college degree receives a promotion and 5 pieces.
- Every family with children has another child.
- Everybody must "eat" one piece. If you do not have enough pieces for everyone, one of your children just died.
- If you have between 35 and 40 pieces, your parents have just died and left you 15 pieces.
- If you have more than 40 pieces, your parents have just died and left you 30 pieces.
- Every family receives two pieces.
- Everybody must "eat" one piece. If you do not have enough for everyone, one of your children dies.
- Now count your pieces.
Reflection and discussion:
What happened? Was it fair? Why or why not? How did the exercise reflect life?
Present (print out or read aloud) any or all of the international and domestic statistics from the Bread for the World Web site concerning wealth, hunger, and health. Simply read them. Try to refrain from commenting on them unless you need to explain something. Let the stark statistics speak for themselves.
Encountering the word of judgment
- Without any introduction or preface to the group, read out loud in a judgmental tone the passage below or from Micah 6:1-4(NRSV). Don't be afraid to sound very judgmental. A little discomfort and squirming are ok. This won't have the desired effect if you read it without emotion.
This is God's word to you: Come and present your case to the hills and mountains. Israel, I am bringing charges against you. I call upon the mountains and the earth's firm foundation to be my witnesses.
My people, have I wronged you in any way at all? Please tell me. I rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to be your leaders.
- Pause and let the words and tone of voice sink in. Let them know where this passage is from. You may include any or all of the following points in your explanation:
- Micah is one of the twelve "minor prophets."
- Micah prophesied over 2,700 years ago.
- The people of Israel were once again unfaithful to God. They had turned away from worshiping God and worshiped false idols instead.
- Micah prophesied that a number of terrible things would happen to the cities and people who are corrupt.
- Micah also gives hope for those who turn away from their sins and their misguided ways, and go back to true worship of God.
- Have you ever done something accidentally or intentionally to make someone angry (a friend, youth leader, sibling, parent, stranger, or teacher, etc.)? Did you try to make it up to them? How? Did it work? Explain.
Word of hope and guidance
Hear what God told Micah to say to Israel and how that speaks to us today:
What offering should I bring when I bow down to worship the Lord God Most High? Should I try to please him by sacrificing calves a year old? Will thousands of sheep or rivers of olive oil make God satisfied with me? Should I sacrifice to the Lord my first-born child as payment for my terrible sins? The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: 'See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.'
- "Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly obeying our God" all sound like great and noble things to do. What does that look like, though? How do we do justice? How are we merciful and how might we obey our God?
- Using the pictures you found for those suffering from hunger and those who are wealthy might help you start some discussion around the above questions. Using news articles about injustice and hunger will also start the process of increasing an "appetite" to see that justice is done.
A closing prayer based on Micah 7:14-15,18-20
(say together or in alternating groups)
Lead your people, Lord! Come and be our shepherd. You promise to work miracles just as you did when you led Israel out of Egypt. Our God, no one is like you. We are your chosen people, and you freely forgive our sin and guilt. You don't stay angry forever; you're glad to have pity and pleased to be merciful. You will trample on our sins and throw them in the sea. You will keep your Word and be faithful to Jacob and to Abraham and their descendants and you promised many years ago. Amen
Contributed by Pastor Scott A. Moore