Of all the people of the planet who ought to be feasting on the good Earth’s abundance, it should be God’s people, the Christians! Isn’t that the most wonderful news? At that news many will get up and dance, clap hands, and shout “praise the Lord!”
After all, how does Genesis describe Adam’s and Eve’s Eden? Why, it says it was a garden! (Genesis 2:8). In fact, it even mentions “herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind,” all of which God created in preparation for humanity (Genesis 1:11, 12), until life in Eden surely was a continual feast.
Look at this marvelous scene: God decided to make mankind in his own image, but he gave him a body in which to enjoy fellowshipping with his Maker. In anticipation of the physical body, God began preparations for a place tailor-made for his domain. It started with light. Then he put up a firmament in the sky, he rose up some dry land, he put a sun and a moon in the sky, he put fish in the waters, birds in the air, he strewed the land with animals, and finally, “whish!” he created Adam and Eve to live in God’s paradise. What an astonishing story! It even says God himself “planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed” (2:8), a place God says was “good for food” (v.9).
Now let us draw near and peer into this divine setup more closely. Here is all this edible stuff, herbs and fruit, and a whopping variety of all of it, no doubt salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, beans, radishes, and much more; there were apples, oranges, pears, pomegranates, plums, peaches, cantaloupes, watermelons, honeydews, and don’t forget grapes, berries of all kinds, persimmons, figs, not to mention honey, milk, pineapples, and bananas. Obviously, we fool ourselves if we think all of that and infinitely more were not there for the eating.
But then came the fish of every sort. After the fall there were even animal meats to feast on, as well as a host of fowls. All of these things, until it staggers us to imagine the fantastic menu to choose from in God’s provision! There God is, smiling down on humanity’s partaking of all of this delicious variety he furnished for the pleasure of our physical bodies. Oh, he weeps at our sin, and he also weeps at some of the poisons we put into ourselves, but it pleases him when we treat our physical bodies in harmony with his magnificent design. Blessings for this comes to the just and the unjust.
But watch it — here comes the downside to this picture. The holy Scriptures came up with a word which Christian people do not want to hear. It falls under a definition that can damn our souls, and appears in context with words like, drunken, stubborn, rebellious, riotous, winebibber, “friend off publicans and sinners” (Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:21; 28:7; Matt. 11:19; Like 7:34). It is the word “glutton,” or the sin of gluttony. Noah Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1852, defines a glutton as, “One who indulges to excess in eating.” Glut means, “That which is swallowed,” putting the definition in the same category as drunkenness.
Bringing the downside of it closer to home, church bodies of believers have brought us to a very fine line between fellowshipping around tables with rich foods, and the sin of gluttony, especially in America where every food imaginable is in bewildering abundance. If that were not enough, between those church tables of fellowship, a plethora of believers gather after church services at restaurants, hamburger joints, taco houses, ice cream parlors, barbecue pits, and much more, to feast like kings. Many in the congregation are culled out by slim pocketbooks and cannot partake, sidelined by their brothers and sisters who can. Such a practice amounts to division within Christian Fellowship, and acts as a wrecking ball to the oneness of believers which the Lord intended. In fact, some of the believers who cannot afford it go out anyway to join them, even if it runs them short, to save face and embarrassment. It amounts to a 1st Corinthians chapter 12 and 14, without 13. Yes, God wants his children to partake of his plenty, but he also expects us to do it in careful moderation. Being human, our appetites have a way of getting out of hand, but God expects us to exercise control, especially in our churches, and most especially in our pulpits! Paul declared that if what he eats is offensive to his brother he would “eat no flesh while the world standeth” (1st Corinthians 8:13). That philosophy should also be that of our leadership.
Okay, now let us look at another side of God’s abundance. This one is extremely important to the whole of humanity. Think carefully about God’s order of creation. It is crystal clear in Scripture that God did not create Adam and Eve as a divine afterthought, but as a crowning act without which all his previous creative acts would be meaningless. The light, the firmament, the earth, and all life were created for Adam, not the other way around! What is the point? Just this: God made the physical body of Adam to enjoy all, repeat ALL, of the edible things he created for it. If that were not true, then Adam and Eve could have been perfectly healthy in eating nothing but bananas! Or, how about nothing but radishes? Maybe you could have been in perfect shape on nothing but turnip greens. I’d be a peanut butter man. How silly is that?
