The Role of Food Within Scripture

As you get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving later this week, take a moment and consider the role food plays within the Bible. From the opening pages in Genesis, some of God’s very first words to Adam were about food. On day six of creation, God tells the newly created man, “See I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29, emphasis mine). This need of ours for sustenance is not a result of sin or a byproduct of the curse of Genesis 3.

The Bible mentions food many times. often as part of prominent events.. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are just a few special events around food as found in Scripture.

  1. Israel celebrated seven feasts and the details for those celebrates are rather elaborate as described in Leviticus 23 and other places in Scriptures. Some of those feasts lasted for over a week. What both Catholic and Protestant churches everywhere celebrate as Communion, came from one of those feasts, the Passover Meal.
  2. Many teachings of Jesus take place during a meal; including the call of Levi found in Mark 2:14-16, and the conversion of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. No less than four entire chapters of Gospel of John (John 13 through 16) take place around a table as Jesus and the disciples celebrate Passover together, what we traditionally refer to as the Last Supper.
  3. While the inclusion of food isn’t mentioned, how many weddings have you attended where there wasn’t any food present? His first miracle described in John 2:1-11 is at a wedding.
  4. Other than His resurrection, no miracle of His appears in all four Gospels except the Feeding of the 5000.
  5. Many would say one of the first events which occur when we reach Heaven is a meal! The Marriage Supper of the Lamb is mentioned in Revelation 19:9.

Three Observations About Food

 Food is a constant reminder of the frailty of our bodies.

Our world quickly becomes out of balance when food isn’t included in our routine. Every four to six hours you can count on a reminder of how frail we are as we begin to crave food. While we all need oxygen, we don’t need to hunt, gather, grow, or store it. Eating is different as we must intentionally make a point to stop whatever task we are performing and take in food. The necessity of human beings to make the ingesting of food part of our daily tasks is a reminder of how we are to be looking to Him for provision and to be thankful. He provides a built in alarm for us to thank Him, multiple times every day. If you don’t already, get into the habit of thanking God every time you eat.

Food has a comforting and welcoming quality.

When we want to help a grieving family upon the death of a loved one, what is often our first response? Many times we provide food for them. It is the same if one experiences significant time in a hospital, often meals are provided. Providing food is a way we offer comfort to each other. We communicate to each other our sorrow, understanding and empathy by providing food for each other in times of stress. Many churches and communities use some sort of food as a welcoming gift. A small loaf of bread or a homemade pie are sometimes part of the opening gestures of friendship or gratitude.

Food creates closeness among people when we eat together.

We have a natural God-given desire to eat and engage in the task with others. It opens the doorway to conversations and brings people together. I cannot count how many times I have needed to talk to someone or someone needed to speak to me, and we met together. But we didn’t meet at a church, library, golf course, or a bowling alley. We meet at some restaurant for a meal.

My wife and I have been part of the same small group Bible study for nearly ten years. Yes, we always spend time studying the Scriptures and sharing prayer requests. But our best conversations take place around a dining room table at our host’s home. We eat, we laugh, we talk, and we grow closer to each other. While we do enjoy our Bible studies, I am convinced the closeness of those in our group has been built around that table as we enjoy each other’s company while we eat together.

So go ahead and have another piece of turkey! Celebrate God’s faithfulness and remember, every day – not just Thanksgiving Day – you have a built in reminder to thank God for His provision.

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Foundational Principle #9

Morality is Not Defined by Feelings

 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? – Genesis 39:9

 Our culture puts a high value on feelings. We are told “if it feels right do it” or “trust your feelings” or some other form of advice based on what or how one “feels.” While this isn’t a new idea, it has taken a greater place in our society over the past few decades. Rarely are people encouraged to base decisions on logic or even truth, rather we’re told to search our feelings and determine for ourselves what is right or wrong.

The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37 and by chapter 39, he has overcome the injustice done to him by his brothers and finds himself in charge of the household of Potiphar. Joseph must have been a handsome young man and attracted the attention of the wife of Potiphar. Joseph declined her advances with this statement, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

If there was anyone who thought their circumstances would give them a pass on sexual morality, it was Joseph. He was rejected by his family, hundreds of miles away and alone. He could easily forgo any allegiance to the God of his childhood and abandon any sense of morality beyond his immediate feelings.

