Given the amount of space given to the topic in Scripture, eating can be a major source of spiritual stumbling or growth. Assorted sins surround an abuse of food, as do opportunities to do well.
Broad Biblical Principles Regarding Food
- Foods are not equal. Some meals are better than others: in quality, in health benefits, and in taste. As a general rule, healthy eating is a good thing. But this is a spiritual issue only in terms of stewardship and general wisdom. It is not a case of spiritual defilement.
- God is primarily concerned with what our hearts love and choose, than what we swallow. Rom 14:17, Heb 13:9.
- The true defilement of any food has to do with what the human heart thinks about it and how it uses it, not what the substance itself is (Mark 7:15-19). “The sin is never in the food because Jesus declared all foods clean. The sin is always in the sinner. This means that we can sin with our food but we cannot sin by food.” Wilson, Douglas. Confessions of a Food Catholic (p. 32). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
- Jesus declared all foods clean in Mark 7:18-19 -” ‘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.)”
- Every food can be sanctified by receiving it with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:3-4 – “… men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” Eating is a gift from God to be enjoyed both as a means of nourishment and as a pleasure.
- A concern for God’s glory should govern our eating habits. 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Particular Sins With Food
Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty…”
Titus 1:12-13 – “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith …”
Ecclesiastes 10:17 – “Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength and not for drunkenness.”
- Anorexia & Bulimia
The binge behavior of bulimia falls under the same condemnation as gluttony. Proverbs 25:16 – “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it.”
- Pride (Mark 7:2)
Frowning upon the spirituality and morality of another for food choices is simply pride. Religious disapproval of food without clear disapproval from God is a species of pride. When different preferences turn into judgement of wrongdoing, we have crossed a line. e.g. eating foods with preservatives, foods with refined sugar, genetically modified foods, foods farmed by food corporations, foods with carcinogens, high fat, MSG, Aspartame.
While genuine allergies are a painful cross to bear, some Christians place their personal health over the importance of table fellowship with other Christians. Some allergies are very serious immediately , while others should be filed under certain foods “ not agreeing with ” your constitution . There are food allergies , with varying degrees of seriousness , and there is food intolerance, with varying degrees of seriousness . The law of love should govern in all instances. Hosts should be thoughtful hosts , and guests should be thoughtful guests.
Charity towards another’s food scruples is necessary. At the same time, we need to reject, and reject with godly vehemence, every attempt to bind the consciences of the saints with regard to what they may eat (Col. 2:20–23). We defer to the weaker brothers at lunch, which is not the same thing as letting them teach on this.
– David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa