Food

A. Introduction

Food is a costly thing.

First, food costs a fair amount of money.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor's October 2010 survey, the average U.S. consumer household spends 12.4% of its income on food, more than twice the amount spent on healthcare (5.7%).  Take the average household income to be $70,000, and it comes out to be $8680 spent each year on food, hardly a small sum.  Taking into account each household has an average of 2.5 consumers, American individuals spend $9.50 on food each day.

Source: http://www.visualeconomics.com/how-the-average-us-consumer-spends-their-paycheck/

Secondly, food takes a fair amount of time to buy and prepare.  According to Amber Waves, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service magazine, in 2006 Americans spent an average of about 37 minutes a day in grocery shopping, preparation, and cleanup of food.

Source: http://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/november05/datafeature/

Thirdly, food takes a fair amount of time to eat.  According to a June 2008 issue of Amber Waves, in 2006 Americans devoted an average of about 67 minutes a day of primary eating/drinking (in which consumption is the main activity).  Coupled with secondary eating/drinking (in which consumption is the peripherally activity), the average American spends a total of about 120 minutes a day eating or drinking.

Source: http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June08/DataFeature/

In summary, each day an average American spends $9.50 on food, and devotes about 3 hours to buying/preparing/cleaning up from/eating food.  For someone (like me) with a wage of about $9.50 an hour, that's four hours of each day devoted to food — not to mention the time spent driving to the restaurant, waiting for a table, ordering food, thinking about food, staring into the refrigerator looking for food, talking about food, dreaming of food, etc.  You get my point.  Our lives, it seems, are consumed by food (word play intended).

So, Keith, why all the data?

It's to convince you that the topic of food is relevant .  That's not to mention that the NAS translation of the Bible uses the translated words 'food' 249 times, 'eat' 626 times, and 'drink' 409 times, which by sheer volume should convince you that food is important to God (which is a much more convincing and weighty argument to write about food than statistics of the world).

And so, it begins, a brief and amateur biblical analysis of what God has to say about food, from the very foundation of the earth to the present day and age.

B. Creation and the Garden of Eden

In the beginning, the great Creator God made the earth, and on the third day of creation the "earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good" (Gen 1:12).  A few days later, He created a garden in Eden: "Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…" (Gen 2:9) and placed His creatures, the man and the woman, in it, telling them, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you" (Gen 1:29).

And so, in the first two chapters of the Bible, it is established not only that God is the Creator, but also the Provider (Gen 22:14), giving food for mankind, and that He calls it "very good" (Gen 1:31).  But, in an event that would change the entire course of history, man does something that we could call, in the mildest of terms, 'very bad'  – he perverts food, placing a created thing (food) over the Creator God (Ro 1:25).  In direct violation of God's gracious command and warning not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17), "the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate" (Gen 3:6).

A multitude of commentaries (1 John 2:15-17 being just one of God's own), sermons, and books have been written on how the desire to be wise like God, how pride is the mother of all sins and pregnant with arrogance and blasphemy against God, led to the first sin.  I recommend John Piper's DesiringGod.org and Mark Driscoll's MarsHillChurch.org.  You should check those out first before reading my less crucial, and obviously subpar analysis the Fall through 'food.'  It is of far weightier and critical importance to understand the relationship between God, man, and sin before reading anything else.

Here are some resources:

1. The Fall — God Judges

http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/doctrine/fall-god-judges

2. Adam, Christ, and Justification Part 1/5

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/adam-christ-and-justification-part-1

That being said, and emphasized, I'll continue.

In the act of committing the first sin, Adam and Eve, do what — murder? lie? blaspheme with lips? cheat? steal? commit adultery?  In a metaphorical kind of way, yes, but most literally, they eat.  Again, please do not misinterpret; the primary issue here is not eating.  Instead, Adam and Eve's sin is that they disobey the only command that God gives, functionally commit blasphemy and idolatry, calling God a liar, and believe that God is cruelly withholding something good from them, and so usurp His authority and take that which is not theirs from Him.  Most sin can be traced back to idolatry — that you believe yourself to be smarter, wiser, more trustworthy, than the God who made you.  This is the big issue in the Fall, not food.  And so, an understanding of God, His character, His holiness, His commands, and your position as a sinner before an infinitely perfect and just God far outweighs any weightiness of 'food.'  Go learn what this means:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15) first!

That being said, and emphasized, I will again continue.  Food should be studied, because it was present during the Fall.

C. God's Provision

But may it never be said that food is inherently evil.  Moses praises God for His compassion, as “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing" (Deut 10:18).  God strengthens and encourages His chosen prophet Elijah with supernatural food that gives him strength for 40 days and 40 nights (1 Kings 19:3-8). The psalmist also praises God for providing food.  "He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever" (Ps 111:5).  "[God] gives food to all flesh, For His lovingkindness is everlasting" (Ps 136:25).  "The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time" (Ps 145:15).

