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Okay, let’s talk about how God expects us to worship Him every time we eat and drink.
In America — and like other countries — but in America for sure, our diets are sacred cows. By the way, please know that when I use the word diet, I’m referring to everything we consume, not just when we’re “dieting.”
I know that our diets are sacred cows because you rarely hear any discussion about it at church. The Bible has so much to say about food, how and why we are to consume it, and how we sin with it, and yet it’s rarely discussed from the pulpit, in Sunday school, Bible studies, or during personal discipleship.
However, a lot of jokes are made about food in those places.
Growing up with the King James Bible, it was too common to hear Pauls words from I Corinthians 9:27 pronounced, “But I buffet my body.”
And that’s another reason I know that our diets are sacred cows. Now only is it rarely discussed from any biblical perspective, but the effects of poor diets are rampant in the church.
There was a very interesting 2006 medical study entitled “Does Religion Increase the Prevalence and Incidence of Obesity in Adulthood.” Please allow me to read some interesting portions.
“Most find a positive relationship between religion and health. For instance, people who regularly attend church, pray, or read the Bible tend to have lower blood pressure than less religious people. People who are religious are hospitalized less often and are less likely to suffer from depression. They are also more likely to have healthier lifestyles, a stronger sense of well-being and life satisfaction, stronger immune systems, and longevity . . . . Analysis of people who regularly attend church also found that they have lower rates of illness . . . . and death.”
And they continue . . .
“Although a large and growing body of research examines religion and health, relatively few studies have systematically examined religion and body weight. Given religion’s positive effect on health, one might suspect that religion is associated with less obesity. Most religions condemn overeating and gluttony, but little research supports such a conclusion about adherents’ actual behavior. Indeed, several studies show that some religious groups have higher rates of overweight and obesity.”
Later in this secular study they report, “There is some consistency across these studies that religion is related to higher body weight, but there may be many different explanations for this relationship. First, many religions in the United States place priority on constraining sins such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and sexual promiscuity. Gluttony does not receive the same level of pastoral or congregational condemnation in most denominations, perhaps indirectly creating an ‘accepted vice.’ It is even possible that religion’s success in curtailing smoking may inadvertently lead to a higher rate of obesity . . . . Some people use smoking as an appetite suppressant, and religion decreases the likelihood of smoking.
“Second, many religious functions use food, rather than alcohol, as the celebratory good to be consumed . . . . From Sunday School donuts to church pot-luck dinners, food, especially high-fat foods, are key to the social organization of many U.S. religions.
“Third, it may be that religion does not lead to overweight and obesity, but that the opposite causal process exists—a form of social selection . . . . Perhaps religious organizations provide a ‘religious haven’—a consoling and welcoming setting for people who are obese and seeking protection from social stigma.”
Very interesting observations.
And then they have a slew of in-depth measuring devices and explanations, tables, and graphs. I’ll link the study in the description of today’s show. But here are some of their findings.
“Baptists have the highest percentage of obese persons in the sample . . . . Fundamentalist Protestants have the second highest percentage of obese individuals in the sample . . . . Catholics also have a fairly high percentage of obese people, as do pietistic Protestants. Other non-Christians have the lowest percentage of obese individuals at both waves of data, followed by Jews. The remaining affiliations have percentages ranging from 2 to 9, and persons with no religious affiliation are within this range.”
I share this information from this secular study because . . .
A. Some Christians have never fathomed the possibility that God has any expectations for their diets and health.
B. Some Christians consciously ignore all issues of health as it relates to God. Of course, the exception is that any time we have a health crisis (which — if we’re honest — often grows from our own poor health choices), they ask for prayer.
And . . .
C. Some Christians choose to simply not care what the Bible has to say about food and drink.
Now, the rest of this episode has nothing to do with any specific kind of diet. I’m also not going to make any health claims. I’m introducing this topic with a discussion about eating and being overweight simply to highlight that the average American church is completely ignoring a topic about which God has much to say.