If Joseph was only guided by his feelings he may not have responded as he did. He spurned her advances claiming it would be a sin against God if he accepted her invitation. Joseph did not make his decision on his feelings. He did not let his situation determine his course of action in this regard. His morality was based on a higher authority.

While our feelings are real and are a gift from God, they can lead us down a wrong path or give us a faulty course of action leading to wrong conclusions. Don’t limit this application to areas of sexuality as it is relevant when you are wronged or angry. When an opportunity arises where you think you could easily get away with shaving the truth slightly or rounding off numbers to your benefit because you feel you are owed, don’t base your decision on how you feel. Feelings can waver and are affected by many factors. But God’s word is solid. Doing something because it feels right is not Biblical or wise. God’s Word is the filter by which all feels need to be strained.

Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me. – Psalm 119:133

 It is His Word, not our feelings which must be our guide. His Word is to be the determining factor for our decisions. If our feelings pass the test of His Word, they are experienced with great joy! But if our feelings are contrary to His Word, following them will ultimately lead to our destruction.

Our morality cannot be based off our feelings which can change on a moment’s notice. Morality, the basis for our life decisions, must be founded on something solid, His Word.

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Foundational Principle #8

Whenever You Disagree With the Bible, You are wrong

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for]instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible is our standard. It is what everything else is measured against as it forms the basis of morality. When someone comes to the conclusion the Bible is trustworthy in all areas of which it speaks and every word of it is truth, then it cannot be wrong.

This concept seems simple when first presented, but this idea can be disturbing when we encounter something within Scripture we don’t like or agree with. Faced with that conflict, many will go to great lengths to explain away what the clear reading of the text states.

But since “The text is never wrong” and it is always truth, when I find myself not agreeing with a principle of Scripture, then I am wrong. This is true 100% of the time.

Of course I may not understand what is being taught by the Word, but that is considerably different than not agreeing with it. Further, I may understand yet still struggle with applying the truth it teaches.

Paul tells Timothy about the three part purpose of the Scriptures. First, the Bible has been given to us by God and is good for doctrine. If you want to know what to believe, the Bible is where you find out that information. The Scriptures also are used to point out wrong. “Reproof” is another way of saying the Bible can tells us what is wrong. We can use the Scriptures to point out error. Finally, we’re told the Bible is used for correction. Beyond pointing out error, if offers the correct way.

The total of all these ideas is verse 17 where we read how by following this process, the person following God “may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

When we disagree with something in Scripture, we are wrong.

We are hurting ourselves because His Word is true and by trusting all of it, we become better equipped for the work God has for us.

The challenge for us is to lay aside our initial reactions when we read something within the Bible which we think is wrong.  Take the time to investigate the Biblical issue and trust Him and His Word to lead you to the correct conclusion. Our attitude isn’t to find a way to prove the Bible correct, but to better align my thinking to His word.

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Foundational Principle #7

Value The Boring Stuff

 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ – Matthew 25:21

 Anyone who make it the pinnacle in their sport is a great athlete. The world is full of good athletes but the great ones are those who arrive to a professional status. Here, they are so good at what they do, people will pay to see them play. This is also true in the area of the arts as there are many good musicians, however only a few are good enough to earn a living from their performances.

But in each sport or performance art, there are a select few who are elite. Their names are tied to their sport where even their peers look up to them as someone to emulate even long after they have retired.

Raw talent always figures into the equation as to why someone is elite over being great or being great over being good, but there is another often overlooked element. The ingredient is faithfulness.

In Matthew 25:14-28 Jesus gives us the parable of the talents. His point centers on the faithfulness of the first two servants who were faithful or trustworthy in what they were given while the third demonstrated he was neither. As Jesus described how the first two servants were rewarded as their master tells them, “You have been faithful in the little things, I will make your ruler over much.”

