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Bible studies

Bible studies from Improving food security – a Pillars guide

Group discussion guide with 10 Bible studies related to food security

2005 Available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Pillars magazines on a desk

From: Pillars guides

Practical, discussion-based learning on community development for small groups

These Bible studies are designed to use in small groups. They may provide a useful introduction to a meeting where different topics from the Guide are being discussed. Choose a study that will be linked to the topic you plan to study or that is relevant to your situation. During the studies, encourage people to reflect on what they read, to discuss the meaning and the implications of what they learn and, finally, to pray together about what they have learnt.

BIBLE STUDY 1 God’s provision for the future

Read Genesis 14:17-41 where Pharaoh’s dreams are described.

  • What happened in Pharaoh’s dream (14:17-24)?

Joseph explains that God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do (14:25-32).

  • What is going to happen?
  • Why is the dream given in two forms (verse 32)?
  • What actions does Joseph recommend in verses 33-41? Note the steps involved.

This plan seemed good to Pharaoh and all his officials, though storing sufficient grain to last a whole nation for seven years is a massive undertaking.

  • What qualities are we told the person in charge needs (verses 33, 38, 39)?

Joseph is chosen for the position; the years of abundance – Read Genesis 41:46-49.

  • What does Joseph do in the years of plenty? 

The famine – Read Genesis 41:53-57

  • How widespread was the famine?

Many lives were saved through God’s merciful warning, Joseph’s openness to God and Pharaoh’s correct response.

  • Are you open and responsive to God?
  • Are you using wisely all that God has given you to provide for the future for yourself, your family, your community and others?

BIBLE STUDY 2 Trusting in God’s provision

Read Matthew 14:13-21. Jesus has withdrawn to a solitary place on hearing of John the Baptist’s death (Matthew 14:6-13) but the crowds follow him. Rather than sending them away, Jesus has compassion for them and heals their sick. Evening has come, it’s late and it’s a remote place. The disciples suggest Jesus sends the crowds away to the villages to buy food.

  • What is Jesus’ reply (verse 16)?
  • What quantity of food is there available (verse 17)?
  • How many people are fed (verse 21)?

All ate and were satisfied and twelve basketfuls of broken pieces were left over. ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ (John 6:12)

  • Compare Luke 12:22-26 (or Matthew 6:25-27).

Jesus is not saying that we should not sow or reap or store food. Rather, we are called to be good stewards of all he has given us. He is saying that we should not worry about these things. God, our Father, knows our needs (Luke 12:30 or Matthew 6:32) and will supply them. Jesus promises us: ‘But seek his kingdom (that is the kingdom of God) and these things will be given to you as well.’ (Luke 12:31 or Matthew 6:33)

  • Do you trust that God will supply your needs?

Philippians 4:19 tells us: ‘And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’

BIBLE STUDY 3 Stewardship: using what we’ve been given

Read Matthew 25:14-30 – A man is going on a journey so he asks his servants to care for his property while he is away.

  • What guides him in how he distributes his money (verse 15)?

The servants with five and two talents use what they have been given and double them but the servant with one talent buries it in the ground.

  • Why does this servant not use the talent he was given?

The master judges the servant on his own words. If he knew that his master harvests where he hasn’t sown, he should have banked the money so that he could have given it back with interest. This servant effectively had nothing in the first place, not because he wasn’t given anything but because he chose not to use what he was given. His master calls him a wicked, lazy servant and he is thrown out into the darkness.

The two servants who used what they’d been given well, go to be with the master and share his happiness. Because they were faithful with a few things, they are put in charge of many things.

  • To whom does the earth and everything in it belong? (Exodus 9:29; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1-2)

Everything that we have comes from God. He trusts us to care for what he gives us (Genesis 2:15; Genesis 9:3) and to use it well (1 Peter 4:10).

  • What has God given you and how are you using it?

BIBLE STUDY 4 Stewardship: greed and generosity

Read Luke 12:13-21 – Jesus warns us to avoid all kinds of greed. ‘A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’

  • What happens to the rich fool in the parable?

The man had prepared many things for himself but was not ‘rich towards God’. Similarly, Proverbs 21:13 tells us: ‘If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.’

We are encouraged to be generous with what God has given us. We should be open-hearted and willing to lend to the poor (Exodus 23:11; Deuteronomy 15:7-8). We are also told to be eager to share and give to one another (Acts 4:34-35; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Galatians 2:10).

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 – God loves a cheerful giver and we will reap what we sow. He promises us: ‘You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.’

  • In what ways might this generosity be expressed (verses 11, 12)?

Jesus also says: ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.’ (Luke 6:38)

  • Are you listening to the cry of the poor?
  • How as a group could you do more for needy people, both within your community and outside your community?

BIBLE STUDY 5 Pest control: the problem of sin

When even the tiniest insects multiply, they can destroy a whole store full of grain.

  • What other examples do the following verses give of small things having great consequences? Song of Songs 2:15; 1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9; James 3:5b

The Bible tells us that sin can be the same. Though it begins small and may seem insignificant, if it is not dealt with, it will ultimately lead to the destruction of our lives.