And I want to spend the balance of our time looking at what God has to say about food, and then applying that to our lives so that we can give Him the worship that’s He’s due when we’re eating and drinking.
Of course, we can only skim the surface of this topic. One day I hope to detail a longer Doctrine of Eating and Drinking, but I’ll just have to add that to the list of studies I want to do.
However, for now, we must start with . . .
1. Eating and drinking is a gift from God.
A. Food sustains us.
In Genesis we see that God created the world to sustain mankind. Even after the fall, in Genesis 9:3 we read, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.”
In Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3 Jesus encourages us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Later in Matthew 6:31-32 He explains, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
One of my favorite Proverbs to pray is Proverbs 30:8, “Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9 That I not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.”
And God not only provides sustenance for His people, He lovingly provides it for those who are His enemies. Acts 14:16-17 teaches, “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
But food isn’t jus a gift from God to sustain us.
B. Food pleases us.
All throughout the Bible we learn of feasts (past, present, and future) with which God intends for us to celebrate Him but also enjoy.
In Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 we read, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God."
And Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, “Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.”
And James 1:17 teaches that, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
So, yes, we must start by acknowledging that just like every other good thing in this life, it is provided by God. But since we know that He is a God of purpose and order and intentionality, we can therefore know that He has a reason for giving us food and drink. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to learn what those are.
And we should also already know that Satan is a pro at taking what God created to be good and valuable and turning it into a wicked sin. Consider what Satan has managed to do with the gift of sexuality.
So, as we study the Word in order to better understand why God gave us sustenance and satisfaction, we’re going to discover that . . .
2. Eating and drinking are not as important as we like to think.
Yes, eating and drinking is necessary to life. I’m not going to suggest it’s not. But we do make them far more important to us than God intends.
Before I get to the specific passages that illustrate this point, let’s consider a topic we’ve talked often about during Advent and Lent — fasting.
This is a topic we’re definitely going to study more later this year — Lord willing. But for now, let’s remember that one of the more significant ways God’s people are to exercise their dependence on Him, devote their time to Him, and grow in their love for Him, is through the careful process of abstaining from food.
Each of the individuals on the Mount of Transfiguration (Jesus, Moses, and Elijah) experienced at least one 40 day fast.
Therefore, we have to acknowledge that there is at least one thing that is incredibly more important than food.
In Luke 12:23, Jesus said, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” What could possibly be more important than food?
Well, in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4 Jesus says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” He was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3 which reads, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”
Food is important, but attention and submission to God and His Word is infinitely more important. In fact, Jesus spoke of God’s Word sustaining Him in ways that made food less necessary at that time.
Now consider what Jesus said to the crowds that wanted to see a repeat of His feeding of the 5,000.
John 6:26-37 tells us, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.’ 28 Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ 29 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’ 30 So they said to Him, ‘What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’”
I love that Jesus called them out about just wanting more food, and when given a chance to talk, they did nothing more than prove Him right.
Picking up in verse 32 we read, “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ 34 Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.’”
In chapter 13, verse 9 the author of Hebrews writes, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.”
So, we see very clearly that knowing God, understanding His will, and obeying Him is desperately more important than eating.
In fact, the Bible even teaches us that delicious food is worthless if those eating it are not submitting to Him. Proverbs 15:17 reads, “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is Than a fattened ox served with hatred.”
And I Corinthians 6:12-13 teaches us that we should never be controlled by our hunger. Not only does God deserve our allegiance because we will always need Him, but mankind will not always need food. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.”
And this point is very important because many professing Christians prove — every single day — that their food is more important to them than God. And they prove this by sinning in the way they eat and drink.
Even though God illustrates over and over that obeying Him is more important than food, we daily sin against Him with our food.
“So, Aaron, let me get this straight. You’re saying that we can sin in how we eat food?”
3. Eating and drinking can be sinful.
Have you ever stopped to consider that mankind was plunged into sin over a piece of food? In Genesis 3, Eve sacrificed absolutely everything for food.
