Once upon a time nobody cared about what they put into their body. We ate TV dinners, smoked cigarettes, drank carbonated beverages packed full of high fructose corn syrup, ingested mass quantities of hot dogs, Spam, and other semi-processed meats, slathered things with mayo, and generally didn’t give a rip about what went into our bodies.
Then people started noticing that the more junk we ate, the worse we felt and looked. Doctors began telling us about eating balanced meals. The food pyramid was invented. Everyone began eating organic, shade-grown, fair-trade, superfoods. Large sugary drinks were temporarily banned in New York City.
In recent years churches have jumped on the health bandwagon. The Daniel Diet was invented, modeled after Daniel’s insistence on eating only vegetables in Babylon. There is also The Eden Diet, The Maker’s Diet, and numerous other diets claiming biblical support. Rick Warren recently led members of Saddleback in a church-wide fitness program.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fitness and eating well. Our health determines our ability to effectively serve the Lord. I try to exercise regularly and eat semi-well.
But does the Bible tell us what to eat? Does God have a divinely inspired diet plan we should all be following? Are some foods more spiritual than others? I don’t think so. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. In Mark 7:18-23 we read:
“Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Jesus’ point is that food in and of itself is not spiritual. It goes in the mouth and comes out the other end. Eating a particular food does not make us more or less spiritual. Vegetables are not more godly than meat. Organic is not more godly than processed. Oreos and Cheez-Whiz are just as holy as homegrown basil. An Eden diet is not more pleasing to God than a Paleo diet or South Beach diet. All foods are clean and can be eaten and enjoyed.
Why does this even matter? Do I care if you are on The Eden Diet or The Daniel Diet or The Maker’s Diet? Nope, not one bit. If a particular diet helps you lose weight, great! But, we Christians have a tendency to moralize our preferences and create artificial spirituality. If we say that God wants us to eat a particular food group we are on the verge of creating spiritual cliques in the church. The most godly people follow a particular diet, the less godly people eat processed food. A diet can become a stumbling block to the gospel and a source of spiritual elitism.
The reality is, God doesn’t care what we eat, he cares how we eat. The Bible lays out several clear principles for how we are to eat.
1. Every meal is to be eaten for the glory of God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) Everything we do, including eating and drinking, is to be done in such a way that God will be honored.
2. All of our eating or abstaining is to be done with thankfulness to God. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6) If we eat we should thank God for the wonderful, delightful, delicious gift of food. If we choose not to eat we should thank God that he has given us the power of self-control. Eating is to be done with thankfulness. Dieting is also to be done with thankfulness.
3. Our eating should serve other people. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) The way we eat should be a blessing to other people. This is a wonderful motivation to take care of our bodies. The food I put into my body directly effects my energy levels, which directly effects my ability to serve my wife, my kids, my church, and my neighbors. All my eating should be done to serve others.
In one sense, God does not care what we eat. All foods are clean. But he does care how we eat. The way we eat can bring glory to God, be a blessing to us, and even be a blessing to others. Let’s eat for the glory of God!