In Food Is For Fuel – Part 1, we talked about the fact that God really does care what we put into our bodies. He does care what we eat and drink. That’s the “what.” In this article we will begin to talk about the “why.” Part 2 of Food is for Fuel demonstrates that Food is a Gift from God.
FOOD IS A GIFT FROM GOD
When God was giving Adam and Eve instructions regarding their roles, he told them:
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29 ESV)
After The Flood, God expands man’s diet to include meat.
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3 ESV)
God knew that men would need food for nourishment. It is a gift from God. But like every other good thing that God has given us, Satan offers a counterfeit. There is a good chance that amidst all of the email forwards you have received over the years, you have run across this humorous narrative.
Angel’s Food vs. Devil’s Food…
In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.
Then using God’s great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Krispy Kreme Donuts. And Satan said, “You want chocolate with that?”
And Man said, “Yes!” and Woman said, “and as long as you’re at it, add some sprinkles.” And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.
And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.
So God said, “Try my fresh green salad.” And Satan presented Ranch Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the meal.
God then said, “I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them.” And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.
God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it “Angel Food Cake,” and said, “It is good.” Satan then created chocolate cake and named it “Devil’s Food.”
God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.
Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.
God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald’s and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then said, “You want fries with that?” And Man replied, “Yes! And super size them!” And Satan said, “It is good.”
And Man went into cardiac arrest.
God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery.
Then Satan created Health Care Reform.
While humorous, there is a lot of truth in this little story. Fortunately for us, God did not just leave us to guess which foods are good for us and which are not. With the gift of food, God gave us guidelines.
BIBLICAL GUIDELINES FOR FOOD
When God gave the Law to Moses, he included guidelines about what types of meat were good for food, and which were not.
“This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.” (Leviticus 11:46-47 ESV)
In his book, The Maker’s Diet, Dr. Jordan Rubin provides a summary chart of clean and unclean meats. The chart is summarized here:
The meat of animals with a cloven or split hoof that also chew the cud (Lev. 11:3) can be eaten. This includes cows, goats, sheep, oxen, deer, buffalo, and so forth.
Avoid animals, such as the camel, that chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves (Lev. 11:4). This includes, but is not limited to, horses, rats, skunks, dogs, cats, squirrels, and possums.
Do not eat swine (pigs). They have divided hooves, but they do not chew the cud. These are unclean animals (Lev. 11:7-8). In fact, pigs are so unclean that God warns us not to even touch the body, meat, or carcass of a pig.
Eat any fish with fins and scales but avoid fish or water creatures without them (Lev. 11:9-10). Those to avoid include smooth-skinned species such as catfish or eel and hard-shelled crustaceans such as crab, lobster, or clams.
Birds that live primarily on insects, grubs, or grains are considered clean, but avoid birds or fowl that eat flesh (whether caught live or carrion). They are unclean. (See the extensive list in Leviticus 11:13-19.)
Laws for Life
Many people will quickly point out that these laws were given as part of the Old Covenant but that they no longer apply because we are under the New Covenant of Grace. After all, didn’t Paul say:
“for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14 NAS95)
Yes, he did, but look at the context. As is often said in inductive Bible study circles, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Romans 6:12-15 NAS95)
We are indeed under grace, but that does not mean we are to disregard God’s laws. OK, so what about Peter’s vision of the Great Sheet recorded in Acts. Doesn’t that verse show that we are no longer bound to the Levitical laws concerning meat? Well, let’s look at it. Peter said:
“”I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. “I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ “But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ “But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’” (Acts 11:5-9 NAS95)
This vision is not about food. That is not the point of this story at all. Peter relates the vision given to him by God to show the Jewish Christians that God was now including Gentiles in His Kingdom. It is Gentiles who have been cleansed by God. We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and are now perfect and holy. This is not the best passage to demonstrate we are not longer bound to the levitical law. Now there is a verse that states that Jesus declared all foods clean.
“And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)” (Mark 7:18-19 NAS95)
Okay, now we can all breathe a sigh of relief. We do however have to clear one last hurdle. Does the Word of God contradict itself? We have clearly seen that in the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, God declares certain foods to be unclean. Now we read that Jesus declares all food clean. This seems to be a contradiction, but we believe that God does not contradict Himself. So what do we do with this passage?
First, we understand from the context that Jesus’ argument here is based on physiological fact that all food, even food considered “unclean” in the levitical law, enters in the physical digestive system of a person and never touches the moral-ethical-spiritual part. Therefore no food can defile a person morally, ethically, or spiritually.
Second, we know that Jesus clearly accepted the authority of Moses as a teacher of the law (cf. Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:3; 12:26). Remember, Jesus said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV)
Confused yet? The Old Testament law was never meant to save us, but rather to point us to our need for a Savior. Mark inserts his interpretive comment here to explain to his gentile readers why the Old Testament kosher rules were no longer binding.
The reason we are not bound to the law is because Christ fulfilled it on our behalf.
Furthermore, all foods have always been clean as they relate to our spiritual lives. What makes us unclean, as Jesus goes on to explain in this passage, is what comes from within. It is the condition of our hearts before God. It does you absolutely no good whatsoever to religiously keep God’s laws if your heart is not right.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 5:20ESV)
Again, I do not bring up the Levitical laws to be legalistic. The very point of the verses in both Acts and Mark is that we are not to be legalistic. This is NOT a salvation issue.
