Too Much of a Good Thing

I’m going to try to take a tiny bite of a huge issue—our relationship with food. Food is good for us. We can’t live without it! Food is a gift given by God in the process of Creation (Genesis 1, especially vss. 26-30). God’s repeated affirmation of Creation as “good” and finally “very good” includes all forms of food–and also us humans. We are made in God’s image (Genesis  1:26) and God provides all we need to fulfill God’s purposes for us—including the food necessary to maintain our physical selves.

Before Jesus taught us to pray for it, God had already provided the raw material for “our daily bread”. But our relationship with food has mushroomed into so much more. Food has acquired multiple layers of social, spiritual, and emotional meaning in our culture. Social occasions, family gatherings, holiday celebrations, and religious ceremonies all revolve around the centerpiece of food. (Consider sacrificial offerings, Holy Communion, and potluck dinners.)

The “daily bread” for which Jesus taught us to pray is still far from a sure thing. “Daily bread” is a daily crisis for hundreds of millions of our fellow passengers on Planet Earth. Even in the developed world, the disturbing (and frequently-denied) truth is that “daily bread” is very precarious for very many people. You probably didn’t notice it at the 4th of July picnic. But millions of our fellow Americans didn’t get sufficient nourishment that day—or any other day.  

Now consider all this in the context of our nation’s obesity epidemic. We are caught in a massive disconnect  between our diets and our lifestyles. If you’re not sure what this “disconnect” looks like, here are some snapshots:  

  1. Our sedentary lifestyles are incompatible with the high-calorie, high-carb diets of an earlier time when people burned more calories in daily life—walking, chopping wood, working on the farm or in the garden, not logging hours of screen-time, etc.
  2.  Much of the food we learned to choose from childhood or family associations has strong emotional attachments. Unfortunately that “comfort food” isn’t usually the healthiest  choice.
  3. Processed foods and fast foods add mountains of sodium, sugar, and fat and relatively little nutritional value. Soda and other sugary drinks represent 7% of the nation’s caloric intake, and those are mostly empty calories.
  4. As a nation we are eating out more and being served portions fit for a crowd—or at least a small group! As good obedient children we strive to clean our plates so a nameless child in India or Africa won’t starve because we wasted food—as our (grand)mothers warned us!
  5. Fill in your own examples and share with the rest of us!

Now here’s today’s tiny piece of this super-sized  issue: How and where  does the church address this disconnect? How and where can individual Christians and local congregations get involved? Let’s start with “Why”. Let’s set the answer in the context of Creation care: How do we care for God’s gift of food? (Note this also includes global hunger issues)? How do we care for ourselves, we humans made in the image of God who are a key feature of Creation?

Let’s add one more piece: “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own.God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20 CEV) Paul’s addressing Christians in a culture where orgies and fertility cults are common. Don’t treat yourself that way, he says. You’re too good for taht. You’re created in God’s image, endowed with a “spark of God”. When God entered our history, he did so—as one of us! Your body is too precious to waste. “…Use your body to honor God.“

What would “honoring God” with our bodies look like in your church’s day-to-day life? Not as another program or activity on an already overstuffed calendar, but as an understanding that permeates every aspect of its life. “Use your body to honro God” might mean

  • We’ll have fruit or veggies as well as sugar-snacks at fellowship times.
  • We’ll feed the youth something besides high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium pizza.
  • We’ll make sure healthy choices are available at potlucks so our fellowship doesn’t expand everybody’s “pots”. 
  • We’ll address developing a healthy body image and resisting unhealthy cultural pressures in our children’s and youth ministry.
  • We’ll still (or maybe for the first time) address sexuality with adolescents and their parents.
  • We’ll help families develop healthy, balanced lifestyles so that all can “use your body to honor God”.
  • We’ll work with folks labeled “disabled” to help them find ways to honor God with their sometimes uncooperative bodies.
  • We’ll address ways to cope with high-stress commuting lifestyles, including transitioning to something different.
  • We’ll work with folks battling various addictions. We’ll reject a shame- or guilt-based model in favor of a Creation-care model that invites folks to overcome addiction so we can be free to “use your body to honor God”. 

Too much of a good thing can make us sick–even God’s gift of food. The right amount of food, exercise, and all the other elements of a full life can help us lead the “abundant life” (John 10:10) that Jesus insists is God’s will for every one of his precious children.

If you want to know more–check out these articles:

“Soda, Supply, and Demand: Can We Share a Taste for Change?”, Dr. David Katz

“Former Coke Executive Slams ‘Share of Stomach’ Marketing Campaign”

“Weighing in on Sugary Beverages and Obesity”, Susan Blumenthal, M.D.


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