We Have A Food Problem

Have you eaten your kale today? If so, congratulations! You’re going to live to be 119 years old. If not, it’s been nice knowing you but your number’s probably getting called later this week.

You can tell a lot about a society by how they view food. Our society has a lot of explaining to do.

Imagine what it would be like if Moses were standing before the burning bush today and God was promising to use him to lead the people of Israel into a “land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses had his hesitations when this originally happened. I’m convinced that he would have a whole new set of concerns today.

“Explain this milk, Lord. Was it sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows? And about that honey, sorry, but I’ll have to pass. I just watched a Netflix documentary on how anything that tastes sweet will make your kidneys swell and your eyes sink in. Would you happen to have available a land flowing with kale and emu oil?”

As crazy as that sounds, it’s not too far off from the way it actually went down. The people of Israel were living under harsh conditions as slaves in Egypt. When God rescued them and sent them on their way to a home of their own, he made food rain down from the sky for them.

But it just wasn’t good enough.

Today, for most of us in the United States at least, God has blessed us with more food than our ancestors could imagine.

And still, it’s just not good enough.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Each week there seems to be a new Netflix documentary about food. And whenever I hear a friend talking about it, they say basically the same thing.

“I’m never eating again.”

That’s because the basic point of most of these documentaries is that Cobra Commander has laced our food supply with poison and if we want to live to see tomorrow, we had better cut back to a diet consisting mainly of organic, free-range, fair-trade hummingbird spit.

Look, I get it. We’ve had a food problem for a long time. People have become too dependent on McDonald’s and frozen “meat” burgers. Side note: never eat any food out of a box with the word meat in scare quotes. But you get my point. Our society has an eating disorder. More specifically, we eat too much and that’s not good.

But recently there has been a shift. Because of the Netflix documentaries and Nutrition Nazis and Food Pharisees we follow on social media, with each bite we take, we take on more guilt. Or fear. Or shame. Or all of the above.

“I can’t believe I just ate a piece of my kid’s birthday cake.”

“Where was the tomato in my salad harvested from and what type of pesticide was used on it?”

“What kind of damage will that ice cream cone do to next week’s Instagram pool selfie?”

Instead of scaring ourselves and our kids to death with another food documentary, we need to cook with them and model the right way to enjoy food. We need to demonstrate self-control and gratitude. We need to stop stressing over every calorie we consume.

We need to relax.

For those who tend to eat too much food, we must relax in the sufficiency of Christ. We must remember that no matter how much we eat, we will be hungry again. And if we don’t keep that hunger in check, our appetite will strangle us. Instead, we must, “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Only then will we find satisfaction. Only in the righteousness of Christ do continual desire and continual satisfaction live in harmony.

For those of us who are slowly working themselves down to a diet of nothing, we must relax in the sovereignty of Christ. Otherwise, we will make ourselves crazy worrying about the cow that our milk came from and the grass that the cow ate and the water that the farmer gave to the cow and the mental health history of the farmer who cared for the cow. It never ends. Each bite we take must be done with gratitude to Christ while trusting that, “In him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Yes, all things. Even the molecular structure of your quinoa.

God gave us one body and a lot of food. We need to figure out how to be good stewards of both. The answer is not found in full on gluttony nor is it found in documentary fueled deprivation. Both reveal disorders that run much deeper than the amount of food on our plate. The one who gravitates toward gluttony must humbly and Scripturally address his heart’s idolatry of food. The one who lives in fear, guilt and shame with each bite must examine his heart’s idolatry of perfect health and long life.

There is no doubt that too much fried chicken is bad for your heart. But in a completely different sense, too many unnecessary food restrictions can be a sign of a bad heart, that is, a heart that cherishes the gift of live over the Giver of life.

I am what you might call a health nut. I can’t remember the last time that I ate at McDonald’s. I stay away from white sugar. We have a lot of organic food in our pantry. There are two things that I have notice about our lifestyle. First, there’s always someone more nutty about their health. Two, there are no guarantees that I’ll live any longer than the guy who eats McDonald’s every day. My body will just biodegrade faster than his.