  • For each of the following verses or passages, notice the types of sin that have crept in and grown:  • Jealousy: Genesis 4:2b-8; Genesis 37:3,4, 17b–20  • Idolatry: 1 Kings 16:31; Hosea 13:2  • Ignoring God’s plans: Isaiah 30:1  • Lying: Jeremiah 9:3 • Disobeying God and serving other gods: Jeremiah 16:11-12  • Sexual immorality: 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6  • Ignoring God’s grace: Galatians 5:4-9
  • What is the ultimate consequence of giving in to our sins? Romans 6:20-21, 23a; James 1:13-15
  • Ask God to show you today if you are guilty of any ‘small’ sins, remembering his word: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:8, 9)

BIBLE STUDY 6 Pest control: control and protection

In this PILLARS Guide we look at some ways to stop insects living and spreading in the grain store (G6–8). Similarly, we are told to protect ourselves against sin and stop it spreading further in our own lives or into the lives of others.

Read Ephesians 6:13-18 – This passage tells us of a protective coating of armour that we can use against the devil’s schemes.

  • How do the following things protect you?  • The belt of truth: verse 14  • The breastplate of righteousness: verse 14  • The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace: verse 15  • The shield of faith: verse 16  • The helmet of salvation: verse 17  • The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: verse 17  • Prayer: verse 18
  • How are we encouraged to keep our minds free of sin? (Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:1-3)
  • What else are we told to do in James 4:7? What does this mean in practice?

Finally, we have a great helper to aid us – the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16).

  • What fruits does he produce in us? Galatians 5:22-23

BIBLE STUDY 7 Pest control: cleansing and forgiveness

On sheet G10 we learn about the need to clean out stores thoroughly before refilling them and that we should carry out regular inspections and take immediate action if damage is seen.

The Bible tells us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’, (Romans 3:23) and that if we claim to be without sin we are lying (1 John 1:8-10). We all need to be made clean.

Read John 13:2-11 – Here we read about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. God is the one who makes us clean and forgives us (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ezekiel 36:25; Ephesians 1:7; 5:25-26) through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, when he shed his blood for us.

We receive that forgiveness by confessing what we have done wrong in our lives and believing in God’s power to make us clean (Psalm 51:4, 7; Acts 2:38).

  • Why does Peter refuse to let Jesus wash his feet (verse 8)?
  • What is Jesus’ answer (verse 8)?
  • How does Peter then respond? What is he really saying (verse 9)?
  • What reassurance does Jesus give him (verse 10 – compare with 1 Corinthians 6:11)?

Those who have turned away from doing wrong and who come to Christ can receive his forgiveness and then their whole body is clean. But our feet still get dirty and need washing: we need to examine ourselves regularly and confess our sins to each other and to God so that we keep clean (James 5:16).

BIBLE STUDY 8 Pest control: filling with the Holy Spirit

Once the store is cleaned it is ready to be filled with new grain. In the same way, once we are cleaned, God can fill us with his Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:1-4, 38; Acts 10:44-46).

  • The Holy Spirit brings:  • entry into the kingdom of God (John 3:5-6) • eternal life (John 4:14; 6:63) • power and ability to witness (Acts 1:8) and proclaim God’s word (Acts 4:31)  • wisdom and revelation (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)  • counsel – teaching us all things and reminding us of Christ’s words (John 14:26)  • truth (John 14:17)  • his fruits (Galatians 5:22)  • gifts to use for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)  • unity (Ephesians 4:3).

The Bible tells us that the Spirit will come and live in us (Luke 11:9-13; John 14:15-18).

  • What do these two passages suggest we need to do in order to receive the Holy Spirit?

Paul asks the Corinthians: ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?’ (1 Corinthians 3:16)

  • Does he live in you?

BIBLE STUDY 9 Living in obedience: doing what is right

  • Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14. These verses tell us that if we obey God and follow carefully all his commands we will be blessed:  • wherever we live (verse 3) • with children (verse 4, 11)  • with crops (verse 4, 11) and in their storage (verse 8)  • with livestock (verse 4, 11)  • in our journeys and travel (verse 6)  • with the defeat of our enemies (verse 7, 13)  • with rain (verse 12)  • and in all we do (verse 8, 12).

Proverbs 3:9-10 also tells us that if we honour the Lord with our wealth and the first fruits of all our crops, then our barns will be full.

We read in Luke 12:31; Matthew 6:33 and Philippians 4:19 that God promises to supply our needs. However, the Bible also warns us that we will forfeit these blessings of his provision if we do not obey him.

We read in Deuteronomy 28:15-24 that if we do not obey God we will be cursed. He will send us confusion and troubles in everything we do, until we are destroyed (verse 20). Choosing to obey or disobey God can have far-reaching consequences.

  • Why do you think that whether or not we obey God can have such an impact on our lives?
  • How can we know what God is telling us to do?
  • Are you doing what is right?

BIBLE STUDY 10 Treasures in heaven

Read Matthew 6:19-24 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Jesus himself tells us that rather than storing up treasures on earth, we should store up treasures in heaven:

  • What happens to earthly treasures? (Matthew 6:20; 1 Timothy 6:7)
  • What is the danger for those who are wealthy? (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10, 17)

In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus is asked by a rich man what he must do to get eternal life.

  • The rich man is keeping all the commandments, but what else does Jesus tell him to do in verse 21?

We are told the man goes away sad – it is hard for him to choose between his wealth and Jesus. Others, however, realise that nothing can be compared in value to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:44-46).

Paul says in Philippians 4:12: ‘I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’

And in Philippians 3:8: ‘I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.’

  • Where are you storing your treasures?      

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