WORSHIPFUL EATING


William Andrew Dillard

“Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” Prov. 25:16

When you walk into the bookstore and see a table filled with books on dieting, you know it must be early spring. After several weeks largely cabin-bound life of overeating all kinds of foods, people in many cultures turn their attention to not eating.

Surprisingly, food plays an important role in Scripture. God uses it not only to bless us but also to teach us. Misuse of food keeps us from knowing God in ways He wants to be known.

In the Old Testament, God gave instructions to Adam as to what to eat and what not to eat (Gen. 2:16-17). Later He gave the Israelites manna to convince them that He was God and to test them to find out if they believed Him (Ex. 16:12; Deut. 8:16). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul stated the proper attitude for everything we do, including eating: “Whether you eat or drink, . . . do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

When we think of food as a friend that comforts us or an enemy that makes us fat, we miss the wonder of receiving with gratitude a splendid gift from God. Obsessive eating or not eating indicates that we are focused on the gift rather than on the Giver, which is a form of idolatry.

When eating becomes a true act of worship, we will no longer worship food. Our appetite for the bread of life is diminished when we make physical food our god.

To preach on the sin of gluttony is far from a popular thing to do, but the Bible has much to say about it, and none of it is good. It is ironic that some folks who would vehemently denounce bad language, alcohol consumption, and a number of other things often follow up their disparaging comments by gorging themselves at a laden table without any noticeable compunction.

Such were the Cretans of Old. Although not specifically labeled as epicurean, enough is said to give the distinct impression that they were just that. The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete to set things in order and ordain elders in the newly formed church, but he had quite a bit to say about the nature of the Cretans. “Slow bellies” is what he quoted one of their own poets as calling them. Those words simply mean that they were culturally lazy and loved to lay around stuffing their gut.

The apostle admonished Titus to “rebuke them sharply” that they may be turned in their focus from material food and other sins to becoming sound in the faith.

Seeing food as a physical necessity to continue life is supposed to depict the necessity of spiritual food that sustains the life of the soul. Few overeat at that table, but all are invited to do so.

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