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Monday, February 7, 2011

God and Food: Wading Through Man’s Diet Fads to Reach the Truth

There are many diets that people can choose from at any one time.  Diets come and they go. So, what’s a Christian to do?  How to find one that “fits” a Biblical perspective?

I think the first thing to do is realize we shouldn’t “go” on a diet and/or “finish” a diet. Diet is simply how we eat. If we’re having a problem with self-control in our diet, we need to start by talking to the Lord about it; confessing our problem and asking for His strength through the Holy Spirit.  As with any problem in our lives, the first step is even recognizing we have a problem.  Just as we have to come back to the Lord with other areas of our life, we may have to come back to Him in this area, as well.  The problem with lack of self-control in the diet shouldn’t be ‘combatted’ with over-zealousness in another area.  Temperance is a good thing.
It may be helpful to look at food as what it is: building blocks and maintenance for the Lord’s temple, (2 Cor. 6: 16). God, through His goodness and kindness, seems to also build into food fellowship and sharing. Look at how many feasts He ordained and how often the early Christians came together to break bread (Acts. 2: 46).   But, when trying to choose a way to eat, what kind of guidelines can we use to evaluate the popular diets out there?
I think we need to remember that God knows more about food and our bodies than we do. This paper can’t address every diet and every extreme. We all need to be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to see whether these things are so. (Acts 17: 11)  For instance, if a diet says to stay away from a particular food, such as bread, what can we find in God’s Word about this?   In the disciple’s model prayer, Jesus told His followers to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  (Matt. 6: 11) The words “our daily bread” can also be translated “our needful bread.” And, after Jesus rose from the dead, He broke bread with two of His disciples. Jesus is even called the Bread of Life.  Sounds as if bread is a good thing in God’s Eyes.  I do believe that the bread spoken of in the Bible was definitely not the white, nutrient-deprived bread many people eat today. So, maybe we need to get back to ‘real’ bread. Though yeast was typically used during the year for making bread, once a year special care was taken to rid the home and food of all yeast. This was a once-a-year thing; not all year long and was done to symbolize the prevalence of sin and how we should work hard to get rid of all of it in our lives.
What about diets that counsel eating mostly carbohydrates, or mostly protein, or mostly or only vegetables?  Or counsel to stay away from certain foods, for instance, all white foods?  Using the idea of looking into God’s word for insight into evaluating diets, let’s look at the “No White Foods” Diet.  
All white foods would include salt, but we are called to be the salt of the earth. (Matt. 5: 13)  If this is something we are to be like, why would this food be bad?  Then, there’s the real ‘kicker:’  “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?” (Luke 14: 33)  Salt that you can’t taste is not seen as valuable as salt that can be tasted. So, saying that we shouldn’t ever add salt seems to fly in the face of this verse.  Milk is white; but God equates milk with a blessing when He called Canaan Land to be a land flowing with milk and honey.  Sadly, the milk bought in stores today is not as much a blessing as fresh milk from healthy goats or cows, but, obviously, God didn’t see it as a curse, either.  There are those who say milk is good for children only, but I wonder how they would respond to this verse written in prophecy of Jesus:  “He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough  to refuse evil and choose good.” (Isaiah 7: 15)  In this verse, “at the time” is literally, “with respect to His knowing.”   Whereas I might be willing to go along with the idea that white bread, white rice, etc., are not healthy choices due to the God-given nutrients being stripped away, I hope you see the point that blanket statements by diets may not be founded on Truth, with a capital “T.” 
Looking at vegetarianism &/or raw foods only through God’s word requires looking at the whole of God’s word, not bits and pieces. Those who counsel a raw food diet read into God’s word that none of the vegetables in the garden of  Eden were cooked. We don’t know that.  It’s unknown data. Those who counsel a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet based on the idea that that’s how our bodies were designed in the garden are ignoring that every living creature’s body changed with the fall.  Some plant-eating animals became carnivores; some became omnivores, like people and bears.  We are not human beings as we were in the garden.  If God wished His people to continue in vegetarianism, why would He command that His people eat meat during Passover, or His priests to eat meat in the tabernacle or the temple? Why would Jesus have participated in this practice, if it wasn’t acceptable to Him? Not only did He eat meat at the Passover meals, He served meat (fish) more than once and He served meat to His disciples after He rose from the dead.
 Let’s look at how God enjoined His people to feast in the Old Testament:  Of course, they had to follow the dietary guidelines that were in force at the time, but did God say during the Feast of First Fruits to only eat vegetables, though this was a harvest-time feast?  No. They were to feast and be joyful before the Lord, but He didn’t give them additional eating guidelines during this time. Food was to be seen as something taken in gratefully, realizing all our blessings are from God. There were plenty of opportunities for God to give proportions of this or that type food but He didn’t do that.  Since we are each individuals with varying needs, and since each of our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, if indeed we are Christians, then, why not ask the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and wisdom in navigating this whole diet issue?
I want to offer a caution against ‘proof-texting’ God’s word. Though I have used various verses in this paper to help us see food more from a Biblical aspect, we shouldn’t take any of the verses out of context and try to build something more there than what’s in the Book.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.  Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does  not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.” (Rom. 14:2-3)  Praise God! In this time of God’s provision, we are accepted regardless to what we eat!  This doesn’t negate our call to good stewardship, but should encourage our thankfulness as we eat what God has provided.
Extra References: 
Various references to food (NOT a complete list):
Gen. 1: 29;    3: 18, 19;    9: 3-4;    14: 18;   18: 1-8;   25: 34;   49: 12
Deut. 12: 17
Judges 5: 25;    14: 8,9
Num. 6: 3;    13: 23, 27;     20: 5
1 Sam. 17: 17-18;    25: 18;   30: 12
2 Sam. 6: 19;    16: 2;    17: 28-29
1 Kings 4: 22-23
2 Kings 4: 38
Neh. 5: 15, 18;    13: 16
Ruth 2: 14
Job 10: 10
Prov. 9: 2;    15: 17;    21: 17;    27: 27
Song. 4: 11ff;    5: 1
Ezek. 16: 13
Matt. 4: 18;   6: 11;    7: 9-10, 16
Luke 11: 11-12;   24: 42-43
John 2: 3, 10
Rom. 14: 2-3

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