Psalm 104:14-15

14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,

And vegetation for the labor of man,

So that he may bring forth food from the earth,

15 And wine which makes man’s heart glad,

So that he may make his face glisten with oil,

And food which sustains man’s heart.

God is righteous in all He does (Dan 9:14), and never uses food in ways that it wasn't intended (indeed, since He established food, He by definition cannot contradict Himself).  He is the sole Provider, and the Holy One who controls exactly who, what, when, where, and how, food gets to mankind.

D. Man's Idolatry

In light of this generosity and abundance, shouldn't the natural response be thanks?  (See post from 2010.11)  One would expect it.  God expects it.  Instead, man does what is expected of depraved creatures: he perverts the relationship between food and God, and loves food more than God.  One of the ways in which this idolatry manifests itself is through man's thought that he deserves food, and not just food, but good, abundant food.

The most prominent biblical example of such is told in Ex 15:22-17:7 and Num 11:31-34, in which Israel demonstrates her fickle and unbelieving heart.  Soon after God brings them out of Egypt with powerful miracles and wonders, with plagues and demonstration of His power (culminating in the parting of the Red Sea and destruction of the entire Egyptian military force), the people complain for lack of food and water, and wish to return to Egyptian slavery:

"So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (Ex 15:24).  " The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” " (Ex 16:3).  "But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” " (Ex 17:3).

The people have an attitude that demands from God, that arrogantly complains against God.  The psalmist gives a divine commentary about the entire contension:

Psalm 78:17-33

17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him,

To rebel against the Most High in the desert.

18 And in their heart they put God to the test

By asking food according to their desire.

19 Then they spoke against God;

They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?

20 “Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out,

And streams were overflowing;

Can He give bread also?

Will He provide meat for His people?”

21 Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath;

And a fire was kindled against Jacob

And anger also mounted against Israel,

22 Because they did not believe in God

And did not trust in His salvation.

23 Yet He commanded the clouds above

And opened the doors of heaven;

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

And gave them food from heaven.

25 Man did eat the bread of angels;

He sent them food in abundance.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

And by His power He directed the south wind.

27 When He rained meat upon them like the dust,

Even winged fowl like the sand of the seas,

28 Then He let them fall in the midst of their camp,

Round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

And their desire He gave to them.

30 Before they had satisfied their desire,

While their food was in their mouths,

31 The anger of God rose against them

And killed some of their stoutest ones,

And subdued the choice men of Israel.

32 In spite of all this they still sinned

And did not believe in His wonderful works.

33 So He brought their days to an end in futility

And their years in sudden terror.

You would expect that as people redeemed from the superpower of their time (Egypt) by the SuperPower of all time that they would humbly ask their Creator God for food instead of complaining and arrogantly testing Him.  They should have known that He would not have rescued them just to have them die of starvation in the desert.  You would think that they would understand that this was certainly an extraordinary God who cared for them, keeping a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of cloud by night close by them (Ex 13:21-22).  You expect them to have believed God when He promised, "I will take you for My people, and I will be your God" (Ex 6:7).  But "they did not believe in God/And did not trust in His salvation" (v22).  But look at the grace of God!  He still "rained down manna…And gave them food from heaven" (v24).  How do the Israelites respond?  They disobey His command to gather only what they needed, they hoard the food and proved themselves gluttons who loved food more than God and His word (Ex 16:19-20).  Truly, the Israelites are a negative example of how to respond to God and food.

E. Loving the Giver Over the Gifts

Thankfully, God has not left Himself without a witness, as there are examples of Old Testament saints who love God more than the food that He provides.  Unlike Jacob, who puts the provision of food as one of the conditions of his loyalty to God (Gen 28:20), Job says, "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12), even after God had taken away all his livestock, servants, children, and health (Job 1-2).  Also, in his song, the prophet Habakkuk writes:

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God is my strength,

And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,

And makes me walk on my high places.

Habakkuk's praise of the Lord is not dependent on how much God blesses Him.  Indeed, he rejoices in the God of his salvation in dependent of what food he receives.  Why?  How?  Because Habbakkuk is not an idolator.  He does not place the provisions over the Provider.

Now, what about you?  Do you love the Giver of the gifts, or the gifts?  If He took away the food, the car, the house, the job, the family, the friends, the education, the computer, the prospects, the resume, the guitar, the piano, the games, the television, the knowledge, the ability, the sight, the health, the wealth, the prosperity, how would you respond?  If you can't sing a song like Habakkuk, or praise God like Job does in calamity, you are an idolater. Don't read over that too quickly.  You're an idolator.  Contrast yourself with Job, who worships God:

Job 1:21

… “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

And naked I shall return there.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

F. Does Man Deserve Food?

But, let's return to man's idolatry of food.  Upon further examination, it proves not only to be unbiblical, but outright illogical.  How can a creature arrogantly demand any blessing from his Creator?  Do not the very titles and identities, that the creature is dependent on the Creator, imply that there is a power hierarchy?  The servant cannot demand land and bread from the King, can he?  The child cannot usurp his father and demand blessing and favor, can he?  God is not obligated to give any good thing, especially to a people such as Israel who was using the food to worship idols, and attributing the blessing to those idols, as the next passage attests.