It is in the little things where we learn the importance of faithfulness. The mundane or little things – in sports in might be called the fundamentals – is where the great are separated from the good and where the elite are separated from the great. This principle is understood in the areas of sport or performance arts but it is also true in being a disciple of Jesus. It is in finding success in all the little things – sometimes the boring things – which define faithfulness.

Too few Christians settle for the low bar and don’t seek to make themselves a faithful disciple. Many want to do great things for God but refuse to put in the time to learn this lesson – it is in constantly being faithful or trustworthy in the little things where I learn what it takes to a disciple of Jesus.

Here are three little things you need to do to grow as a disciple. Learn these things before God gives you other big tasks.

1. Read your Bible every day. Every. Single. Day. Can’t get up early enough to spend 30 minutes in the Bible each morning? Turn off the TV 30 minutes early and go to bed. It is that simple, yet so few make it a priority.

2. Make thankfulness your first conscience thought in the morning. Thank Him for keeping you alive overnight. Each day, He is giving you another opportunity to serve Him. Thank Him for the opportunity.

3. Pray before every meal. Every day we have built in reminders of our need of Him. Without food, we die, so thank Him for your meals – every one of them.

There are other things we could add to this list but start here. Get these things right. Can you do this for 3 days straight? A week? Can you do these three simple things a month?

I dare you to value the boring stuff – and you’ll soon find out – none of these things are boring. You’ll begin to notice that you can’t wait to go to bed because you are going to learn some from the Word in the morning. You’ll find you are starting your day on a positive note and learning how being thankful changes your outlook. You will find your hunger as being a reminder to seek and acknowledge Him.

Can you take the challenge and learn to value the boring stuff?

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Proverbs 31 – The Intention

She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. – Proverbs 31:20 (ESV)

 This last chapter of proverbs has been a source of discouragement for many women. The standard listed here as the “virtuous wife” is pretty high. Not everyone is a good negotiator or seamstress. No doubt some less-than-honorable men have pointed to this chapter and used it as a weapon. My goal with this chapter is not to highlight something else women must do, but to highlight a character trait everyone – male and female – can nurture and grown in their personal life; the trait of generosity.

Among all the various descriptions of the high standard of the “virtuous wife,” right here in the middle of this 11 verse section, is this verse about her extending her hand to the poor. This is an active step.  Intentionally being generous and not walking by those in need.

Generosity is a quality all of us need. It makes no difference if we are rich or poor, male or female, old or young; a mature believer is a generous believer.

I am reminded of the story in Luke 21 where Jesus uses the example of the widow who contributed those 2 mites, which were small copper coins of very little worth, to the temple treasury. In His way of thinking, this widow gave more than anyone else. He taught how she gave not out of her abundance but out of her poverty and how her gift of those two small coins was a gift greater than anyone else’s. She was generous, even in her time of need.

Like that widow of Luke 21, the virtuous man or woman, is generous. Very intentional about extending out a hand or reaching out to those around us who are in need. The lesson for all of us is, how generous are we?  I’m not asking about your giving – sometimes we can do this as a rote exercise without even thinking about doing it. Giving can become something that is relegated to a check box, something we do without any emotion or connection to the person (or organization we are supporting).  But how intentional are we to meeting the need of another individual?

Obviously, giving to the church we attend and supporting various organizations we believe in is necessary and we need to continue to do so. But here in Proverbs 31, I see how important it is for us to extend our hand, to reach out to those around us and intentionally look for ways to help others. This is true no matter where we fall on the economic scale.

I have a friend that will often say, “You can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.” It is important that intentional generosity is part of our life. Everyone can do something.

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Proverbs 30 – The Shame

This is the way of an adulterous woman; she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wickedness.” – Proverbs 30:20 (ESV)

Something is missing in our society.

I’m not thinking of money, free time or highways not under construction. I’m not thinking of honest politicians or day baseball games. But I am thinking of shame.

I know it sounds a little strange but I think shame can be a positive quality our modern society has lost. We may see shame displayed from failure but the shame of sin is not something often seen in the non-Church world. At one time, even those who would not claim the name of Christ, still understood to one degree or another, the shame of sin. I no longer see this occurring often.

