Can you be a faithful foodie?
JUDY LEE | JUNE 27, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
We have a rule of thumb when it comes to food: Pic, or it didn’t happen. The visual aspect of food has become just as important as its taste and quality. So much successful restaurant marketing now happens on social media. Posts of “Instagrammable” foods draw people everywhere from new restaurants to hole-in-the-walls. This guide even tells you the top 10 food hashtags to follow to quell (or feed) your daily foodie cravings.
But is this foodie culture good? In The Atlantic, B.R. Myers wrote “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies,” in which he argues that foodies are gluttonous. So are we?
When we easily fork over seven dollars for a “gourmet” latte or wait in line for hours for that special edition hot dog imported from Asia, this question can easily haunt us. This dilemma isn’t unique to lovers of food, though — it can apply to any good thing, any gift that we enjoy in our lives. Are people who love shopping materialistic? Are people who binge-watch Netflix media addicts? With any good thing, there’s a potential of it becoming an idol if we let it become more important than Christ. So when does pleasure turn into gluttony? What’s the line between biblical excess and appropriate consumption?
We don't give Scripture enough credit for how much it advises us topics we’d never expect it to cover. When we ask the Spirit for inspiration from our daily bread (see what I did there?), food is rarely the first thing we think of. But the Bible shows us numerous ways in which food is used both as idolatry and as a gift — literally and figuratively.
Food as Temptation - Genesis 3 describes Eve’s fatal forbidden fruit as “good for food” and a “delight to the eyes” (V:6). The significance of the fruit being tempting as food itself is subtle, but there, with a larger implication that looks can be both deceptive and highly captivating to the human heart.
Food as Idol Worship - A major dispute within the Corinthian church is based on whether Christians could eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 8:9 that eating such food in the eyes of new believers may “become a stumbling block to the weak.” Although we now know that “idols have no real existence” (V.4) and “food will not commend us to God” (V.8), historically food has played a big role in idol worship. Because of this, many Christian Koreans who have converted from traditional Buddhist backgrounds refuse to participate in ancestor worship through food.
Food as Gluttony - The Bible calls out the sin of gluttony in many places, but a concrete example of its destructive effects is seen as early as Genesis, in the days of Noah’s flood. Whenever “eating and drinking” is mentioned in conjunction with a corrupt people, it’s never a good sign (Matthew 24:38); we can probably presume that gluttony was part of their destruction.
Food as Overindulgence - Those spoiled Israelites couldn’t go a few months without a “strong craving” for meat (Numbers 11:4). They would have rather returned to Egypt where they could indulge in all sorts of food than stayed in the wilderness with their God. As Paul says in Philippians 3:19, “Their god is their stomach...their mind is set on earthly things.” When the focus shifts from serving God to serving their appetites is when idolatry begins.
Food as Fellowship - That post-service coffee and donut tradition isn’t a modern evangelical invention. The first gatherings of the early church in Acts reports “breaking of bread” (2:42) as a regular part of their fellowship. They not only ate together, but “received their food with glad and generous hearts” (V:46).
Food as Peacemaking - When Abigail’s not-so-smart husband Nabal sparks David’s wrath, it’s the wise housewife who saves the day with “two hundred loaves,” “two skins of wine,” “five sheep,” “a hundred clusters of raisins” and “two hundred cakes of figs” (1 Samuel 25:18).
Food as Hospitality - It’s another average day for the world’s most blessed couple, Abraham and Sarah, when they host three angels with a humble feast of freshly made cakes, a “tender and good calf”, and “curds and milk” (18:6-8). The urgency and precision with which Abraham serves these foods shows how well he wanted to serve his guests — and how big of a part food can play in hospitality.
Food as Celebration - We all remember the touching moment when the prodigal son comes home to his father’s welcome arms. But do we remember the infamous “fattened calf” that’s mentioned three times afterward, all in the context of celebration? “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad”, the father says, hinting at a voice of the heavenly Father who just wants to love His reclaimed son (V.32). The fattened calf is a symbol of the rich, indulgent feast that’s appropriate for such redemption.
I believe Ecclesiastes gives us the best picture of what being a “faithful foodie” can look like. “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil” (2:2).
Solomon admits that life is still a toil. But he also sees that this enjoyment “is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccelsiastes 2:25). In the “wisdom and knowledge and joy” that God gives us is where we’ll have the peace of heart to truly enjoy His good gifts (2:26). Yes, we can eat and drink and be merry. We can enjoy the rich diversity of food available to us. But if we take this gift for granted, complain about our options and constantly look for something better, we can easily become this:
Instead, I want to be this: Enjoying the gift of food God has given us to ease our frail bodies in the midst of our toil.
For those of us who can’t help to chase the next cool dish, we must remember that being a “foodie” isn’t the biggest role in our lives. And all of us must remember to feed our souls as much (or more) as our stomachs, finding satisfaction not in the Insta-worthy desserts, but in a joy far more eternal. It sounds easy, but it’s a lofty goal when we’re constantly surrounded by images of food. Practically speaking, we can all take at least one step. Let us start by eating everything with gratitude and praise.
P.S. As I write this, I’m totally Googling “Best Frozen Foods at Trader Joe’s.” What a millennial.
Judy Lee is a English Writing major at Biola University. She serves for the Youth Ministry at New Life Presbyterian Church of Orange County, and is a lover of all things Shane & Shane, iced coffee, Asian food, and the color peach. She is currently working on her first novel. Her fashion blogs and writing can be found on her Instagram and website, The Urban Royal.