Three months ago my documentary-loving husband put the movie Forks Over Knives on our Netflix queue. Hoping for an action flick, I was bitterly disappointed when it arrived in the mail, but nevertheless we watched it. About thirty minutes in, Clint was clutching his heart, certain it would stop beating at any moment. If you’re unfamiliar with the film, it uses scientific and medical research to champion a Vegan lifestyle. The movie underscores the link between processed, animal-based foods and cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
When it ended, Clint was inspired. “Let’s do it!” He declared. I was woebegone. As the family cook, the thought of re-structuring our entire diet was not only daunting, but depressing. But I couldn’t shake the guilt I felt, especially toward my children. If I know that highly-processed foods are so unhealthy for my little ones, why do I still hand them out? “Convenience” hardly seemed a suitable answer when their health was at stake. So, I resolved to take baby steps toward healthier eating. For three months I’ve been struggling along, until it finally dawned on me to ask the question, “What does the Bible say about eating?”
The moment I started to explore the topic, I grew encouraged. The ocean of fad diets and whole-food-blogging-gurus slowly gave way to a stable and steady shore, one that promised to guide me with Truth, not trends. In the end, I narrowed my study to six principles, probably not comprehensive of all the Bible has to say about eating, but the best I could do:
- We are called to eat for God’s glory.
The first thing I saw is that eating to honor God is a biblical mandate. I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” As Christians, everything related to food—from what we eat to the attitude we have while preparing it—should glorify God.
- We are called to be free from legalism.
In the Old Testament, there were “unclean” foods that Jews were forbidden to eat. Then, in Acts 10:9-16, Peter had a vision in which God declared the unclean food, “clean,” telling Peter to “Rise, kill, and eat.” Symbolically, God was preparing Peter to receive Gentiles into the faith, declaring that He has made them “clean.” As believers in Christ, there is no longer any food “forbidden” to us. We do not have to plan our weekly menu enslaved by legalism, or as I like to think of it—I don’t have to feel guilty if I get in a jam and choose to order a pizza now and then. We have been set free, called to freedom (Galatians 5)—therefore, I don’t want my philosophy of eating to be enslaving.
- We are called to be faithful stewards of our bodies.
Although we are permitted to eat anything, the Bible reminds us that our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 6:19) and we are to present it as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” which is an act of worship (Romans 12:1). Exercising wisdom and self-control in eating demonstrates faithful stewardship. This is an especially serious responsibility for parents of small children, because they are entirely dependent on us to feed them. They can’t make a grocery list, go to the store, and buy healthy foods. They eat what they are given. Therefore, we are accountable as stewards of their bodies. (Yikes, I know! My thoughts exactly.)
- We are called to humility.
Personally, I think the subject of food is particularly sensitive for women. It’s a tender topic for numerous reasons—it’s tied to our abilities as a homemaker, our body image, our parenting style, our organization and planning (or lack thereof). And because of this, it can become a source of pride for those who make it their pedestal. But clearly God opposes both pride and judgment (James 4:6, Matthew 7:1). So as we create our philosophy of eating, let’s remember that we can be an all-natural, organic superstar, but if we harbor a spirit of pride, we’re losing on the front that really counts.
- We are called to seek comfort, refuge, and satisfaction in God alone.
We must examine our motives for eating. Repeatedly the Bible speaks of God being our only true refuge and comfort (Psalm 46:1, 91:2, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Yet it is tempting to use food as a false refuge, seeking the comfort of a warm brownie, or eight. At the same time, we can sin in the opposite direction by seeking satisfaction through not eating. So the question is why am I making these food choices? Am I doing it to honor God, or to fill an empty place? To honor God, or to seek a worldly self-image? To honor God, or because I am in bondage to fear of disease?
- We are called to serve one another.
Finally, we must take a brief stop at the home of the Proverbs 31 woman, who “rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.” What a girl. One of the things I hate the most about myself is that when I’m preparing food I often morph from “normal” Jeanne into “angry-bear-get-out-of-my-way-I’m-COOKING!!!” Jeanne. The thought of this woman (with no stove, dishwasher, or microwave) rising while it is still night to prepare food is deeply challenging. Here is a woman who embraces food preparation as service to her family and her God. If you’ve ever been around a woman like this, you know how beautiful it is. My mother-in-law is one such woman, and on many pre-holiday occasions I have quietly chopped vegetables alongside her and marveled at her whole-hearted, unselfish delight in ministering to her family via the humble avenue of food-preparation.
There you have it—the groundwork for my rudimentary theology of eating. So, how does this translate practically? Honestly, I struggle with all six principles. Nevertheless, in our household I am the primary meal planner, grocery shopper, and chef (although I do have a cute dishwashing boy) :)
Since I hold so much sway over our eating habits, I am in the process of drafting a plan to align our practical habits more fully with these biblical principles. Because this post is growing longer by the second, I will post my practical plan separately. Until then, I welcome your feedback. As always, it is great fun journeying with you!