Food cannot defile your soul. What we eat has nothing to do with our salvation. After all, as Paul said, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” (1 Corinthians 6:13 NAS95)
The question we should be asking is not can I eat this, but rather should I eat this? As Paul said a verse earlier, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NAS95)
The question here is one of position. Who is in control, you or your appetites? Are you a slave to your desires or to God? Is this something that is good for you, or something that will harm you. The point of God’s rules is always our benefit. God gives us guidelines for our good. I agree one hundred percent that food cannot defile your soul. It can, however, defile your body. Every guideline God gives us is for our own good.
Again, this is not be legalistic, this is about life!
Food for Life
Your Body is a Temple. It is also an incredible marvel of engineering. Food is the fuel that our bodies run on and we can choose to feed it foods that lead to death or we can honor God by choosing life-giving foods.
We are all familiar with the story of Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and their commitment to obey God’s laws rather than fit in with the Babylonian culture.
“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.” (Daniel 1:8 ESV)
Daniel and his friends got permission to eat only vegetables and drink only water for ten days and then be compared to the other servants who ate from the king’s table. After ten days Daniel and his friends looked healthier than the other servants and were allowed to continue eating vegetables and water.
The point is that by following God’s guidelines rather than those of the surrounding culture, God blessed Daniel and his friends. Solomon advises in Proverbs 23: “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” (Proverbs 23:1-3 ESV)
The point? My paraphrase: Keep your appetite in check. Pay attention to what you are putting in your body. If you have a hard time remembering to watch what you eat, put a knife to your throat (A reminder perhaps that if you indulge yourself you are slitting your own throat). Avoid deceptive foods. Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean it’s good for you. In other words, stay away from “edible food-like substances.”
It has often been said that many people dig their own graves with their teeth. History has shown that the dietary laws given to the children of Israel weren’t just arbitrary. They weren’t given to punish God’s children, they were given for our benefit. The dietary laws actually kept the Jewish people healthier than their neighbors. In an unpublished book entitled, “The Art of Health” Dr. Peter Rothschild stated: “It suddenly dawned on us that God, the greatest master nutritionist of all times, has given us an all-purpose diet more than 3000 years ago… There is abundant historic evidence that reveals that the average Israelite, up to the end of the last century [19th], was much longer lived than the average gentile. We wish to emphasize that we are referring to the Israelites up to the end of the last century, because up to those years, the overwhelming majority of Jews obeyed God’s laws by and large… it appears that God indeed knew what nourishment to recommend.”
Beginning with World War I as Jews began to slack off on both diet and hygiene, the trend of longevity began to vanish among those who ignored God’s laws. What is interesting is that science is beginning to confirm that there are actual health reasons to avoid eating the foods that Scripture declared to be unclean over 3000 years ago. It turns out that God knows the human body and what is best for it. One of the perks of being Creator.
Another very good example of science backing up Biblical instruction has to do with circumcision. God commanded all male children to be circumcised on the eighth day, “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised” (Genesis 17:12 ESV). As it turns out, on the eighth day, the amount of prothrombin present actually is elevated above one-hundred percent of normal-and is the only day in the male’s life in which this will be the case under normal conditions. If surgery is to be performed, day eight is the perfect day to do it. Vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak (Vitamin K, coupled with prothrombin, causes blood coagulation, which is important in any surgical procedure).
We serve an amazing, loving God who has always looked after the best interests in His people. He has promised us: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”" (Exodus 15:26 ESV)
As long as His people follow his statutes they will avoid the diseases God has placed on other nations. When they started giving in to their surrounding culture and relaxing on His principles they began to pay the price.
Okay, so what’s the point? The point is that in order to live well, we must control our appetites. We can’t do whatever we feel like doing. Remember, our bodies belong to God, not to us. Fortunately, God has given us an instruction book, The Bible, that tells us where the boundaries are. If we ignore His guidelines, we will pay the price in our bodies and in our lives, but if we live our lives according to His guidelines, He will satisfy our desires and give us abundant life.
Does this mean that we have to eat clean absolutely one hundred percent of the time? No. If you can eat clean 80-90% of the time it will make a huge difference in your life. That means you are moving forward more than you are moving backwards. Many people falsely believe that it is enough to simply “maintain.” There is no maintaining. We are constantly in motion. The question is “Which direction are you moving?”
As Jeff Olson said, in The Slight Edge: Secret to a Successful Life, “There is no treading water in life, no running in place, because everything is in motion… Let’s take an honest look at your health. Are you building it every day? The way you eat, the way you exercise, the kind of schedule you keep, the ways in which you take care of yourself – are all these building a greater feeling of health and vibrancy every day? Or does it feel like you’re making more and more withdrawals from your life-energy bank account, and the balance is steadily decreasing?”
It’s a matter of habit and consistency. To help you on that journey, I will be posting more articles on nutrition, exercise, and getting your mind right to achieve your goals. For recipes, ways to save money and still eat healthy, etc., please visit me at the website listed below. If you have any recipe ideas, I would love to try them out!