God demonstrates that He owes no man anything many times; the instances are recorded particularly by the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea.  But, because I do not possess a full knowledge of the Old Testament, I will choose only one more passage.  In reference to the nation of Israel (personified as 'she'), who was committing abominations such as sacrificing her children through fire in worship of false gods (Ezek 23:37), and worshipping pagan idols on mountain tops, God says:

Hosea 2:8-10, 12

8 “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil,

And lavished on her silver and gold,

Which they used for Baal [a false pagan idol],

9 “Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time

And My new wine in its season.

I will also take away My wool and My flax

Given to cover her nakedness.

10 “And then I will uncover her lewdness

In the sight of her lovers,

And no one will rescue her out of My hand.

...

12 “I will destroy her vines and fig trees,

Of which she said, ‘These are my wages

Which my lovers have given me.’

And I will make them a forest,

And the beasts of the field will devour them.

What do you think?  Is God obligated to give food to such a people as this?  Is He bound by some superior power, some type of manmade philosophy, that every human being deserves to be well-fed and healthy?  Consider for yourself:

Psalm 53:1-3

1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”

They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;

There is no one who does good.

2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men

To see if there is anyone who understands,

Who seeks after God.

3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;

There is no one who does good, not even one.

Those who deny God's existence, who are corrupt, abominable, unjust, fail to understand, willfully seek everything else but God, turn aside, and purpose to do evil — do they deserve food?  Those who attribute His gifts and blessings to some other thing, be it evolution, or Allah, or Buddha, or Mother Nature, or Shiva, or whatever other blaspheming myth — do they deserve food?  Does the professing 'Christian' who loves the world and all that it contains, who doesn't read His word, who doesn't love the church, who doesn't desire the things of God — does he deserve food?  What about the unrepentant, the law-breaker, the blasphemer, the murderer in heart, the adulterer in heart, the liar, the cheater, the rebel — do they deserve food?

You should hear the resounding, 'No!'   But now, look at what Paul says referring to those who practice lawlessness, "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one…" " (Ro 3:9-10).  No one deserves food from God, for all are sinners — the Greek, the Jew, the pagan, the atheist, the agnostic, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the liberal, the conservative, the rich the poor.  And, you and me.  We're all the sinners.

G. A Witness for God

But why does God continue to give food to those who consistently and constantly sin against Him?  Indeed, the Scriptures say, "…He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mt 5:45).  The Bible is clear — He gives food to mankind because the food is a witness.  As Paul says in Lystra to the Greek pagans, who insisted that he and Barnabus were the Greek gods/idols Hermes and Zeus:

Acts 14:15-17

15 ... “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

16 “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways;

17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

God does good, gives rain from the heavens and food from the field, and uses food to satisfies and make glad hearts and stomachs, (and remember, any sort of food is a blessing to those who revile God and say that He does not exist) as a witness.  And to what these blessings they witness?  They witnessed that God is the Provider, Sustainer, and Giver of all good things.  And debunks the lie that He owes us.  It is to give evidence that we owe Him.

Think about it.  Every time a person sits down and eats something as simple as a banana without thanking God fails to recognize where that food comes from.  And while I'm not saying that it is sin to eat without giving thanks or saying grace, (as the Bible does not say so), my friend, where do you think that food comes from?  Why do you think that you have money to go to the grocery store and buy food?  Why do you think you have a kitchen to cook food in?  Why do you think have a plate to put that food on?  Why do you think you have access to three meals a day, and five snack throughout the day?  Because you were born privileged, into America?  Because you worked for it?  Because you deserve it?  Repent of that thinking; it is heinous and arrogant towards God.  He is the one that gives you the food, He is the one that grants you the money, He is the one who gave you that job, He is the one that sustains not only your food, but every breath, heart beat, cell in your body.  Think of the sins that you've committed against Him.  Written on your conscience is a form of the Law of God (Ro 2:14-16); who hasn't fallen short of his own standards?  How much higher the standards of God! — "…you are to be perfect, as Your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48).

Every gift of food He gives is declaring to you His goodness, His kindness, His gospel.

Romans 2:4-6

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

6 who will render to each person according to his deeds:

H. Closing

Food is a costly thing.

It costs you money and time.  And, it might cost you a lot more.  Stop storing up wrath for yourself.  A good and holy God has made a way of salvation — Christ, the Savior, risen Lord of heaven, earth, man, and food.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

John 6:48-58

48 “I am the bread of life.

49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.

54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.

58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

For the Giver of all good things (Js 1:17),

Keith Fong

1 Peter 1:3-9