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The Christian and Food!

16/12/2021

TableTalk: What Does the Bible Say About Eating and Food! 

Text. Daniel 1:8-13

In this episode of Table-Talk we are going to get to the very heart of what a table is for!  FOOD!  How good would it be if our table today was covered in the finest of cuisine, and we were all invited to tuck in!  But why would we be interested in getting some biblical perspective on food, and eating?  

Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay

1. Understanding the Source of our Food.

Let’s firstly establish one really important Bible Principle.  Everything we eat – every single bite we put in our mouths, is given to us as a gift from God.  It is God who made and owns the world, and who orders the seasons, and who makes the crops grow, and who feeds the animals, and eventually, as mankind is the pinnacle of his creation, it is He who feeds us.  We sang Psalm 65:9-13.  In this psalms how does God control nature to provide for his creation?

Because God is in control of the food chain, what assurance does Jesus give his disciples in Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Psalm 65:9-3 (Metrical)

9 You tend the land and water it; 
you make it rich and good.
As you ordained, your streams are full 
to give the people food.

10 You drench the furrows of the land; 
you level off the ground.
You soften it with showers of rain 
and make its crops abound.

11 You crown the year with fruitfulness; 
your harvests overflow.
12 The grassland flourishes again; 
the hills with gladness glow.

13 The pastures green with flocks are clothed, 
the meadows covering.
The valleys deck themselves with corn; 
they shout for joy and sing.

(Sing Psalms, Free Church of Scotland)

Now this in itself raises important issues.  We do we have food – sometimes too much food, a huge choice of foods – when there are people in this world who literally have NO FOOD AT ALL?   Why the disparity?  Why do some people have so much, and others so little? In the beginning, Adam and Eve were given a choice. Obey and live or disobey and die. READ:  Genesis 3:6  The sin committed by the man and woman brought sin and death and disparity into the world.  The universe that God had created perfect, was broken. READ: Romans 8:22 Now, let’s ask:-

2. Does it Matter What We Eat?

In the Garden of Eden, at the very first, Adam and Eve were vegetarians! READ: Genesis 1:29   It was after the flood, (ie, after dinosaurs etc were no longer on the earth) that God permitted mankind to have a meat based diet. READ: Genesis 9:3 

In the ‘food laws’ for the Jewish nation, God restricted the foods that could be eaten by his people.  This was for their own good, – for their health.  Certain foods were designated ‘unclean.’  It was one of the first things that rendered the people of God different from the surrounding, pagan nations.   READ: Deuteronomy 14:3-21

I suppose the best known prohibition is PORK. READ: Deuteronomy 14:8  

So, why do we have bacon sandwiches?  READ Acts 10:9-19. It is an interesting story. A Gentile called Cornelius was under conviction of sin, was seeking the Lord – but Gentiles were considered unclean, because they ate foods that the Jews were not permitted to eat. In a dream he was told by an angel to send for a man called Peter, who would help him. He sent a delegation, and as it approached the city of Joppa, where Peter was living, Peter was in prayer. As he prayed, a deep hunger came upon him, and he went to seek some .food. While the food was being prepared, the Bible tells us that a deep sleep came upon him. and as he slept, he saw a great platter being let down from heaven and the platter was so huge that it appeared like a white sheet. In the platter was a selection of all sorts of animals, all of them unclean as far as the Jews were concerned. A voice said. “Peter. kill and eat.” Peter was horrified! “Not so Lord, for I have never eaten anything common or unclean! When the voice replied, it said. “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” This was repeated twice more before the object was taken hack up to heaven!  Jesus FULFILLED all of the Law for us, – and the OT food laws are no longer applicable to the believer.

So, should Christian eat Pork?  The answer is in Galatians, where Paul warns us not to be re-entangled with the yoke of bondage! READ:  Galatians 5:2   Circumcision doesn’t save you! But sometimes, it is necessary, for medical reasons.  If a man is circumcised because the doctor thinks it is better for him, health-wise, – that doesn’t mean he is saved!  It’s exactly the same with pork!  Someone may decide that they don’t want to eat pork, for their health – no problem, so long as they don’t think that abstaining from some food makes them a better person, less of a sinner, or acceptable to God.  It doesn’t.   And Jesus taught, Mark 7:5 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.” 

But what about modern food dilemmas?  What about:-

  • Halal food?  Some supermarkets and restaurant chains are reported to be selling ‘Halal’ meat. What’s that?  Halal meat is prepared according to Islamic law, that is, the beast is slaughtered by declaring Allah’s name over the it while it is facing Mecca.  The animal is not stunned before being killed; its throat is cut, and it is allowed to bleed to death.  After slaughter, the carcass is often stamped with a brand, indicating that it is Halal. Now for Christians this might pose two problems.
    • The most basic one, is the cruelty involved.  In this country, we usually use a stun gun to render the animal unconscious before it is killed.  Halal meat allows the beast to bleed to death, a slow enough process.  Many people, not only Christians, will find that unacceptable.
    • But is it ok for a Christian to eat meat that has been dedicated to a false god?  Allah is not to be confused with the Lord God of Israel!  Christians and Moslems do not worship the same god, no matter what the bleeding-heart leftist brigade might want you to think.  There are huge differences.  Allah is a false deity, an idol.  This is not a new dilemma though, for in Corinth the Christians were worried about eating meat, for all the animals there were slaughtered in the pagan temple.  The passage we need to read on this matter is 1 Corinthians 10:23-28  In short, Paul thinks there is no reason why you shouldn’t eat meat that has been ritually slaughtered to a false god, because false gods are no gods at all.  Allah doesn’t exist!  What does it matter!  But, what if someone else thinks it does, and is easily offended? Well that makes a difference!  We should consider them, and not eat and so cause offence, and perhaps cause a brother to stumble.  

So, if you object to Halal meat, because it is cruel, that’s fair enough.  If you object because of some silly incantation muttered over it by a Moslem, – you’re probably in danger of thinking that Allah actually exists! 

  • Vegetarianism and Veganism.  But should Christians be vegetarians?  Again it depends on why you want to be a vegetarian!  If you don’t like the taste or texture of meat, then don’t eat it!  But if you think that eating only vegetables is a Christian obligation, you are probably sinning!  You won’t be able to please God by not eating meat. READ: 1 Timothy 4:1-4  
  • Dieting and diet plans.  The same principle applies when we are discussing diets.  Some diets are little more than ‘fads’ – although obviously those who use them don’t think so!  The Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Vegan Diet, the Keto Diet, the Paleo Diet, the 5:2 Diet, I’m sure you can think of many many more.  There’s even so-called ‘Christian Diets’ like the ‘Daniel Diet!’ (Nobody seems keen on the John the Baptist Diet – the honey part might be ok…). There are people who need to diet for health reasons, to control body weight, or blood sugar levels, or celiac disease where a gluten-free diet is necessary, for example.  In those cases the guidance of a nutritionist is helpful.  But we must never become obsessed with what we eat.  That would be to make our food, or our diet a false god – an idol. READ:  Philippians 3:18-20.  
  • Vegetarianism and Veganism.  But should Christians be vegetarians?  Again it depends on why you want to be a vegetarian!  If you don’t like the taste or texture of meat, then don’t eat it!  But if you think that eating only vegetables is a Christian obligation, you are probably sinning!  You won’t be able to please God by not eating meat. READ: 1 Timothy 4:1-4  
  • Dieting and diet plans.  The same principle applies when we are discussing diets.  Some diets are little more than ‘fads’ – although obviously those who use them don’t think so!  The Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Vegan Diet, the Keto Diet, the Paleo Diet, the 5:2 Diet, I’m sure you can think of many many more.  There’s even so-called ‘Christian Diets’ like the ‘Daniel Diet!’ (Nobody seems keen on the John the Baptist Diet – the honey part might be ok…). There are people who need to diet for health reasons, to control body weight, or blood sugar levels, or celiac disease where a gluten-free diet is necessary, for example.  In those cases the guidance of a nutritionist is helpful.  But we must never become obsessed with what we eat.  That would be to make our food, or our diet a false god – an idol. READ:  Philippians 3:18-20.  

3. How Then Should We Eat?

The Bible tells us that when we eat our food we do it… 

  • With thanksgiving. READ: Acts 2:46-47    Many Christians like to thank God for their food before they eat it – to say ‘Grace.’  Some will do so openly, publicly, some will do it inwardly, some privately and some as a group.  It must never be for show, – whatever way it is done, and it should never become just a formality.  The most important part of ‘saying grace’ is to actually BE thankful – not just to say the words, but to have a thankful attitude in our hearts, properly directed to God.
  • With confidence.  Because there are more important things to worry about. READ: Matthew 6:25   And because our heavenly Father has promised us that he will care for us. READ:  Psalm 37:25 
  • With self discipline.  Of course the Christian must exercise self-discipline in every area of life.  ‘Temperance’ is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work within our hearts and lives. READ: Galatians 5:22-23  This is true also of food.  A Christian cannot be a glutton, for gluttony is sin.

4. Food, Eating and Christian Worship.

We all grew up in the days when our Roman Catholic neighbours would fast from meat on a Friday – eating only fish.  They, and some anglicans, would practice lenten fasts, when they would ‘give something up for Lent.’  We often wondered if they were practicing a kind of ‘good works’ – trying to earn enough merit to get to heaven. So…

  • What is ‘fasting?’  Jesus speaks of this in his Sermon on the Mount. READ: Matthew 6:16-18 The Jews held their market days on Monday and Thursday, and on these days the towns would be full of people, buying and selling, people from town and country, men and women and children.  There’s noting that an actor, a hypocrite likes better than a good big audience, and this was a great opportunity for ostentatious worship.  The Pharisees would go to great lengths to make sure that everyone knew how pious they were, how religious.  They would walk through the crowds, with their faces disfigured, their hair uncombed, their clothes deliberately torn and filthy.  They looked the part.  It was deliberate.  Look at me, I’m fasting. For such people, there is no spiritual value in their fast whatsoever.  READ: Matthew 6:16-18 Fasting has some physical or mental benefits, good for your physical and mental health.  But for spiritual benefit, fasting alone would be worthless, for works of any sort cannot save.  Fasting is only as a response to our realisation of our spiritual condition, our sorrow, YET even though we are deeply sorrowful over our sins, here’s what Jesus tells us to do.  Look cheerful. Enjoy your fast, look normal.  Comb your hair, and wash your face and appear normal.  Do not tell anyone else what you are doing; do it in secret.  Only then, will we gain a spiritual reward from our fast, and that reward will be given to us by our Heavenly Father, and the reward we get for our fast will be an open witness to other men and women.
  • Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Our true satisfaction does not come from what we eat.  We like food, we enjoy a nice meal, but none of these things will satisfy the soul.  Like everything else in life, the satisfaction of a full stomach lasts only a short time, before it must be replenished.  But the satisfaction we get from our knowledge and relation with Christ satisfies us for all eternity.  He is THE BREAD OF LIFE.  “Man shall not live by bread alone…”

There’s lots more food related teaching in the Bible, more than we could cover in a single lesson.  Get a good concordance, whether in a book form, or on-line software, and get stuck in and study God’s word. You’ll soon become intrigued and fascinated, and you’ll be drawn into it more and more, and you’ll gain from it spiritually and practically, and you’ll be closer drawn to Christ!

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