[Food & the Bible] Do We Give Food Too Much Glory?
One scroll through Pinterest is enough to convince you that food is a huge part of the holiday season. Feasting has always been an important aspect of celebrating and will continue to be. But many of us have a love-hate relationship with food. We could address the issue of food from many angles, because the Bible actually has a lot to say on the subject. But today I want to speak to the issue of glory. The essence of the word glory is "weight." To glorify something is to make it weighty or significant. I glorify (or give weight to) my favorite books by praising them to others. I glorify my husband by considering his input as most important. I glorify my problems when I speak of them so frequently that they become my primary focus. I glorify myself when I treat my failures and successes as supremely significant. To glorify something is to give it weight, importance, and supreme value.
So let me ask the question: Are we giving food too much glory?
The Bible gives us the overarching concept that food is a symbol of a greater reality. Our need for daily sustenance, all the delightful flavors, the satisfaction of a full stomach after hunger are all pointing to Jesus, our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our New Wine, our fullness of joy and complete satisfaction.
There are two ways we can elevate the symbol above the Substance: celebrating the pleasure of food above Christ or celebrating the power of food above Christ. The former sees food as the ultimate satisfier and the latter sees food as the ultimate healer.
The Ultimate Satisfier
In Exodus 16, the Israelites are fifty days past their miraculous deliverance from Egypt. They complain to Moses as they are likely just running out of food: "[Oh] that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Ex. 16:3).
When presented with the choice of food while enslaved or God in the desert, they chose the food. They assumed food was more of a necessity than God Himself. But despite Israel's misplaced faith, God responds mercifully by raining down bread from heaven! And Deuteronomy 8:3 explains His reason:
“[God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Food is not an ultimate necessity; it is a symbol of what we really need—the Word of God, Christ Himself. Food can temporarily satisfy our hunger, but only Jesus can carry the full weight of our desires and needs. It can give us momentary pleasure to taste something sweet, but only the sweetness of Jesus endures and brings delight to the soul.
The Ultimate Healer
Hundreds of years after the miracle of manna, Daniel and his friends are taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon. These four young men are chosen to be educated and eventually enter the service of the Babylonian king. They are provided a portion of the king’s choice food and wine during this time.
But this is a problem for the young Israelite men. In Leviticus 11, God had outlined certain animals as clean and unclean for His people. This food distinction was to set the Israelites apart from all other peoples, to make them different (or holy) as God Himself is set apart and holy.
Daniel, having set his heart upon staying holy while in Babylon, decides he will not defile himself with the king’s choice food and requests permission for vegetables (Dan. 1:8). Though the overseer was concerned they would lose weight and grow weak, we see the result in verse 15: “At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food.”
The question is, what will we credit for this amazing transformation? In our current health-food-obsessed culture, it's tempting to conclude that it was the vegetables that made them strong and healthy. But a more accurate interpretation of Daniel chapter 1 is to credit God. Daniel took a step of faith because he wanted to honor God in a foreign land, and God responded to his faith by granting him the results he needed.
Certain foods may have the ability to make us feel better temporarily, but God alone has the power to keep us healthy and strong. Healthy food is not the savior of our bodies. God is. He alone sustains our life. He alone brings health.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to food today, there is no shortage of opinions on how to kill cravings and finally cultivate self-control. There is much debate on what and how to eat. We might not be discussing whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but nonetheless, Paul's words to the Corinthians ought to shape our thoughts:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
The bottom line is this: In all your eating, however you do it, give God the glory as ultimate Satisfier and ultimate Healer.
Refuse to let food get the glory by overindulging. If you are tempted to eat more than you should, ask God to remind you that He is like a good meal, satisfying the soul and making glad the heart. Ask Him to keep your eyes on Him this holiday season. Let the delightful flavors of a Thanksgiving meal awaken your heart to taste and see that the Lord is good! Glorify God as you eat.
Refuse to let food get the glory by overemphasizing its power. Yes, I feel much better eating a well-balanced diet than cake and candy all day, and I ought to eat in a way that allows me to serve God better. But God alone holds the power over my health. He decides how many beats my heart is allowed. He has numbered my days and tells my body when to stop. God alone gives life, and it is God who takes it away. Ask Him to help you keep food in its place by giving Him the weight of glory for your life, your health, and your vitality.
As we sit across the table from friends and family this holiday season, may we eat and drink to God's glory, speaking highly of Him above all else.