Food and Our Faith Practices
Many of us Americans are trying to be healthier and get into better shape. And I am one of those people! I am really trying to do better at planning healthy meals. It is not an easy habit to get into, especially with all the other demands that we all face on a daily basis. But, just as I take the time to exercise regularly and attend church each week, I do know that I must set aside the time to think carefully about the food that I will put into my body—seeking out organic and locally grown produce and taking the time to shop for it and prepare it.
Our bodies really are God’s temples. Think about it—you only have one earthly body, and God has given it to you. So you really do need to care for it well! If I had it to do over again, I would have started to give more thought to what I and my family were eating long ago, when my children were small. Sure, I did what I thought was my best to get them to eat their fruits and vegetables. We even planted a vegetable garden some years so that the kids could see the progression from seeds to crops. But I don’t think that this was enough. I remember, too, the hurried trips to the grocery store, tossing things in our cart that were a quick fix, but not necessarily the healthiest choice.
It is sorely tempting to buy those peaches grown in Chile when the winter is upon us and we are hungry for fresh fruit. I certainly have bought my share of produce that has been grown in a far-away place and shipped to my local grocery store. But is this really a good thing? Consider our environment—God’s Earth, a treasure of a place that we have been given in which to live. Think about how all this shipping and transport of produce grown hundreds and thousands of miles away affects our air quality with the fossil fuels that are used for the shipping. Our great-grandparents didn’t have access to such a luxury. They picked and canned their fruits and vegetables for the winter. Now, I know that this is not something that we all have the time to do, and I am not saying that all the produce that we consume in the winter months must be from our own preserving. But I remember making the time to do some preserving when my children were young—my daughters and I would go to the local u-pick farm and pluck as many strawberries as we could, then go home and make preserves. Not only did we have healthy fruit, grown without pesticides, we had a wonderful time together. And when I was young, my mother and grandmother would make crabapple jelly every fall from the trees we had in our yard. My sister and I would do the picking and then help with the canning. Again, a wonderful memory.
God doesn’t just give us food to eat. Think about where your food comes from—who has touched it along the way, and how are they treated? If you look closely enough, you will discover that it is in the planning (what would members of the family like to eat this coming week?) , preparing of the meals together, and sitting down at the table together that helps to create community. Of course a family is community, but people also come together around food in all sorts of other circumstances—church suppers, dinner parties, even homeless shelters. In all these settings, food helps to create community. And remember, hospitality to strangers, the homeless, and the sick is part of what it means to follow Jesus Christ and part of how others recognize who we are. Matthew 25: 37 & 40 says, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?…and the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me’”.
If you are looking for a cause or organization to donate to, consider a local food bank. Think about this: MOST of the children in this world go to bed hungry and wake up hungry. Consider these voices of the hungry:
“ My husband knew that he was going to be in the field for three weeks. He also knew that I would be here by myself, with no pots or pans. So he went down to McDonalds on Sunday when he knew that the hamburgers were 39 cents and bought 21 of them. I’ve been eating a hamburger a day for the last 20 days.”—a young marine’s wife
“The first thing that malnourished children do is to cut down on discretionary activities, like talking, reading or interacting. They sleep more, play less, and connect less. By the time they get to me, they have become so listless and tired that they have slept through many opportunities for learning…since learning is cumulative, just think how many how much learning is lost over many years of hunger.” –a Boston pediatrician who runs a failure to thrive program, Hunger in America.
“By this time, we was living on nothing but the bread and lunch meat that I stole from the mini-mart. I wanted to stop—saying grace over the lunch meat I stole really bothered me. I could hardly swallow it. I’d get cramps and feel like I had to throw up. I felt so guilty that one night I told the owner what I’d been doing. Luckily he felt bad for me and started giving me the lunch meat that was past the date.”—a teenage mother, Hunger in America.
“I am the head of the household since the death of my mother. She died in my hands. Since then, I have given up on school. I must give my attention to my younger brothers. It is what I promised my mother. The problem is to feed them. When they come from school to get lunch and find nothing, they return to school crying. Often I also cry when they cry.”—a teenager orphaned by AIDS in Rwanda.
“If all 36 million Americans with food insecurity stood in line at a food pantry in New York City, the line would stretch to Los Angeles and back twice.”
“It wasn’t my turn to eat breakfast this morning.”—a U.S. child
“My children were hungry and I told them the rice was cooking, until they fell asleep from hunger.”—from Egypt
So why did God give us food? The answer seems simple until you take a closer look. We were given food to nourish and strengthen our bodies, certainly. But we were also given food so that we might share with those less fortunate than ourselves. We were given food to create community. We were given food so that we might learn how to responsibly care for our earthly home. Pray for those who have grown, harvested, and prepared your food.
What is Jesus Christ calling you to do and to be today?
Blessings to you,