In Proverbs 23:1-2 we find an interesting Hebrew poetic verse, “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you, 2 And put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite.” Eating with no restraint can be offensive and disrespectful and may offend the ruler.
Proverbs 25:27 says, “It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.” The passage doesn’t say why it’s not good to eat too much honey, but Proverbs 25:16 says, “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, That you not have it in excess and vomit it.”
And He compares the foolishness of eating too much honey to a person who arrogantly searches out his own glory.
I won’t read it here, but Romans 14:13-23 teaches us that if we eat and drink with absolutely no concern to the effect it may have on a spiritually ignorant and weak brother in Christ, we are sinning. Verse 15 says, “For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.” Verse 20 says, “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.” And verse 21 tells us, “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.”
And we haven’t even gotten to any of the verses about gluttony. Let’s consider Proverbs 23:20-21, “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; 21 For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.”
And in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 God says, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. 20 They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.”
And even though that prescribed way of dealing with the situation was for the Old Testament Jews, it still reveals what God thinks about such a person.
So, yes, God designed food to nourish and give pleasure, but food is never to be more important to us than submitting to God. So, when we disobey His commands concerning food, we’re engaging in self-worship.
And that my friends is our final point for today.
4. Eating and drinking are an act of worship.
If you’ve never listened to our What is Worship? Series, please click on the link in the description and start listening.
Absolutely everything we believe, think, desire, feel, do, and say is an act of worship. It’s impossible to not be worshipping, and there are only two Primary Recipients of our worship in this entire cosmos. We will either worship God, or we’ll worship ourselves.
The previous list I just gave are the things which which we worship God or self. So, let’s make this really specific. When we put things into our mouths, we’re either glorifying God or glorifying self. We’re either making His will our highest desire or we’re making our own will our highest desires.
And — of course — we know that God is the only one Who deserves our worship. And since God’s the only one Who deserves our obedience, and since our food is a sacrifice of worship, then it shouldn’t be surprising for us to learn that in I Corinthians 10:31 God commands, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This verse comes on the heals of Paul using the Old Testament Jews as an example of how not to live your life. In Verse 7 he says, “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’”
It’s Exodus 32:6 that tells just that the Jews had decided that since Moses had been on the mountain so long he must be dead, they needed a better way to worship God. So they made a golden calf, proclaimed a feast to the Lord, offered sacrifices, and so on. But Paul helps us to see that their actions were not truly being done in worship to the Lord; they were being idolaters. And though, yes, it could be said that they were worshipping the golden calf, it was merely a Secondary Recipient Idol. The Primary Recipient of their worship was themselves. They made the idol because they wanted to. They “worshipped it” the way they wanted to. And their food was a big part of that self-worship.
Psalm 78:17-18 is also very powerful. Speaking of the same group of people, but later in their journey to the Promised Land, Asaph writes, “Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert. 18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire.”
This is the same root issue Jesus was addressing with the first century Jews. They wanted food. It was for their own pleasure. It had nothing to do with submission to God. And Jesus clearly unveiled the real idol of their heart.
And this is also the underlying truth from Matthew 6:25-34. This is the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells the people not to be “worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
He then points out that God cares for the birds by feeding them and that we are much more valuable than birds.
And then He gets to the crux of the issue. For these people, it all boiled down to worry. In verse 31 He says, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
In this particular situation, God is to be trusted to provide more than we are to worry about how we will provide for ourselves.
It all boils down to worship.
Now, we must bring this to a close, but there’s an important objection I need to address.
There are those who may be thinking, “Yes, Aaron, we acknowledge that God provides our food, and we know that He is more important than our food, and we know that the Bible has basic principles to guide our eating, and — sure — there are people who sin in how they eat and what they eat. But . . . what about Colossians 2:16-17?”
Good question. Let’s look at it. Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
This is a verse I referenced in the introductory episodes of The Celebration of God, which I highly recommend you check out if you haven’t ever heard them.
