A Feast Fit For The King

Eating fresh, whole foods is important to me.  If you know me, or read my blogs, it is evident that I believe a clean diet is essential for our health. I teach people that regular exercise and proper nutrition are keys to health.  And although I think that health is extremely important, it is not the main reason I believe we should eat this way and exercise. I eat this way because I believe God created us to eat this way. This idea of clean eating is a hot topic in America.  There is a plethora of books on the global food crisis. Everyone, religious or not, is talking about the way we eat, the cruelty in factory farming, the importance of the local farm, etc. In fact, healthy eating has become almost a religion in itself – “The New Food Movement” Church.

As a Christian, I believe that we are created in God’s image, that we are filled with His Spirit, and that God wants us to take care of these bodies He’s given us – AND that He’s given us all that we need. But is our nutrition, the way that we eat, spiritual? I came across a really great article the other day in Christianity Today written by Leslie Leyland Fields that I really wanted to share with all of you!  You can read the full article here, but I want to outline the points that really struck me.

“It’s Potluck Sunday. I stand near the end of a long line wondering what will be left by the time I get to the front, grateful that I’m not particularly hungry. I have some idea of what the offerings will be: hot dogs wrapped in white buns, cut in half for the more delicate appetites; buckets of drive-through fried chicken anchoring the table. Neon-orange cheese doodles will inevitably show up, somewhere near the salads. The greenest item will be several bowls of lime Jell-O with fruit suspended in it, which, I’ve decided, is to signal its inobvious function as food.

We pray our thanks over this smorgasbord of chemical wizardry and marketing genius, ask that it would strengthen our bodies (something I believe will take divine intervention), and invite Jesus to be among us as we eat. When we lift our heads, I consider this last request and wonder, surveying the tables: What would Jesus put on his plate? Would Jesus eat lime Jell-O and cheese doodles? Would he care that the chicken in the bucket came from cages where the birds were likely fed their own recycled excrement? Would he eat that barbequed pork that came from massive pig farms that pollute the water, soil, and air? Would he stand, as I do, filled with guilt, dread, and judgment before this culinary minefield?”

I think all of us have heard about factory farming. That it is cruel to animals, unfair to the farmers, and bad for the land, but if you have missed out on hearing about where your food is coming from, please check out Food, Inc, a documentary on this very subject. Christian or not, this is just not acceptable. “When we pull packages of deep-fried chicken fingers or cans of cheese spray off the grocery shelf—which we are entitled to eat because they make us happy—we don’t recognize the source of the food nor consider its cost to workers, farmers, or the environment. We see only the pieced, processed, and packaged final product. “Whole Foods,” then, is not just the name of an upscale grocer. It symbolizes a return to a larger, holistic view of the earth, and a call to moral responsibility within that sphere.”

But why are we supposed to care so much about food?  Does our relationship with food reflect on our relationship with God? I believe so. “On the opening page of the Bible, God announces that all he has made, the fruits and vegetables spoken from his imagination, are “very good.” Lush in flavor, exquisite in beauty and fragrance, their value is intrinsic to their God-made-ness. He gives the food to the first man and woman as sustenance. But even in this state of sinlessness, God sets limits on Adam and Eve’s diet, that as they obeyed, they would be fed not only physically but spiritually as well. Food was intended to be another expression of their dependence on and communion with their Creator. The Old Testament dietary laws were given later to God’s people not as a means of earning righteousness, but to remind the Israelites that they were set apart from all other nations, and that every activity, even the daily labor of feeding themselves, was to be done within the province and provision of a loving God.”

I truly believe that God gave us food for our pleasure, and that He wants us to enjoy it. But I also think that He gave us all that we need (those fresh, whole foods).  All the things that are good for us were made by God. I don’t believe that He wants us to pollute our bodies with man-made chemicals. He wants us to remember His provisions for us as we eat, and thank Him for our food.  So, do some people take this whole food movement too far? Of course.  When we take the focus off of God and place it on the food or ourselves, we are totally missing the point. “But we in the church have much to answer for ourselves. Here’s a question, which I ask myself as well: Why have we ignored food for so long? Why are we not attending more seriously to Paul’s injunction to literally “eat or drink … for the glory of God”? Beyond a quick word of thanks before meals, have we seriously considered how our eating and drinking either reveals or suppresses the glory of God? I don’t believe we have. God’s command to “rise, kill and eat” (the supreme-meat-lover’s favorite biblical scene), in my opinion, has been used to justify a kind of gustatory free-for-all.

How shall we use our freedom in Christ? Freedom is never given for license or for self-indulgence. If our freedom ends in mindless consumption, abuse of the earth, exploitation of God’s gifts, and mistreatment of our bodies, then we have allowed our appetites to enslave us again.” Zechariah paints a beautiful picture of heaven where all the food is holy. “I believe we’re not to wait for this day, that we are to join the food movement thoughtfully and joyously, beginning now to more faithfully give attention to food. So much is possible as we return the growing fields and the kitchen table to God, to whom it all belongs. As we do, we will discover another essential means of divining God’s glory in our midst and living out our stewardship of God’s earth, ourselves, and our neighbors. May we all take, eat, and be blessed by God’s holy, sumptuous foods.”

I think that as Christians we are to honor God in EVERYTHING that we do, including our food.  Needing food and water to live, reinforces our dependance on our Creator. Eating right and exercising is a form of worship – taking care of the body that God is using to house His Spirit. This article has so many more great points that I just don’t have room to share here.  I encourage you all to read it in length.  Thank you Leslie for writing it, and allowing me to share it!