Does God Care About What We Eat?
I am not a certified nutritionist, herbalist, gastronome, chef, or food editor; I am a wife and mother who enjoys growing a patch of herbs and vegetables to feed my family and share some with friends. I gain immense satisfaction from growing an array of flowers in my picket fence garden (dog and hen proof) and a larger plot to peddle at the local farmer’s market.
As Christians, we wring our hands over whether or not a particular type of music, movie, printed media, computer game edifies or defiles our testimony or witness. We spend time and resources purchasing supplemental biblical resources that might aid in our quest to solidify the outcome of these choices. Believers concern themselves, rightfully so, with exercising self-discipline in such choices as well as others like smoking, drinking, and dancing. In fact, some church covenants prohibit members from partaking in some or all of these issues.
But there is one particular issue most Christians pay very little attention to: food. I moan mea culpa as I hoist bags of groceries while simultaneously picking up remnants of petrified fast food from the backseat to the crackle of the numerous bags of chips just purchased because the kids claim, “there is no food in the pantry.” As I unpack my symphonic, (whose idea was it to manufacture those 10 decibel eco-friendly chip bags anyway) supposedly, “food” items, I realize the bulk of my grocery store procurement consists of non-food inventions housed in eye catching, hip containers with a multi-syllabic list of ingredients and covert abbreviations that requires a PhD in food science to decipher.
So, does it matter to God what I eat? Does God really care whether I select chemically contrived casseroles, desserts, and beverages as I meander through the Sunday potluck line? Isn’t choosing cheese doodles over carrots a part of my christian freedom? After all, they are the same color.
Food and agriculture play an enormous role in scripture. Creation begins in a garden, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food (Genesis 2:9 ESV). From Genesis through Revelation, the scripture claims inferences to and applications of food at feasts, famines, miracles, birth rites, births and deaths. Jesus, the Bread of Life, spends his final few hours on Earth breaking bread with his disciples. Food serves a major role in God’s word both physically and spiritually. Even a cursory read of the gospel of John where the illustration of food is paramount when Jesus compares himself to the life giving sustenance of a kernel of wheat, hence; the same specie of grain, wheat, feeds the multitudes on the hillside with food that not only satiates their earthly need for nourishment but also their eternal need for truth and salvation.
Our family spends a significant amount of money monthly on a parental control and filtering subscription for our computers, a technology nanny so to speak, to safeguard the eyes, ears, and most significantly the hearts of our children. But as we gather around the kitchen table most evenings little thought, if any, is given to the significance of the meal before us other than a prayer of thanks just as we ingest and go. Maybe we need to hire a “dinner table nanny” to sit amongst us or purchase one of those “dinner table games” that asks poignant questions like:
– Are you eating and drinking to the glory of God?
– Are you exercising disciplined eating?
– If you eat/drink this or that will you cause a weaker Christian to stumble?
– Can you estimate, geographically, where any of the food on your plate came from?
– Do you know any of the ingredients in the food you are about to eat?
– Is 50% of the food on your plate in its God given form, shape, or color? Hint from the nanny: blue raspberry is not a real food.
– How was your food grown?
Christians generate purposeful dialogue and intentional selection of clothing, music, movies, etc. that distinguishes us from the world, but how often do I converse with my kids about the importance and wonder of the foods God created for our pleasure and consumption. Rather, than consume those divinely created foods intended for our good, I find myself entangled in dinner table debates over how many more bites of the vegetables before dessert is handed over like some Olympic gold medal earned as reward for consuming the token number of peas on the plate.
Food is one of those biblical freedoms ignored until it causes trouble, then we pay attention to its significance in our lives. Food is food until the consequences of how we warped and exploited its intended good and then freedom smacks us in the face with the effects of our choices.
We abound with evangelical zeal to reach the lost by feeding the world gospel food; we bring people into our homes to serve them heaping helpings of the Word. After we get them through the door of the church, we break bread with them at Potluck suppers with little regard as to what we place on their plates. Food is highly regarded in scripture and the occasion of partaking of food is sacred throughout the Bible, something the American evangelical church lost its love for about the time we ramped up the nano speed of our daily lives. Yes, the preparation of a meal that consists of real food takes planning, time, and effort. Perhaps if the task looks too daunting, approach it like the process of sanctification, where the process begins immediately after regeneration but continues throughout our Christian life. Begin the food change immediately and allow it to become a way of life not a fad or a phase.
I can’t say for sure, but if Jesus ambled through the buffet line at church Potluck, he might, humbly, spoon portions of a casserole laden with neon squeezable cheese product and dessert mounded with marshmallow fluff onto his platter, but as we sat breaking bread together I would regret not feasting over the simple, yet, delectable, creations of horticulture his Father divinely placed before us for the picking.
Next time, I might consider a menu of whole wheat bread and fish with figs for dessert, a nourishing meal to commemorate the way He fed my soul.
How to begin the food change purposefully and methodically in Part 2.