Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The rise in food prices

Recent news reports are focusing on the rapid rise in food prices worldwide. ABC News reported that "Food prices are up a staggering 29 percent worldwide. A heat wave in Russia and near-Biblical floods in Australia have sent wheat prices soaring 67 percent over last year. And here in the United States, floods followed by droughts in the Midwest mean corn prices jumped nearly 60 percent in a year."

The impact will actually be felt in more places than just your grocery cart. The rise in grain prices will also result in a rise in meat prices as the increased costs for animal feed make their way through the food chain. The price of other commodities are also being impacted by the same forces. From coffee to cotton we are being told to expect significant increases in the coming days.

But those of us in the West need to put this in perspective. What we experience as an irritation is becoming a full-blown catastrophe for many of the world's poor. It was the World Bank that first reported food prices worldwide are now 29% higher than they were a year ago, and they give a stark assessment of the situation. "Global food prices are now at dangerous levels. It is already clear recent price rises for food are causing pain and suffering to poor people around the globe."

Two thoughts came to mind as I read these reports. First, Christians need to do what we can to help those in need. There are a number of good Christian relief organizations seeking to share God's love in a very tangible way in some of the most distressed areas of the world. Consider helping groups like Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, and similar organizations who combine humanitarian aid with the gospel message. They are being flooded with calls for help, and they need your assistance now!

Second, I can't help but think of the Bible's description of the End Times. Jesus said it would be a time when there will be "famines and earthquakes" in various places (Matt. 24:7). And the Book of Revelation identifies famine as one characteristic of the beginning of those days. "And when He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, 'Come.' And I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine'" (Rev. 6:5-6). A denarius was a typical day's wage in John's time. And a quart was about what someone would consume in a good meal. John is describing a time when it will take a full day's wages to be able to afford one good meal...or three less nutritious meals. It's a time when 100% of the average worker's wages will be used simply to buy enough food to stay alive.

We're not there yet, but we seem to be approaching a time worldwide when the conditions described by John seem entirely possible.

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