October 10. 1995
According to the March 1995 issue of the Financial Post, it costs $250 a year or about $21 a month, to adopt a sheep at the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. According to Hope International, a development agency that uses donations to support needy families, it costs $312 a year or $26 a month, to support an entire family. I wonder what sheep eat?
Quality of family life equivalent to the lifestyle of an urban Toronto sheep does not mean being locked in a cage, fed hay and having zoo patrons stare at you all day. For about the same price, that family probably gets one meal, basic clothing and clean water.
I wonder how long the average Torontonian would last on $21 - $26 a month? Personally, I would not do well. Shelter, utilities, food and even a minimal wardrobe exceed ten times that amount in less costly sections of Canada. Hope International families must live without central heating, electricity, running water or denim jeans.
What is more amazing is the high cost people are willing to pay for animal care. My cousin “boards” a few angora goats for a wealthy lady who pays her one dollar per day per goat — plus the cost of their feed. My cousin does not have to build fancy cages, hire zoo employees or pay city taxes so is able to take holidays every year on her “goat” money.
North Americans also spend millions on zoos and pets. Sometimes those in need go without because those with money would rather give it to a sheep than offer help to those less fortunate. This twisted attitude is a prominent target in Scripture. God condemns those who ignore needy people, and even offers Himself as their helper. “Evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.”
We are made in His image and ought to have His compassion. He expects us “to defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed; rescue the weak and needy; and deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82).
Why don’t we? Too often we look down on them rather than help, but it is not a sin to be poor. Furthermore, God does not necessarily want everyone to be rich. He emphatically says wealth can be a snare. The pursuit of money can draw people into all sorts of evil behavior.
God says we should use our money to help people, not abuse or neglect them. This includes employees for example: “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.”
The way we help poor people is an individual matter. Some will give food. Others will donate clothing or furniture. Some give their time and skills. Others give cash. One person cannot do everything and some have more to offer than others. Nevertheless, if each person obeyed God and did their part, we would see drastic changes in economic imbalances.
Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” He also said that God would reward any act of kindness done in His name. Therefore, when we do anything to help others, we ourselves will eventually benefit. On a global scale, it only follows that the lot of humanity would improve.
And I am certain there would be enough left over for the sheep in the zoo.