I have been worshipping another without realizing it: The food-god of my culture. The way in which I use food to reward myself, self-love, self-comfort, self-medicate, or as a form of self-control, is not how God intended food to be used. My misuse of food has impeded my spiritual journey. My relationship with food – my love of it and my seemingly uncontrollable appetite for it – has interfered with the person who God intends me to be and it has gotten in the way of my dreams.
The Bible talks about abusing food in terms that may not say it directly, but which are unmistakable in its warning. The Apostle Paul wrote, “…you must do everything for the glory of God, even your eating and drinking.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The problem does not arise when I use food to nourish my body; the problem arises when I use food to fulfill an emotional or spiritual need that only God can satisfy – when I turn to the food-god for love, comfort or security instead of God. It is a modern-day form of idolatry. I’ve unintentionally begun to serve food instead of serving God.
When I eat to excess, it interferes with my obligations to God and to others. I have less energy and my health is adversely affected. My self-image is damaged. I consume more than I need while others go without. I have less confidence in myself and I am less able to move about. When I eat excessively or in an unhealthy way, I am not doing what God desires of me.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it.” (1 Corinthians 19-20)
I am not referring to eating disorders related to medical or psychological conditions, nor is it my intent to pass judgment on anyone else. My focus is on myself only. My challenges reflect weaknesses in my faith and a dependence on worldly pleasures for satisfaction.
The American culture has been blessed with great abundance in many ways and sometimes that abundance gives rise to temptation. But it is not the temptation alone that causes me to eat more than I need. It is because I turn to food — not God — for love or consolation. It is because I look for temporary comfort because do not trust God to meet my needs long-term. It is because I indulge in immediate forms of self-gratification owing to a lack of patience. It is because I worry that I will not get enough to satisfy me.
Jesus teaches us to trust in God and not obsess about food, “So my counsel is this: Don’t worry about things – food, drink, and clothes. For you already have a life and a body – and they are far more important than what to eat and wear!” (Matthew 6:25) Jesus continues, “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your Heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
Jesus once said to His disciples when they were urging Him to eat instead of sharing God’s message, “No,’ he said, ‘I have some food you don’t know about.’ (John 4:32) “Then Jesus explained: ‘My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing his work.” (John 4:34)
Jesus also said, “I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. Those believing in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35-36)
It is Jesus’ nourishment that I need more of, not the food of this world.
Photo: “Summer Meal” by Jazzdat