Food plays an interesting role in our society.
Good things happen around the table:relationships, fellowship, laughter, and crying to name a few. A great way to get to know someone else better is to share a meal together with them. We are relaxed and end up sharing stories and life in meaningful ways around the table. It’s one of the reasons Jesus implemented the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the meal of Thanksgiving. Once a week we come around the table as a community with Jesus as host and we remember, we thank God, and we are joined in fellowship and community with God and each other. Good things happen around the table.
Food is good. Most of us have a favorite food or a favorite meal that we enjoy, and that brings good feelings to our lives. Perhaps a family favorite like lasagna, or an indulgence like chocolate. Food is good. We love food so much that at times we have problems taking food seriously. We enjoy eating. We enjoy great tastes. Sure, at times we probably eat too much, or could eat a little healthier, but really what’s the harm. It’s much better to be addicted to cookies, or some other food, than to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. So we laugh about gluttony, because really, it’s too hard to be serious about it because then we might have to wrestle with our own inner demons.
That’s part of the problem with sin and The Fall. God created the world good. Sin doesn’t take the good out of creation, instead, what sin does is sin slightly distorts God’s good gifts so that instead of being life-giving, they become life taking. For instance, sex, in the confines of a husband wife marriage relationship is a true blessing. But, outside of the proper context, it becomes about power, control, lust, and fulfilling selfish desires. What is good becomes slightly distorted and thus destructive to our lives.
That’s part of the problem with food. Food is good. God made food good. It’s not only important for nourishment, it’s supposed to taste good. We have over 10,000 taste buds on our tongues. Food is meant to be enjoyable. But what sin does is slightly distort food so that instead of being something that is enjoyed in proper proportions, we either under eat or over eat and both are destructive. Sin slightly distorts food so that it loses it’s proper place in our lives.
We’ve all been there. It’s been a hard, stressful day. The kids have seemed extra whinny for some reason. Our boss has loaded us down with extra work. We wanted to get out an exercise but just got too busy. There was extra traffic on the way home which made it harder to get home and relax before the next activity that evening. The house is a mess, and we haven’t had time to straighten it up. Finally, when the kids are in bed and we’re about to plop down on the couch for just a second we say, “I just need some chocolate…or ice cream…or potato chips…or some other treat.”
It’s comfort food. We call it comfort food, and as we sit and eat our food we somehow feel better, or at least we tell ourselves we feel better.
Think about it though, what are we really doing? We are having a hard day and we are looking to food to make ourselves feel better. In so many ways it’s innocent, and yet at the same time, it’s idolatry. It’s idolatry anytime we look to some created thing to make our lives better instead of the Creator. It’s idolatry when we think that food, or any other created thing, is somehow going to help us solve the problems of our day, or at least relieve the stress enough that we don’t have to worry about it anymore.
In many ways, it seems harmless. We’re just enjoying some chocolate. We’re just enjoying some potato chips. We’re not bowing down to a statue, or putting our faith in some foreign deity. But anytime we seek something else for “comfort” instead of the Almighty, it’s idolatry. And when food becomes the object of our desires, it’s idolatry.
So is it wrong to eat potato chips or chocolate? Is it wrong to enjoy a treat after a hard day? Of course not, but we must be careful that we aren’t searching after some created thing to bring us wholeness in life.
Remember, the problem is not food. It’s not about going on a diet or promoting healthy habits (although it’s always good for us to consider healthy eating). God cares about how you eat, but I don’t think God is sending anyone to hell because they eat too many cookies. That’s not grace. However, God is very much concerned when our food becomes our focus. When we turn to food for comfort instead of turning to God. When we try to control our lives by eating too much food, or not enough food. When food becomes our heart’s desire.
I enjoyed the food I ate today. It’s not wrong to enjoy food. But, let’s be careful to make sure we aren’t relying on food for comfort or control instead of relying upon God. God is our heart’s desire, anything else that tries to take that place, is a false god.