Earlier in the chapter Paul discusses how we’re built up in Christ and how we’re not supposed to be taken captive by philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men. Instead, we have been alive together in Christ and are set free from the Old Testament expectations that were unique to the children of Israel.
And, yes, this passage says that no one is to act as your judge when it comes to food or drink. But if we rip this verse out of context, we’re not rightly dividing the Word of Truth. The context of this passage is dealing with judgements about food, drink, festivals, new moons, and sabbaths. This discussion is specifically about religious observations and celebrations.
In our introductory episodes I pointed out a Christian is not under compulsion to recognize any specific religious holiday. Though we are to worship God in all things, we don’t have to recognize Christmas or Thanksgiving or Creation Week or anything else like that. We need to celebrate in thankfulness the God of Creation and the Incarnation, but we don’t have to do the whole festival thing on those holidays.
All of that to say, this verse is not carte blanche approval for eating whatever you feel like eating. God still has expectations on your food, the quality and the quantity.
So, let me finish today by making some practical suggestions.
If you’re in a place where you believe that your eating has definitely been more for you than for your Lord — and this is a huge struggle that I have — here are some valuable considerations.
1. Be intentional.
Though praying before a meal is valuable, I think that most of us can thank the Lord for the very unhealthy food in front of us and that pig out just fine. It’s a bad habit we’ve created. So, add to your prayer a deliberate and intentional consideration that God truly be glorified by your meal.
2. Consider the quality.
Yes, this is a question of the health benefit of the food you’re eating. And yes, there are lots of disagreements about what is considered healthy, but — overall — we recognize that smoking and drug use is wrong in part because of the negative effects it has on our bodies. This is something that most people don’t contend.
Smoking is harmful to your body. God wants us to steward our bodies for His honor and glory. It’s a sin to intentionally harm ourselves, and — when we learn that something we’re eating is hurting us just as much as drug abuse — we can’t even begin to pretend that God is glorified by that choice.
Another thing I hope to do one day is have a website dedicated to health questions that are answered from a biblical and scientific perspective. There is so much misinformation and contradiction when it comes to what is or is not healthy. We need to strive for truth. And we need to strive for it so that we can know that we’re doing the best we can to please the Lord.
So, we need to be intentional in our eating and drinking, we need to be careful with the quality of the foods we ingest, and we need to . . .
3. Consider the quantity.
There are tons of great studies about healthy portion sizes. And, yes, for the most part, these too are going to be questions about health.
But the key is that we’re being intentional. We know that God can either be glorified by what we eat, or He can have His glory stolen by what we eat. We mustn’t just turn our brains off and metaphorically put our hands over our eyes and pretend that the potential to sin in our eating has disappeared simply because we can’t see it.
By the way, for the most part, this was not an issue about which the vast majority of ancient Christians had to worry. In many cases modern foods are actually crafted to be less healthy. But even the food that is supposed to be good for us isn’t as good as it once was. We’ve depleted our soil, we’ve genetically engineered our foods, and the end result is that our food is not only not as healthy as it was thousands of years ago, but much of it is patently unhealthy as well.
The first century believers didn’t have white sugar in all of their food. It wasn’t readily accessible. High fructose corn syrup and red 40 and all of the detrimental chemicals in our food simply weren’t in theirs. So, yes, it makes sense the Bible doesn’t have a ton to say about the quality of the food that was being eaten.
But it still does has something to say about it. There are plenty of examples of what happens when you eat food that has gone bad.
And, lastly, no, I’m not saying that its always wrong to eat something that’s less healthy or even to eat more of something than you normally would. When we exercise Spirit-control and moderation, it is pleasing to the Lord when we feast in His name and for His glory.
It’s appropriate to change the quality or the quantity, but it still has to be intentional. Mindless eating is self-eating.
So, let’s do our best to worship God on purpose with our food.
If you want to be unfriended by most of the people you know on social media, please share this episode.
I’m kidding! Relax! Anyone who wants to worship God better will be very happy that you shared this episode with them.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing celebrating God on vacation.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.