Why Food Matters to Faith
By Aaron Coalson
March 7, 2013
Aaron serves in leadership with Chick-fil-A where he gets to think through how theology affects business and how God's glory can be maximized in the business place. He is passionate about the fatherless, discipling men and developing leaders. He also love Starbucks, folk music and good film. Aaron and his wife Stephanie live in Wake Forest, NC where they anxiously wait the arrival of their first adopted child from Ethiopia.
Back in 2005, The New York Times reported that for the first time in two centuries, “the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.” The number one reason? Obesity. And while we spend more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation and yet we have more overweight and obese citizens than any other country. And every year, Americans throw away nearly half of their purchased food.
It doesn’t take an expert to tell you we have a food crisis on our hands. However, these statistics also highlight another reality: It was never supposed to be this way.
It doesn’t take an expert to tell you we have a food crisis on our hands.
As Christians, we know this intimately. We know we’ve fallen so far. And as a result, we should be the most responsible consumers because we know what it means to be image bearers. Whether the issue is abortion, climate control, the orphan crisis or food consumption, we should live in order to be redemptive agents here in this broken but beautiful creation. This is what it means to be God’s ambassadors to a humanity damaged by sin. We should live in such a way that points people back to the way things were suppose to be—even in terms of what’s on our plate and in our pantry.
Perhaps one tendency feeding our national obesity epidemic is the fact that we’re pleasure-seekers. Whether it’s sex, relationships, careers or food, Americans are in a relentless pursuit of the next high. We are always looking for the next experience to satisfy. Yet so often when we view this problem, we quickly condemn the pursuit of such sensual pleasures and attempt to point people to pursue more spiritual things.
Yet in our moral overhaul, we’ve missed one thing: We were designed to seek pleasure. In fact, we were designed to pursue pleasure in something outside ourselves. Yet once sin was added into the mix, this God-given trait turned from seeking delight in the Creator to delight in created things.
This is otherwise known as idolatry—worshipping something other than God. As John Piper has said, “We all make a god out of what we take most pleasure in.” As Augustine said, we all have a God-sized hole in our soul. And either consciously or subconsciously, every human being is seeking to fill that hole with something. For some of us, that something is food.
Food was given by God for two things: fuel and enjoyment. Food was not meant to be our source of happiness, our comfort, or our go-to functional Savior. This is the blistering irony of idolatry, whether food, sex, work or relationships: When we make a good thing a god thing, those things collapse under the pressure, and turn on the worshiper.
So when we run to the fridge to eat away our sorrows, or indulge a daily mocha latte addiction, or cultivate a habit of stress eating or drinking to escape reality, food turns into something more than it was ever made to be. This is why it’s vital for believers to carefully apply the words of the apostle Paul: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
How do we eat and drink “to the glory of God”? How does the Gospel tangibly change the way we eat?
First, we start with the big picture. When Christ is the focus of our joy and worship, we are able to put food, sex and our careers in their appropriate place in our lives. Since we have everything we need in Christ, we have no reason to pursue lesser gods. As Paul teaches, “We are not our own, we have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your body.” The Gospel, then, changes the way we eat because it puts Christ as our first priority, and everyone else falls second. It requires us to eat healthfully, and so fuel our bodies for the mission of God.
Second, we can practice such redemptive eating in simple, everyday ways.
Bless God—not your food
When praying before a meal, remember your food doesn’t need to be ‘blessed’, the One whom you’re blessing is the One who gives the food. Bless God for your meal, He is the Giver and is the one to be blessed for giving us life. Your food doesn’t require a mystical blessing before consumption.
Pay attention to your physical and spiritual appetite
Our craving for a meal three times a day is a physical reminder of how much we also need God. Just like our bodies need regular food and water to sustain life and activity, so do our souls need regular spiritual food to fight sin, pursue holiness and see God clearly.
Do most of your meals come from a cardboard box, the frozen food section or a drive-thru? Instead, bypass the artificial ingredients and stick with the things God placed on this earth to feed His creation, namely fruits, vegetables, nuts, small portions of meat and lots of water.
Drop by a local salad bar and compare it with the #3 at Taco Bell. See the difference? You should. Switch out your beige food for food of color, and you’ll likely eat more healthfully.
Shop around the edges
Have a tough time at the grocery store? Do the majority of your shopping around the edges of the store. Grocery stores intentionally place all the packaged foods in the aisles of the store, and the more natural and far more healthier items are in the parameters of the store, i.e. Produce, dairy, bread and meat.
Hit up your local farmers market on a regular basis. You get to know the people who grow your food, you’ll eat fresher and you’ll support local business.