The verse here is specifically discounting the sinfulness of sexual sin, but the concept includes all sorts of vices individuals find themselves participating. Gambling was once a back room activity which required you to know the secret password to enter. Now, it’s plainly done via the internet or you can just run down to the corner store and pick up all the lottery tickets you want. We can debate the level of sinfulness and problems created in society with tobacco and alcohol but it wasn’t long ago, even those seemingly benign activities were done in private – with a degree of shame.

I don’t want to guilt people. I don’t want legalism and do not advocate keeping a list of do’s and don’ts.  Believe me, I need God’s grace. I love His grace and His grace is what I want to proclaim! But sometimes I wonder if in our attempt to reach people with the saving knowledge of Jesus, we have downplayed the severity of sin?

God does saves us. He does erase the “sin stain” on my life. I don’t need to be guilt-ridden of my past.  But am I ashamed of my sin now? Do I participate in activities and explain it away with saying, “It’s all under God’s grace.” Am I willing to give myself a pass on sinful behavior because it has become a societal norm?

Sin is a bad thing. We do no one any favors when we excuse sin. I understand we want to show grace, but along with that is the necessity of telling truth about sin. At times our modern evangelical churches are quick to teach grace, but do not wish to mention truth. Of course, there are times when churches are so quick to speak truth and point out sin without highlighting grace.

Both grace and truth are needed.

I am not questioning an individual’s salvation, but I am speaking about their walk. Are you ashamed when you fall into sin? When temptation does have minor victory in your life, what is your response?  Are you ashamed or do you explain it away like this adulterous woman listed here in Proverbs 30?

Come quickly to God. Let that shame drive you to Him because His grace is right there for you!

Sin is a bad thing. Our own sin is something that should bring us shame.

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Proverbs 29 – The Fear

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. – Proverbs 29:25(ESV)

 What brings fear into your life? What do you fear?

Fear is such a strong emotion. Fear can nearly paralyze us. It often keeps us from trying something new or meeting new challenges. Or a fear of how others may react can push us into things that we know aren’t right.

While it may not be true in every instance, the times when I am fearful are the times I’m struggling to have faith in and trust in the LORD.

Here in verse 25, King Solomon is telling us how fear can be very harmful to us. Fear of what others may think, say or do to me, brings a snare to us, a trap which will stop us in our tracks. In fact, because of fear, we don’t move forward in trust and confidence. We’re afraid of how other may respond and therefore we are caught, unable to move forward. We’re not trusting God.

I think of the army of ancient Israel in 1 Samuel 17:11 when because of the fear of Goliath, they were huddled together, paralyzed with fear and unable to fight the battle before them. I’m sure you remember the story of the boy David going out to meet his brothers who were in the army. Israel was in conflict with the Philistines and their “champion,” Goliath from the other mountain top, calls out Israel and taunts them. His mere size alone was fearful. He was large, his weapons were massive and his language mocked Israel. The entire army was fearful and afraid to act. They were afraid to be the men God called them to be. They were an well trained and equipped army and they had the Creator of the Universe on their side. Yet they were paralyzed with fear, unable to move.

Like ancient Israel, we can succumb to fear in the same way.

This often occurs when we can’t see how obedience to God resolves our situation. We see the circumstances before us, we hear what those around us are saying and we cannot resolve in our minds how this situation will work out. We may not panic exactly, but we do operate in fear. Sometimes we cower in the corner like the army of ancient Israel or sometimes we blunder forward doing what we think others want us to do. Either way, we fall into a trap, a snare.

The contrast however, is trusting in God. That trust brings safety.

I realize this is easier said than done. Sometimes you are facing a giant of a problem and your situation looks bleak. Sometimes the odds against you are overwhelming. Trusting God is not easy all the time, but it is always right.

You may be on your own (you’re really not alone, but you may think so). You may not see how it will work out and you may be strongly encouraged to violate His plan, but trusting in Him is always the best course of action.

Don’t be afraid of what others say or do. But trust in the LORD. Only by following Him are we truly secure.

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