Yesterday our neighbours cooked chicken and shared some with us. It was a precious meal given the current situation. Chicken has become a precious commodity after Malaysia recently announced that it would ban the export of chicken to Singapore from 1 June to combat soaring prices and domestic shortages. This was done in response to measures put in place by other countries like Indonesia and India to ban exporting commodities like palm oil and sugar. There is a growing worldwide concern about food insecurity due to various reasons – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rising cost of food due to climate change.
What happens beyond the shores of Singapore has consequences all the way to our iconic Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak and our very own kitchen. The authorities have announced that there is no need to panic and advised people to buy only what is needed. But really, how much does each one need? There is panic buying in Singapore and the shelves are being emptied quickly. As of Tuesday, some wet markets have apparently raised the price of fresh chicken and they expect the price to soar in days to come. Some stalls are solely dependent on supplies from Malaysia. Although authorities have given the assurance that there is enough frozen chicken to go around, many have lamented that the taste of frozen and fresh chicken is very different. I totally agree. One suggested that meanwhile, the nation must lower the expectation till things improve.
Years ago, there was a report about a corrupt official in India who hoarded grain in a storage. When the officers raided the granary, they found out that all the grain had rot and could not be consumed. It was shocking because millions were and are starving around the world. How much can one keep and hoard? How much chicken can we keep and eat?
The current scenario brings to mind what happened when COVID first hit us. Many commodities were emptied of the shelves quickly. Noodles, sanitizers, toilet rolls, rice etc disappeared quickly. A year later, a neighbour gave us a bag of rice. Apparently, the mother bought a lot of rice because she was afraid that would be no more rice. She realized she couldn’t finish it by herself and started giving it away before it “gets spoilt”.
The Singlish word “kiasu” (afraid of losing) sums up the attitude of many people. Many are afraid of losing or missing out on something. This fear of missing out (FOMO) is not new or unique to us. Long before the words FOMO and Kiasu were coined, this trait had already reared its ugly head in garden of Eden. The serpent told Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would be like God. What if she doesn’t eat it? She wouldn’t be like God! Does she want to be like God? Yes. She was kiasu and took the fruit. Adam was also kiasu and ate the fruit. The rest is history.
This FOMO and kiasuness worked then and is still very much at work today. Believers are not spared either. We are still driven by this desire to be in control, where we don’t have to depend on others or someone. In our quest to achieve independence for ourselves, we ultimately remove God who is the ultimate one to satisfy us.
As we preach through the book of Ecclesiastes, we have been reminded time and again that all these pursuits in life are meaningless outside of God. If they become the end in itself, it will bring misery to us and to others. The results are plain for us to see. The actions of many nations today are a result of wanting to protect and safeguard their own nation, people first. But when we really look at it, if all nations keep their products to themselves, will they survive? The answer sadly is no. Given God’s economy of things around the world, we are dependent on each other whether we like it or not. If Covid has taught us anything, it is the fact that no one is safe unless everyone is safe. A stall owner said he hopes the government will look into it. While the government can surely do something about it, one nation’s government is not enough to combat such global issues. The answer in fact lies in God’s economy of things contained in the Lord’s prayer which Jesus taught us.
“Give us this day our daily bread (not chicken)” (Matt 6:11)
In teaching us to pray this prayer, God is reminding us that we need not be kiasu because He is the provider, not just for Singapore but for us all over the world. If He has caused food to grow and nourish people for centuries, from Adam and Eve to us today, we can be rest assured that God will take care of us. And if He has given some of us more, God would want us to share with those who don’t have. Afterall, even the Preacher in Ecclesiastes observes that when wealth is hoarded, it harms the owner and calls it ‘evil’ (Eccl 5:13). The Lord’s prayer also contains a phrase, “Deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13). If we pray this prayer and expects God to deliver us from evil, we cannot hoard and keep things to ourselves.
Like many commodities today, the Israelites were given manna which lasted only for 1 day. Those who hoarded it realized that it was useless the next day. Today it is chicken, another day it will be wheat or toilet rolls. Whatever shortages may come, God has promised to provide us the essentials. He has promised to give us bread – not cake or chicken. God will continue to provide what we need.
Jesus tells us in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” If we have Jesus, we have everything and we need not fear anything- anything for that matter. While we may still struggle and battle with many fears, may we learn to fear God so that we need not fear other things. May we not lose out eternal life in Christ by chasing after things that will leave us empty at the end of the day. May we choose the better fear- fear of God like Lazarus who gained eternal delight in God. The rich man feared missing out on riches. He was kiasu and ended up on the wrong side. (Luke 16-29-31)
May the words of our Lord Jesus keep us grounded as the nation prepares to go with frozen chicken or even no chicken for the time being.