How should Christians view food?
There seems to be a lot of back and forth about food in the Christian world today. When you think about it, there has been a lot of back and forth about food throughout the world in recent history. We hear questions like, “What would Jesus eat?” and “Is it a sin to buy food farmed by slave labor?” Well, is it?
What concerns me about the debate is the middle ground we are missing. It is true that “everything is permissible” (1 Cor. 6:12). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19). “Everything created by God is good” (1 Tim. 4:4). However, believers must always be attentive to the whole counsel of Scripture. For instance, many New Testament passages about food were specifically about new believers struggling with eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. Anytime you read about food, make sure and look for the context and don’t misapply it to your Twinkies.
Still, there is more to the argument. What is happening, though, is that Christians are running to two different extremes. Some, in an effort to be good stewards of their body and promote healthiness, are making false claims about what Jesus would eat and that it is a sin to eat bacon, etc. Others, in an effort to recognize the goodness of what God has given us and not trying to make food into the most important thing in life, are making false claims that it does not matter what we eat as long as we are thankful. Fortunately, there is middle, and biblical, ground on this issue.
The fullness of 1 Cor. 6:12 reads, ‘”Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything.'” It is not inherently a sin to have high fructose corn syrup. However, the goal of a Christian’s life is not to seek what is permissible but what is beneficial. Many Christians try to toe the line with what is permissible in various areas of life. They do this with their dating and sexual lives, media consumption, and eating habits to name a few. This leads us away from living in moderation and into a life in which we are mastered by our stomachs.
The main problem Christians have with food is not that they are eating things that are inherently sinful. Rather, they worship their stomachs and eat to the point that they cannot serve Christ to their full potential. How well will an obese person be able to go to unreached people groups hidden on a mountain or in a forest? How well can we serve when we are stuck at home because we can’t get around?
How well can we serve when we are spending all our financial resources on doctors and medical treatment for diabetes and heart disease?
The church needs to be leading the way in healthy, balanced lifestyles. Sure, we can eat a donut, but do it in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle filled with healthy foods and exercise. Treat your body as a temple, not a dumpster.
Many people are simply taking a side on the issue without informing themselves. They live in bliss because they live in ignorance. We cannot pretend like food is the main thing in life and be so consumed with being physically healthy that we fail to be spiritually healthy. Our spiritual health and mission to make disciples must remain the main focus. However, we also cannot ignore the hard science showing us how damaging certain foods are to our bodies. We cannot ignore the fact that sometimes our food is coming to us by unethical and immoral means. This does not mean we are participating in the sins of those in charge, but we might not be part of the solution.
1 Cor. 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” This passage, like many others, is discussing food sacrificed to idols. The truth of verse 31 is still applicable, though, especially since Paul added “whatever you do.” Thus, the question of food is one that a Christian should struggle through. We should not struggle with it more than our lifestyle of personal evangelism, but we should not ignore it, either.
If we are so unhealthy that our life is filled with doctor visits, medications, and bills distracting us from Kingdom work, then we are not glorifying God with our bodies. If we are so obese that we cannot go to the mission field or serve others, then we are not glorifying God with our bodies. If we die from a preventable heart attack early in life and lose many potentially profitable years spreading the gospel to the nations, we are not glorifying God with our bodies.
Thus, the Scripture we should be looking for when we discuss food might not be passages and verses about food. We should look for the principles Christians are to live by. We should look at the full counsel Scripture provides on the Christian life. We should look for how we can best serve our Lord and fulfill our purpose to glorify God and our mission to make disciples.
We should not be mastered by food in either direction. We should not be so concerned with eating clean that we talk more about food than Christ. At the same time, we should not be so concerned with not eating clean that we are bad examples to others and unable to take the gospel to the nations.
Here’s to the middle, and biblical, ground.