What am I saying? Mister, if you are a meat and potatoes kind of guy, you’ve got God’s order for the provision of your good health in reverse! You cannot remain in the good health God expects of you if you refuse to partake of what even science has proven many times over to be a healthy lifestyle! All you’re doing is cheating God out of the man he meant for you to be! Eating with your mouth and not your brain is to eat strictly for taste, not using your brain to eat for God. An unhealthy body makes for unhealthy metabolism where your juices, hormones, blood, stamina, endurance, meditation, prayer, judgment, concentration and much more are weakened from what God expected of you if you ate properly. You might live to be old, but your quality of life is likely to take you out of the race, and kill the joy you would find in God’s best, to say nothing of being cut off before being a blessing to your heritage.
One other point concerning Christian nutrition begs to be mentioned. Let me begin this way: since the entry of sin into the human condition, the physical delights of the flesh have found it far too easy to bring down our spiritual highs. Believe it or not, food has invariably been one of the most subtle points leading an incursion into questionable territory. That amounts to a tempting foot in the door. With that beginning, momentum is slowly gathered. Comes then tiny rivulets of justification for indulgence, the most common being Christian fellowship. Slowly, but eventually, the indulgers begin to appear little different than the worldly brand of partying, including drunkenness. It is an amazing story to watch. If you are elderly, as I am, you have seen this pattern over and over again. Believe it or not, it can lead to extravagant things such as church splits, vicious gossip, unforgiveness, despite, hatred, lost souls, and more. It really does happen! I have seen such things develop. Too often, food seems to be the catalyst that begins the synthesis, because the discipline of separation begins well but ends sadly. The flesh does it, not the spiritually strong. We don’t want to think such things can happen from such an innocent beginning, but because the subtle process is usually very slow in building, perhaps decades, the day finally comes when we cannot believe the difference in what we used to be, and what we have become. Prayer and party are both six letter words, but we have foolishly associated them so closely that the heart of prayer morphs into the cold, prayerless stone off party.
Scriptural proof of this point is overwhelming. Space prohibits enumerating all the passages, such as Jesus said of the days of Noah, that they were “eating and drinking… until the flood came and took them all away” (Matthew 24:39). They partied at the Tower of Babel. They partied around the golden calf. The sons of Job partied, along with many other such passages where both food and fermented wine played the major part. Think of it: when the people of God in Scripture would draw near to God, where did they start? They fasted! Whether it was one or the whole assembly, they fasted. Jesus made the point that God’s answer often came only by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). The subtle point in all of this is that food must be seen as a delightful necessity in serving God, not a delightful serving of ourselves! There is an eternity of difference. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24), mammon meaning the selfish indulgences of the flesh.
Our church leaders have surely failed in commanding discipline in these matters. Do I think this little article will change that? Don’t make me laugh! But what I bring to the readers attention here does not seem to be in print anywhere, so perhaps it will benefit a few. One can try to dodge the truth in it, but dodging truth is eventually humanly impossible. Once that arrow buries itself in your chest, the only thing left is what you will do about it, live or die.
A good place to start to correct the perspective is to teach God’s people the vital difference between praying and partying. The designated purpose of a sanctuary has always been preaching and prayer. That is the place set aside where our faces look into God’s face. The fellowship of God’s people is where we all as Christians look into one another’s faces, an eternity of difference. If those get mixed we are in serious trouble!
God’s sanctuary must be kept sanctified as a tangible reality of our relationship to our awesome God. It is not a place to party. It should be seen as a real battleground between the forces of good and evil, an arena where God’s Spirit and evil forces do battle for eternal outcomes. Any other vision of it is simply a truce. It is not the place for earsplitting drums and amplifiers, nor for exhibitions of entertainment such as bodily swaying to the beat of music. It must not be where screaming voices nor staccato rapping shatters an atmosphere belonging to God’s sanctity. All of such disturbances belong to partying elsewhere, but not here. No, this is where the thunder of God’s eternal words of truth should be preached into the very souls of those in attendance. Anything leading up to such an awesome purpose should be in character with softness, sweetness, and what causes one’s soul to reflect with reverence upon God, and nothing else. God’s holy presence in his designated place of sanctity is not the place to eat and drink nor even to bring food therein.
The effort to keep a correct perspective on God’s provision for our physical bodies should not be taken lightly by one or all people. Nor should it be by just dropping a word once in a while. No, it is of such importance as to command an ongoing work of discipline to keep priorities straight.
In closing this, please allow me to repeat an earlier sentence: food must be seen as a delightful necessity in serving God, not a delightful serving of ourselves. Food is never an acceptable substitute for God’s holy business.