Serving God vs. our belly god
The love for good food leads people to travel long distances to hunt down restaurants, queue up for famous delicacies, watch cooking shows and talk about food. For “foodies” or “food connoisseurs”, eating has become a preoccupation and an identity. In contrast, the Bible warns believers not to worship our bellies.
The danger of being ruled by our “second brain”
Modern-day man has developed a habit of eating three or four meals a day, sometimes comprising rich sugary foods. This diet developed a few hundred years ago and is relatively “new” in the history of mankind. It also departs from how God would have sustained His people. In two examples in the Bible, with the Israelites in the desert and the prophet Elijah in Jordan, God fed His people with bread and meat twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Exodus 16:8 ESV And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
1 Kings 17:2-6 And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
Exceeding what we need to eat isn’t necessarily good for our bodies.
Scientists are now calling our digestive systems our “second brains”, ever since recent studies proved that our stomachs influence our thought patterns and choices, on top of making us anxious or cranky when we are hungry. Gut bacteria can modify our brain chemistry and lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders. Researchers have noted that about three-quarters of autistic people, for instance, have gastrointestinal abnormalities.
As followers of Jesus and citizens of heaven, however, we are called to use our minds to rule over and control our fleshly appetites and stomachs. It takes discipline and self-control to ensure that the loud cries of our fleshly desires do not overshadow the gentle quiet call of God’s Holy Spirit.
Philippians 3:18-20 ESV For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV But I discipline my body and keep it under control…
We are to nourish and care for our bodies but when we glorify the importance of food, we make it an idol. Our bodies are only temporary “housings” that will be destroyed one day. On the other hand, our souls are eternal and need equal amounts of, if not more, nourishment.
2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.
1 Corinthians 6:12-13 ESV “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other…
“I can’t fast because I love/need to eat”
There is a strange and perverse modern belief that our bodies will break down if we don’t eat for a few days. Biologically, our bodies can go on for three weeks without any food, and three days without any water.
Because of our ungodly attachment to food, believers can sometimes be resistant to fasting, because we “love our food too much”. It dulls our motivation to deny ourselves to follow Jesus. Yet it is critical that we discipline and control our bodies in order to hear from the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 13:9 ESV Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
When Jesus taught His followers how to pray during the Sermon on the Mount, He also taught them about fasting. He gave both praying and fasting equal weight. He said, “when you fast” and not “if you fast”. In obedience, the early disciples spent a lot of time praying and fasting to seek God’s will, as seen in the book of Acts. Fasting is a basic spiritual practice for followers of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 6:17-18 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Acts 13:2-3 ESV While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Our real “food” is to do God’s will
Jesus proclaimed that His food was to do God’s will. By making such a statement, He showed us that there are much more important matters at hand, other than eating. That is to love God and to love others, and to proactively further His kingdom on earth. This is the type of “food” that leads to commendation by God and eternal life. Physical food is meant to sustain us when we do this work, not become a hindrance.
John 4:31-35 ESV Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work… Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
John 6:27 ESV Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
1 Corinthians 8:8 ESV Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
Training our stomachs for the Last Days
As the Day for Jesus’ return draws closer, food will become scarce and exorbitant in price, i.e. “A loaf of wheat bread will cost a day’s pay”. This is not too hard to imagine, given the way we are destroying all our natural resources.
Matthew 6:25 ESV “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Revelation 6:6 ESV And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.”
The need to discipline our bodies and stomachs is vital – not only because the need to pray and fast is ever more critical, but also because there may be much less food to go around in the near future.
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