Back to the Shadows

Food can be a source of great anxiety for Christians. Our society bombards us with what and how we should eat. Every week there is new study telling us about the evils this food or that food. How should we think as Christians when it comes to food? Below is my brief attempt at putting up some guardrails on a road where many are currently driving over the cliff. A couple of notes before I begin:

First, I know there are Christians who flaunt their freedom and eat like gluttons. I know it is possible for the fat person to look down on the thin. However, in the community I am in and the Christian world at large that is becoming less and less of an issue. The bigger issue is holiness by dieting or exercise. That is what I am addressing because that is what I see around me.

Second, each person has to make choices about how they want to eat and what they want to eat. I understand this. However, too often our choices become a source of holiness for us and a way of dividing between Christians. What we eat has very little bearing on our own righteousness and holiness and should not be a source of division in the Body of Christ.

With those qualifications out of the way, here are my points.

1. The Old Testament laws about food have been done away with. It is hard to understand what else Acts 10:9-16 along with 10:28 can mean. Any Christian who tells you, “Don’t eat pork because the Bible forbids it” has failed to understand the New Covenant and is leading you back to the shadows of the Old Covenant.

2. The Old Testament food laws were about the separation of Jew and Gentile. This is clear from Acts 10:28. The Old Testament food laws were not about health.  There are many arguments against this. God never uses this type of language. He tells them to do this because they are to be holy, separate from the nations. (Leviticus 22:26) The Old Testament dietary laws are not a manual on healthy eating. They were a reminder to the Old Testament saints that they are to be separate from the nations. With the coming of the New Covenant those OT dietary laws are broken down as God is making one new man out of two. (Ephesians 2:14-18)

3. Natural food is not necessarily healthier than processed food. In today’s culture, much of the processed food has been stripped of its nutrient value. However, it is important to not overreact. Nature is fallen just like man. There is not pristine, natural wheat. The wheat has felt the effects of sin just like we have.  Also, God put us here to take dominion. We should be trying to make the wheat better. That is what God put us here to do. Just because greedy men tear down what God has given does not mean we should just take food as it is. We were made by God to take up the things in the world and transform them for his glory. This would include wheat, cows, and orange trees.

4. The two primary food sins in Scripture are gluttony and drunkenness.  If you eat too much or drink too much alcohol then you are sinning. However, having an extra piece of pie does not qualify as gluttony, just as having two beers does not qualify as drunkenness. Gluttony, like drunkenness is not hard to spot. The verses on gluttony are few and far between, though it has always been included among the seven deadly sins. Primary verses are Deuteronomy 21:20 and Proverbs 23:19-21. The picture here is not of someone who overeats and is overweight, but of someone who leads a riotous, drunken life and squanders their money and time. (c.f. Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34) I am reminded of the vomitoriums in ancient Rome, where men would eat until they were full and then go throw up so they could eat some more. That is the picture of gluttony.  A fat person is not necessarily a glutton. A thin person can be a glutton.

5. Where your food comes from does not matter. As Americans we have been taught somewhere that it is our solemn duty to make sure our food does not come from a tainted source. But in I Corinthians 8:1-8 Paul says it is not a sin to eat meat offered to idols. (See especially I Corinthians 8:8) If it is not a sin to eat meat offered to idols, then it is not a sin to eat non-organic chickens, lettuce from China, and beef filled with hormones from the meat plant in Iowa. This is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If the Scriptures teach that I can buy meat sacrificed to idols, it is hard to see how it is sin to buy and eat vegetables with pesticides on them or to eat chickens that were stuffed in a small cage their whole life.

6. What you eat or refuse to eat does not make you more holy than someone else. You are not more holy because you refuse to eat white sugar or white flour. You are not more holy because you buy organic. You are not more holy because you are a vegan or drink soy milk. You are not more holy because in your Christian liberty you can eat an entire pizza. You are not more holy because you exercise. Paul makes this point in Colossians 2:20-23.  Men love to draw unbiblical lines of holiness to separate themselves from others. Paul says these false lines make us look holy and feel holy, but in end they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Paul tells us where true holiness comes in Colossians 3:1-17.(See especially verses 5, 8, 12-13) If we worried more about those things mentioned in Colossians 3, sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, and less about what type of flour we are eating, how much fat is in our food or how much weight we put on we would be more holy.