Unless we’re still alive when Jesus returns, none of us is getting out of here alive. No amount of carrot juice can alter that reality. Bu that doesn’t have to be a sad reality. For the believer in Christ, death does not get the final say. Rather, it is just the beginning of an eternity with no crazy food documentaries, no weird diseases and no food allergies.

In eternity, it will be Jesus, his people, a new heaven and earth and a giant supper where no one will ever be over-served and no one will have to request the gluten-free rolls.

But I’m still not sure if there’s going to be any kale there.

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Four Foods That You Should Never, Ever Eat

Here are four foods that you should never, ever eat.

  1. Bread.
  2. Meat.
  3. Fruit.
  4. Anything that you might potentially enjoy.

I’m kidding of course. But some folks aren’t. They’re called Food Nazis and this time of year, with everyone at least thinking about eating healthier, their frightening food advice is all over the Internet. If you’re not careful, they could do just as much damage to you as the greasy fast food joint around the corner.

I’m a healthy eater. Most of what I eat contains very few ingredients, no gluten and no words that I can’t pronounce. I like eating this way because it makes me feel better than I do when someone has to roll me out of a Golden Corral. Eating healthy works for me, so far at least.

But what works for me may not work for you.

And what works for the guy on Facebook who likes to remind you that you’re probably going to give your kids cancer for serving them Frosted Flakes this morning doesn’t work for anyone.

I love when I hear people talking about trying to eat healthy. I think it’s a smart decision. But while you’re planning out your new year of clean eating, there are a few things that you need to remember.

You’re still going to die. 

Happy New Year! Many of our grandparents cooked biscuits in pig fat while smoking non-filtered cigarettes every day and they lived to be 85. Those of us who avoid such delicacies could still drop dead today. Or when we’re 85. Or 115. But either way, it’s going to end some day. Be good to your body and it will be good to you. There’s some truth to that. But it’s only partially true. Here’s the rest of the story. One day, your body will betray you.

Enjoy what God has given to you. 

It’s not my aim to depress you. Quite the opposite, actually. I once heard a guy tell a group of people that food was never intended to be enjoyed. According to him, it exists only for fueling. Now that’s depressing, unless you happen to be a car. Food is used all throughout Scripture to relay a picture of peace and joy. The problem with our culture is that we’ve turned food into a god. So if I could be so bold as to amend the words of my friend, food was never intended to be worshiped. It’s meant to lead you to worship the One who sovereignly provided it for you.

Stop being an investigator and just eat already.

Yes, be wise. Never eat any food where the word beef on the box is in quotation marks. For example, “Beef” patties. Nothing good can come from this. You’ll probably die within 13 seconds of touching just one “Beef” Patty. On this much, we can all agree.

But your quest for more knowledge about what you put into your body can go terribly wrong. Take water for example. If you drink city water, what will the fluoride do to you? You could get a filter for your faucet but what about the ice cubes? Perhaps you should try a filter for your entire home. But what if the guy who installed it accidentally kicked up some dirt and the termite spray from the previous occupants accidentally gets involved in the process? After hearing all of that, you may just decide to opt out and stick with beer but remember this. Nine out of ten dentists do not recommend brushing your teeth with Natural Light. The tenth one went to Auburn University’s School of Dentistry.

It’s even worse if you get your water from a well. Can you imaging the harm that would be done to your body if a gluten eating stray dog decides to relieve himself in your water supply?

My point is that it never ends. Sure, maybe your chicken was raised on a free range farm and fed a diet of unicorn hair but trace it back far enough and you’ll find something you don’t like.

Along with being smart and informed, just trust God with your food. You know, there is a reason why we pray for God to bless our food before we eat it.

Stop listening to the Food Nazis. 

They can’t be pleased. I can’t prove it but I’m pretty sure that they are direct descendants of those people in the Bible who complained when God made it rain food.

People: “Man, I sure am hungry.”

God: makes food rain from the sky

People: “What is this garbage and where’s the nearest Whole Foods?”

Food is a lot like sex. Our culture has perverted both so badly that people are forgetting how to enjoy them. On one side there are those who swim in a sea of McDonald’s french fries. At the other extreme are those who would have us to believe that eating a steak with a potato is the unpardonable sin. And in the middle, most of us are left feeling confused and guilty with every bite we take.

