Sometimes It Takes a Famine

Story of the Day for Thursday February 2, 2012

Sometimes It Takes a Famine


“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.” 

                                                              Amos 8:11


If you would’ve walked into a fast food restaurant 300 years ago and ordered a cheeseburger, no one would’ve asked you, “Would you like fries with your order?”  Potatoes hadn’t been invented yet — at least not in Europe and North America.


When the Spanish conquistadors raided the Incan Empire in 1532, who could’ve convinced them that the greatest treasure they stole was not gold, but a tuber?

In Peru the conquistadors discovered the potato, and by the early 1600s it was introduced to many European countries.

The Europeans had stumbled onto an amazing vegetable. It could be stored for up to ten years. The plant was so adaptable it could be grown in hot or cold, wet or arid climates. The potato helped mitigate scurvy, tuberculosis, and dysentery. It was remarkably nutritious. Besides providing a high source of carbohydrate, it was rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It supplied every vital nutrient except calcium and vitamins A and D.


Yet, except as fodder for livestock, the potato was almost universally scorned. Some rejected it because it came from a heathen land. The Orthodox Church argued that potatoes were suspect because there was no mention of them in the Bible. Others, noticing the plant’s similarity to poisonous nightshade, considered it the creation of witches or demons. Before long, the potato was accused of causing leprosy, sterility, and sexual sin. The town of Besancon, France, fined anyone caught growing potatoes.

European leaders, on the other hand, realized the potato could stave off famine during poor wheat harvests. In 1771, the Faculté de Paris declared that the potato was not harmful, but beneficial. It was no use; the peasants wanted nothing to do with it.


What did the European nobility do to encourage the populace to accept the potato? They banned it. Frederick the Great of Prussia decreed that only royalty could eat potatoes.  He then created royal potato gardens and posted guards (while secretly telling them not to guard the crop closely). King Louis XVI of France wore a potato blossom in his buttonhole as a symbol of royalty, and Marie-Antoinette wore the same in her hair.

Before long, potatoes were selling for highly inflated prices on the black market. Everyone wanted the vegetable that had been banned.


God warned his people that when they began to lose interest in the words of the prophets and the writings of Scripture, he would take his Word away from them.

Sometime it takes a famine to reawaken our longing for what is truly valuable.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)


Magnets on the Fridge Door

Story of the Day for Wednesday February 1, 2012

Magnets on the Fridge Door

                        And in his teaching Jesus said, “Watch out for the Bible scholars who like to walk around in long robes and be greeted in the marketplace and have the special seat in the synagogue and the place of honor at feasts.” 

                                           Mark 12:38-39

In the 1950s, the vocation of pastor ranked 3rd in status in the U.S.   Fifty years later, pastors ranked 187th in status.  The vocation of pastor is not nearly as dignified or respected as it once was.

All this is refreshing news for pastors.  The word “minister” in the Bible does not mean a “clergyman,” but a “servant” – the one who is beneath others in order to serve.  Just as Jesus assumed the role of a lowly servant, and demonstrated it as he knelt to wash his disciple’s feet, so he calls those in the church to forsake status in order to serve people.

It is a little more complex than I’m making it out to be, because we are to show a kind of respect to leaders in the church.  But Jesus is stern in his warnings that we must not use religion as a means of gaining status.


The Bible scholars of Jesus day loved the status they enjoyed.  They wore long stoles and robes to indicate their high rank in society.  When they walked down the street on market day, the people would stand in honor as they passed by.

But, a concern for status invariably involves a comparison – a competition – to be higher in respect than others.  That’s what makes it ugly.  Status is rooted in pride.


The focus on status is destructive in the church.  It destroys relationship.  Intuitively, we know that relationships are of higher value than status.

You prove it by your refrigerator door.  The photos of people on your fridge: are they of the most famous and influential people in the world?  Or are they photos of family and friends?  How about the artwork?  Do you have artwork of the great masters, or drawings by your kids or grandkids?


Jesus turns the status charts upside down.  He says that, if anyone wants to be first, let him be last and the “minister” (or, the servant) of all.

In the family of God, it’s not about being “higher” than others.  It’s about having your drawing or photo slapped with a magnet to the fridge door.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)