Food and Spirituality

Up until a couple of months ago, my food choices were largely based upon two simple rules:

1. Is it cheap?

2. Is it sweet/fried/salty or otherwise “tasty?”

IMG_2510But lately, something has changed. I have done a bit of math and found out that, at the absolute earliest, the first time I would ever be able to play a game of catch with a theoretical son, I would be in my mid to late thirties. In other words, I am about ten years behind my father. When that theoretical kid is old enough to see me throw around a baseball, there is a certain image I want him to carry with him his whole life. I want him to see a vibrant old man throwing the ball back to him. I think he deserves that much, even if he is, at the moment, entirely fictional. And so I have had to re-think my food habits.

So that’s a practical reason to change my diet. I want to be healthy. But that’s not the question as advertised. We all sort of assume, I would imagine, that my first two qualifications for food consumption is not exactly a recipe for success. But is food connected to spirituality?

Wasn’t it Jesus that said “Man shall not live by bread alone?” And it was God himself that told the Apostle Peter in a dream, “Do not call what God has made unclean! Rise, kill and eat!” Again, Paul told the Colossians, “Do not let anybody pass judgement upon you on what you eat or what you drink!” Eating, then, is a matter of personal choice, rather than a choice that could affect our spirituality, right?

Well sure, as long as we are willing to say that we don’t need bread to live (gluten-free not withstanding), or that God made the Big-Mac, or that spirituality is about being judged or escaping judgement.

What if we started this conversation in a different, more fundamental place? What if we looked back to the life of Jesus. Question: Did Jesus eat? Answer: Obviously. Conclusion: Eating is spiritual. Along with everything else Jesus took on by becoming human.

Spirituality is wrapped up in the person of Jesus. Spirituality is defined by not only the words of Jesus, but also his actions, and his life. If he worked in the carpenter’s shop, then work itself is confirmed as spiritual. If he sat with friends around a table, then dining itself is a spiritual act. And if he ate and drank, then isn’t eating and drinking a spiritual activity?

And if food has at least some spiritual dimension to it, I wonder what it would look like to trace out its meaning. I wonder if we could ever take theologically seriously something that we do more often than any other activity in our entire lives.

What do you think? What spiritual meaning lies in food? And how would our food choices change if we took that idea seriously?

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