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Food Falls from Grace

Weight is a sensitive issue. It’s almost as taboo as religion and politics. (I’m trembling in fear even as I write these words.) I think most people know the basic reasons for the dramatic increase of obesity in America. We have become less active and we have a tremendous variety of delicious foods to choose from. Look at the many genres of restaurants in any given city. Portion sizes have increased. Grocery stores are bigger and have thousands of items for consumers to choose from. There’s even a Food Network on television. We have become a nation of epicureans.

On the other end of the spectrum there is a plethora of diet products for corpulent consumers.

The Bible Dictionary defines Epicureans like this:

“. . . followers of Epicurus (who died at Athens B.C. 270), or adherents of the Epicurean philosophy (Acts 17:18). This philosophy was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life. They have been called the “Sadducees” of Greek paganism. They, with the Stoics, ridiculed the teaching of Paul (Acts 17:18). They appear to have been greatly esteemed at Athens.”

Yeah, well, it’s easy to be greatly esteemed when you peddle a lifestyle that makes people feel good. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’ve likely heard the term glutton or gluttony. We know being a glutton is sinful, but let’s consider another angle on our love affair with food—addiction. You see, our problem with food is now so extensive and harmful that we need to replace the word “diet” with “recovery.” For many people, food has become an addiction. The ecclesiastical world focuses its ministrations on addictions to alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, pornography, and Dear Prudie. (Just kidding about Prudie.) I propose that food addiction and self-image can consume a person’s thoughts as much as those other less genteel addictions.

Let’s go back to the beginning and look at our relationship with food before and after Eve took that fateful bite of the apple, or whatever tempting fruit caused all this brouhaha.

In Genesis 1:29 God is speaking to Adam and Eve: “Then God said, ‘Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all fruit trees for your food.”

The thing that jumps out at me in this verse is the perfect relationship that God created between himself, Adam and Eve, and the sustenance they would need to survive in this world. God created a world that would provide for the bellies of humanity. Adam and Even did not need to worry about what they would eat and how they would acquire food. They had the best the world could offer and they had an endless supply. They could trust God to provide for this most basic need. They experienced complete anxiety-free satisfaction in the food they ate.

Then the serpent enticed Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. I find it fascinating that God established this crucial rule for Adam and Eve around their most basic human need—food. God did not tell them they must not take a bath in the pond of the knowledge of good and evil. Rather, he told them don’t eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It highlights the significance God places on food in his grand design. But something changed after they ate the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 3: 17 – 19 God tells Adam and Eve:

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

This is one of the consequences of the infamous fall of humanity and the corruption of nature. Here’s the point: From this moment on humanity became responsible for feeding ourselves. Not only that, we have to do it in a fallen world that doesn’t always provide for us the way we would like. Additionally, we ourselves are trying to survive and thrive in bodies and minds perverted by the knowledge of good and evil. Our physical needs became exaggerated after our survival switched got activated. Hunger and mortality dogs us throughout life. No matter how much we eat, lasting satisfaction and fulfillment eludes us. We never feel like we are taking in enough life. This is the context in which we attempt to live a balanced life that includes our relationship with weight and food.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that some folks are overweight because of infirmities beyond their control. But it helps to know what we are up against. Like an alcoholic, change won’t happen until we arrive at that holy place where we admit to ourselves and God that we need help to overcome our addiction to food. Granted, food isn’t something that can be eliminated entirely through total abstinence.

So what’s the solution? I think a big part of it is found in Matthew 6: 24-25:

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”

Indeed, life is more than food. I suspect that each day we need to ask God to help us live, to fill all our senses with life. He is able to bless us with much more than just food. When that happens, food isn’t as important and mind-consuming. Here’s a simple little example. As I write these words there’s a cup of tea on my desk. It’s an African tea with a fragrance that reminds me of an oak forest after a fresh rain. Throughout the day I’ll simply lift the cup to my nose, breathe in the tea’s aroma, and let my memory run through the damp oak forest with soft leaves underfoot. Now that’s living . . . and it cost me zero calories!