What’s the point of food? Biblical truths about eating
This is not a "biblical diet” plan
Everyone has opinions about food. Even a baby tasting solid food for the very first time has opinions about food. Pea puree? Yuck. Banana puree? Delicious.
But our thoughts about food stretch beyond preferences. Experts and amateurs alike have strong commentaries about what we “should” and “shouldn’t” be eating. Some people will say that eating carbs is a mortal sin. And others will say that you should only eat at a certain time of day. Or that perhaps carbs are the solution to all of your problems after all.
Your great-aunt Nora might promise that eating lutefisk once a day has kept her young and kicking all these years, and who knows. She might be right.
For many, food has become an object of worship—always chasing the next best meal. For others, it’s a source of fear, anxiety, and disordered thinking.
So once again we are challenged to look beyond the plethora of thought-leaders, influencers, pinners, and even medical websites, to find the truth about food (where else) in the Bible.
Lies we have believed about food
Before we dive in to the details of what the Bible says about eating, I thought it would be valuable to debunk a few myths. Here are a few lies that I have found myself believing about food over the years:
What I eat will make me a better or worse person. You might not even realize you think this way. I’ve had many conversations with people who don’t have eating disorders, but who do have an undercurrent of thinking that reveals this idea. If you have ever felt guilty about what you ate for lunch, you are believing this lie. Food shouldn’t have that kind of grip on our emotions. If it does, that indicates that we are placing a very high value on it—or that we believe it has the ability to impact our own worth. To be clear, what we eat does not affect our value as humans. Eating salad does not make you more loved in the eyes of Christ than eating a burger. I’m serious.
When I eat [insert favorite yummy food], I have to make up for it by [exercising/eating healthier tomorrow/pairing it with only steamed peas]. This is another pervasive and often excused way of thinking about nutrition. But at the roots, it’s based on the idea that some food is righteous, and some food is sinful. And that’s just nonsense. Certainly, some foods have more nutritional value than others, but there is no moral difference! Eating a donut does not erase the physical benefits of your green juice. Your green juice doesn’t undo the enjoyment of a donut. Both are acceptable.
There is a perfect healthy-eating lifestyle, and once I attain it, I will be perfectly healthy/fit. As much as we all wish that there was one “perfect” formula for how to eat, there isn’t. Striving for it will always fail. And that striving is motivated by a desire for earthly beauty rather than by a desire to simply honor God in everything (including how we eat).
So let’s get to the point here. If these claims aren’t true, what is? What does the Bible say about food?
Why did God make food?
Great question. To the best of my understanding, it appears that God made food for the same reason that He made everything else – to point to Himself.
Yes, God created food to nourish our physical bodies because we wimpy humans run out of energy and gumption multiple times a day if we don’t have a snack (hangry, anyone?). Think about that for a minute though. God created us to need food. He created us to get hungry, to get thirsty. to need sustenance in order to continue. Why? Because we need Him.
In John 6:31-35, Jesus introduces the idea of Himself as the bread of life - as our spiritual food, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus then said to them ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”
Jesus clearly explains that only he can satisfy our hunger; he alone can give life. How would we comprehend this need if we didn’t understand, in a very tangible, physical, human sense, hunger? So it seems that God created us with a need to eat so that we can better see our need for Jesus.
What is the point of eating then? Most deeply, it is (like everything else) intended to point us back to Christ.
Why should we eat?
While the Bible talks about food and eating many times, there are three main themes that I think are most often highlighted regarding why we should eat (and none of them are “to get the perfect body”).
We eat to nourish our physical bodies. We need food and drink to survive. That’s a simple fact of life. God made us that way, and even in our food choices, we can glorify him. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.”
We eat in fellowship and/or celebration. One search for “feast” in the ESV yielded 173 results for me. Throughout the Bible, feasting is part of various rituals, days of rest, celebrations of victory, and more. Having meals together is a means of unity, fellowship, and joy. Acts 2:46 illustrates the fellowship of the apostles eating together. Revelation 3:20 even points to a meal that we will one day share with Christ. Fellowship is a very good reason to eat.
We eat to remember the true food. Just like communion points us to Jesus’ body and blood broken and shed for our sins, every meal we eat points us to our real source for sustenance.
I’ll be the first to admit that my mealtimes are often not meditative or celebratory. They can be anxiety-ridden. What’s the “right” thing to eat? How will this impact my body? Will it make me fat? Or even - will this indulgent food compensate for my current stress level?
But what if I changed my focus? Adjusted my priorities? What if I shifted away from these earthly, fleshly pursuits and instead sought first His kingdom. It sounds abstract, but it’s not. Instead of idolizing the perfect meal or looking to earthly rules for the ideal results, pray for guidance on what to eat (foods that will give your body the nutrients and strength that it needs). Pray for help to glorify God with what you eat and drink. And remember that food is not an earthly means to an earthly end. It’s an earthly illustration for the answer to our spiritual hunger.