In the American church, which often mirrors American culture, there continues to be guilt about our food choices. We eat too much. We eat too little. We eat the wrong things. We should eat more of this or less of that. Do I get enough protein? Do I get too many carbs? Are eggs good? Bad? Sometimes we feel guilty because of what we eat. Other times we make other people feel guilty because of what they eat. Advertisers thrive on this. They count on us being guilted into buying that new, low carb food. They guilt us into paying twice as much for the chicken sandwich as we do for the hamburger. (I love Chick-Fil-A by the way!) They guilt us into buying light beer, low calorie dressing, and organic salad greens. But there only be guilt if there is sin. Can our food choices be sinful?
Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth, has been a excellent read so far about how to enjoy God’s good creation while making sure you don’t worship it. He has great little footnote on food. I have added some breaks for clarity. The only bad thing about the quote is that Joe does not like coffee!
One of the besetting sins of our day is food-fussing, the attempt to resurrect some kind of food laws, whether they be all-natural, organic, paleo, gluten-free, or what have you. While there is no problem in having food preferences (I myself am not fan of raw onions, bubble gum, or coffee), there is a serious problem in ascribing moral value to your food preferences. Making food choices based on food allergies or other responses to food is perfectly legitimate, but imposing those choices on others (or judging others for making different choices) is not. While a full treatment of food-fussing is beyond the scope of this book, all Christians would do well to memorize, digest, and embody Mark 7:19, I Cor. 8:8, and I Cor. 10:31-33. In the first, Jesus declares all foods clean. All of them. All of them, which means the attempt to treat some foods as functionally unclean is contrary to Christ, however distasteful or dissatisfying they may be to you.
The second reads, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” Your kale and arugula salad won’t commend you to God. And your neighbor’s greasy burger and large Diet Coke won’t condemn him. God does not care what you eat, provided you do so with gratitude in your heart (I Timothy 4:4-5).
Finally, we all know that I Cor. 10:31 commands us to eat and drink to the glory of God. What we don’t often recognize is that Paul primarily has in mind our attitude towards others, not our attitude toward the food itself. The following verse reads, “Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (vs. 32). We glorify God in eating when we refuse to make dietary choices a barrier to fellowship. So thank God for the food, love your neighbor in your eating, and quit your fussing.