What is your foodview?
And if you have an answer for that question, is it Biblical?
Few of us give careful thought to the area of physical health. And we rarely search the Scriptures for God’s insight in this matter. Food, health, and physical wellbeing are sensitive issues. While we can easily talk about less personal things, talking about our bodies is uncomfortable. But there is much to recognize, learn, and put into practice for the glory of God. My aim in this article is to think through our perspective on food.
What is the purpose of food?
Scripture doesn’t expressly state that food exists to enable our bodies to live, work, and function well. But we conclude this from observing nature. The Creator designed our bodies to need ‘fuel’ in order to live, and caused the earth to produce the sustenance we need. Beyond just sustenance, God created a wide variety of food for our pleasure. We don’t need to be ascetics living on bread and water. It’s good to thoroughly enjoy what we eat.
God’s original design was for our health to be maintained by the foods He created. He put powerful medicinal qualities in many plants to fight diseases. Food grown and eaten as God intends is the perfect medicine. We can live and thrive this way, by educating ourselves and making wise choices. I believe that supplements, medications, or prescription drugs should be a last resort. (I recognize that there are some cases where man-made treatments are life-saving, and that some chronic illnesses aren’t helped by diet alone.) Too often we forget how food affects the way our bodies feel and function. Hippocrates made an important point: “Each one of the substances of a man’s diet acts upon his body and changes it in some way, and upon these changes his whole life depends.” To take seriously the charge to glorify God in both our body and our spirit, we need to bring food back into the picture.
Does our foodview matter?
Most of us either don’t give much attention to what we are putting into our bodies, or we address a specific ailment only when problems become obvious. After regaining normal health, or succumbing to a life-long ‘Band-Aid’, we go on with life, eating the same foods and carrying on our habitual lifestyle.
Many are blessed with relatively good health and rarely deal with illness. They have no reason to look closely at their diet. However, I believe everyone can and should be healthier than ignorance, neglect, and the modern world has left us.
There is an approach to physical health that downplays its importance. Some say we shouldn’t focus on ‘food and drink’, or give attention to such a mundane part of life. But consider how much of life consists of our food. Most of us eat at least three times a day. Nearly every social event, large or small, involves food. Family time gathered around a homemade meal is a mark of traditional, conservative values. Wives, mothers, and homemakers spend a lot of their lives working with food. Food can be divisive (carbs or low-carb? fats or fat-free? organic or conventional? gluten or gluten-free?). Food can also be unifying—have you ever attended a foodless party?
We cannot presume that our food is not worth careful thought. If our aim really is to glorify God and live like Jesus in this world, every aspect of our lives must be purposeful. Jesus commands us not to be preoccupied with what we eat, but rather to prioritize purity of heart and the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:25, 15:17-20, Luke 12:29-31). The heart is what God is most concerned with (1 Sam. 16:8, Mark 7:18-23). A person who is the picture of health yet doesn’t love God or their neighbor, is nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). But every Christian has a body as well as a heart. It is through our bodies that we pair works with our faith, and live out what God has done inside of us. As Oswald Chambers put it, “The way I eat and drink will show who I regard as my master.”  Even in such a commonplace thing, we can express Who we love most and Whose wisdom we live by.
Is God glorified when His children neglect or harm the bodies He created, even if unknowingly? When we are unhealthy, living on supplements or medications because we didn’t steward our health well? When we are physically unfit and do nothing to become strong and well? Is our Holy Father pleased when we throw self control to the wind and eat whatever we want whenever we want it?
There is a balance between being preoccupied with food and giving it zero thought. This is one area Anabaptists haven’t excelled in. From my point of view, the physical side of regenerated living has been neglected, in pursuit of spiritual and theological soundness. Everything is theological, even what we do with our earthly bodies. Caring about health is both our responsibility and our privilege.
Since it matters, what should our foodview be?
The attitude that children of God should have toward their bodies is stewardship, not ownership. We are the Lord’s, not our own– first by natural creation and second by new, supernatural creation. Our bodies are first formed by the Master Designer’s hands. “It is God that has made us, not we ourselves; we are His people” (Psalm 100:3). We are His workmanship, the work of His hands (Eph. 2:10, Isa. 64:8). Recognition of this truth should motivate us to steward our bodies well. We are accountable to the Lord for what we do with the bodies He fashioned for us.
Secondly, in the new creation, the human body becomes a dwelling of the Holy Spirit. A spark of supernatural life rests in a frail “earthen vessel” (2 Cor. 4:7), and our part is to “yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God.” We must not dishonor the gift and the Giver by polluting our bodies with self-indulgence or addictions. It is our choice whether or not to let such sins reign in our temporal bodies (Rom. 6:12).
Food isn’t the only factor of physical health. Several other powerful factors are light, movement, sleep, and water, along with spiritual and mental health. But food is a large part of each person’s life. Choices about food are neither morally or spiritually neutral. It has potential to either pull us down or to be a means of surrender and strength in our spiritual walk. Norman Wirzba writes, “Because food is essential to the processes of all life, it connects us directly to God as the Source of life. Whenever we eat, we are not simply consuming a fuel to get us through another day; rather we are participating intimately in God’s divine economy of life and death.”
Dr. Finny Kuruvilla opens a chapter of his book with this pointed question: “When unbelievers walk into the midst of a gathering of the saints, are they impressed at how disciples treat their bodies as not their own, but as temples of the Holy Spirit?” (King Jesus Claims His Church, pg. 201) Seriously, how many churches could answer this with a definite “yes”? Food is an area we aren’t talking about, and it shows. It seems that a combination of many factors has left most of us unwell to some degree or another. Somewhere, there is a disconnect between conservative Christianity and God-honoring stewardship of our bodies and the earth. The Greek philosopher Epictetus, on being asked how one may eat so as to please God, answered, “By eating justly, temperately, and thankfully.”
So, what needs to change? We can continue this conversation with more critical thinking combined with Scriptural insights. Join me in the following article to explore how the principles of self-control and thankfulness can help shape a healthy foodview.