Enjoy your 2016. Don’t let food ruin it for you. If you’re trying to eat healthier, that’s great. Keep at it because it’s well worth your time. Just remember that food is meant to be consumed by you, not the other way around. The fast food addict and the Food Nazi share a common thread. They are both consumed by their food.

Do your best to avoid both traps.

And just enjoy with a thankful heart whatever it is that is put on the plate before you.

Unless it’s “Beef” Patties.

[7] Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7 (ESV)

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Jesus and the Food Police

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You’re not eating right. I know, I know, you’ve been trying and maybe you’ve even made a few improvements lately. In an effort to appease the Food Police, you’ve even cut back on the fast food. But it’s not good enough. If you don’t believe me, just take a look on Facebook or tell a member of the Food Police how you’ve made the switch to skim milk. Trust me, by their standards, you’re just not measuring up. But don’t worry. Neither would Jesus. Or pretty much anyone else in the Bible for that matter.

Food plays an important role in our lives. You need food to live so that’s pretty important. But there’s a problem. More and more of it, we are told, is bad for us. Really bad for us. Kidney-shrinking, eye-bleeding bad for us. And so we try to eat healthy. Well, that’s when the Food Police come in to tell us that our alleged health food isn’t healthy enough and is making our kidney’s bleed and our eyes shrink. “You need,” they tell us, “fat-free skim milk that has been humanely taken from kittens. Only demons and Yankee fans drink regular milk.”

So much for eating healthy.

Food plays a pretty significant role in the Bible too. It shows up in one of the first stories in Genesis and plays a part in one of the last scenes in Revelation. And from food that falls from the sky to some kid’s lunch feeding thousands of people, we are reminded of the significant role it plays in human lives all throughout the pages of the Bible. Food certainly isn’t one of the Bible’s major themes but it sure does show up a lot.

Which leads me to a question. What would it look like if today’s Food Police, the one’s who are always reminding us that we’re killing ourselves, were around in Bible times? I think it would go a little something like this.

The Promised Land

“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:3 (ESV)

But the Food Police disobeyed the Lord’s command for they had already committed themselves to avoid dairy. Also honey is too sweet and full of carbs.

In The Wilderness

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another,“What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them,“It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” Exodus 16:13-16 (ESV)

But the Food Police disobeyed the Lord’s command to gather and eat and said unto one another, “Do not touch the bread for it hath gluten in it. Also, doest thou knowest where the quail came from? Were they fed an organic diet? Playest thou it safe and come back to Egypt with us where we can enjoy the finest organic flax seed wafers in all the land.”

In The Wilderness Again

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. Mark 1:6 (ESV)

So the Food Police made plans that very night to have John sent to Herod and beheaded saying to themselves, “Locusts? Seriously? And who eats honey anymore?”

At The Wedding Party

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:7-11 (ESV)

But the Food Police immediately drew nigh unto the jars and, testing them, discovered that they were in fact filled with wine and not Juicy Juice. Later that night, while eating many, many pieces of fried chicken they discussed with one another how much they did not approve of any miracle involving wine that did not also include a liquor store being shut down. And thus they went home but not before stopping along the way for a milkshake. 

Jesus On What’s Really Bad For You

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Mark 7:5 (ESV)

Pay attention to this part. I didn’t make it up.

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them,“Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:14-23 (ESV)

Not a lot has changed since the New Testament.

It’s important to eat smart. There really are a lot of foods out there that can hurt you. But if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves being just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day – more concerned with what our food might be doing to our heart than what our heart is doing to us.

I eat a Paleo diet. But that does nothing for my standing before God. And I could have a heart attack tomorrow. My days are determined by God, not my weight or how many miles I ran last week. I try to eat healthy because it gives me more energy. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to eat like me. God made us all unique. In the body of Christ, our common bond is salvation by grace, not organic almond milk.

Eat healthy, by all means. Just watch how you view people who don’t quite measure up to your dietary standards. And don’t judge a book by its cover. Not everyone who weighs a little more than you think they should got that way because they ate too much. And sometimes a glutton can have a 30-inch waist.

If you put all of your attention on your dairy intake while neglecting the weightier matter of your heart, you might end up just like the Food Police from Jesus’ day.

Clean hands.

Fantastic diet.

And a dirty heart.