Someone recently asked me if caring about nutrition means we’re bowing to the flesh. It’s a profound question. As someone committed to finding life by losing it unto knowing Christ (help me Lord) and also committed to a lifestyle of holistic nutrition, I’ve thought about and wrestled through this often.
Can food become an idol? Absolutely. Is food an idol for most people (myself included) in our part of the world? Yes.Focusing on what food you eat could be yielding to the flesh in a lot of senses. But I’m convinced that it’s not as much a matter of what kind of food you consume as it is about your heart - why are you eating that, why now, and how do you feel about it? What are you “hangry” for in the day to day? Do you have an insatiable appetite to do the will of God? Are you craving the word, upset when time moves and you must move your eyes off the pages of the Bible? Are you hungry for understanding and truth? Are you hungry for a "ripped" body? Are you hungry for energy?Deep deep down, whether we can articulate it or not, we all want more of Him and less of us. We all want to know His heart, and see Him more rightly. But sometimes our cravings distort our capacity to know what we really want. And, the reality is, we all have to eat!Imagine you were on a lunch break from work and drove by someone feeling the prompting feeling to stop and talk to them. Now imagine you kept driving simply because your craving for food had your heart. If your obedience is limited by your appetite, than regardless of the dietary lifestyle you adhere to, cravings for food as a master means you would absolutely be bowing to the flesh. In those concerned with human nutrition, those with an intellectual understanding and/or emotional experience of the power of pure food the way God intended it, this temptation can be stronger. When knowledge and understanding take up brain space, it’s sometimes hard to do what feels foolish from a nutritional standpoint for the Kingdom. This sets us free: destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.1 John says “the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.” (NLT)Another translation puts it this way: “everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (NIV)When God, the Father who knows you better than anyone, is inviting you into greater measures of health by bringing an awareness to matters like nutrition, ignorance is not the most favourable response.The zeal for righteousness that comes in the renewing of our spirits within us is disgusted with impurity. And while it often seems to me that there’s a belief in some Christian contexts that eating healthy is un-spiritual, I contest. We were created to experience Shalom. (Inward sense of completeness or wholeness, full of well-being). We were created to be set apart. (1 Peter 1:29, 2 Corinthians 6:17, 1 John 4:4-5)
What if a venture of understanding and bring concerned about nutrition, your body & food is part of living a set apart life? What if food affects the body, mind and spirit?Of course, Shalom, health, wholeness, even obedience is more than just healthful, whole foods. But, it is a piece to the puzzle, and one that I am shocked to find more and more that is so often neglected by Christians for fear of bowing to the flesh. If that’s you, I would ask the question: if you are resisting a shift in the way you eat, one toward more vegetables, less food-like products that are full of unpronounceable “ingredients,” or whatever, where are you bowing to your flesh in the context of food?No matter what you eat, be in the habit of checking your heart. Are you willing to be obedient in every moment? Even when it comes to food? Are you holding it loosely, always ready to say YES or to say NO? 1 John talks about about lust, particularly our EYES, our FLESH & the PRIDE of life. These are a good framework for daily self-examen with your relationship to food.
1. EYES - What are you feeding your eyes? Do you spend time between meals on Pinterest scrolling out of lust? Instagram? Do you feed on magazines, pictures, recipe books, etc. How do you feel when you're looking at these things? What do you notice about your thoughts? About your feelings? What is the fruit of looking at photos of food? Is it worship, thankfulness and a drawing nearer to God? Or is it thoughts of worthlessness, anxiety and patterns of isolation?
2. FLESH - How committed are you to fulfilling cravings? Are you OK to settle for the banana and oatmeal that's in your pantry and eat with a thankful heart when you have a strong craving and emotional desire for that special granola that would require a trip to the grocery store? Would you be thankful for the fruit you have and eat it with joy, or drive somewhere and spend money you don’t have just to satisfy a craving? Are you willing to delay gratification? Are you willing to fast food - even for an hour, to be obedient to God if something comes up?
3. PRIDE - Why do you care about nutrition? Is it so that you can honour your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Is it so you can have more energy to serve fully into your calling? Or is it simply to feel good about yourself, control something meticulously because of lost control elsewhere? Is it to look better? Fit in? What is the fruit of your concern for nutrition? Is it deepening of faith, hope an love? Is it increased capacity and empathy? Is it energy and willingness to help others? Or are you chasing after unrealistic ideals day after day, burning yourself out?
“We can change nothing until we fully comprehend what needs to be changed. Just as every action first begins with a thought, we, as the children of the Creator of this beautiful universe, first have to understand the broken food system we face (Col. 1:15-20). We have to take these thoughts captive unto Christ Jesus, asking him to guide our minds and show us the way forward (2 Cor. 10:5). And as we renew the way we think about what we eat and how we eat it, we take the first step to renewing our health and the health of God’s wonderful planet (Rom. 12:2). Only after we admit it can we quit it and beat it. The choice is ours.” (Dr. Caroline Leaf, Eat & Think Yourself Smart)