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Opinions of Sunday, 3 September 2017

Columnist: Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

The Bible and Food – How does it divide us?

Sadly, instead of uniting all people in appreciation for and dependence upon God, our beliefs about the Bible and food often divide us. True believers in God are more concerned with others than with their own diet. They set aside their natural preferences and social practices in order to love others (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

We need to probe the motivations behind our dietary habits. When it comes to food, we humans can be tremendous hypocrites. If our choice of diet makes us proud, we are hurting not only others, but we damage our own relationship with God. As the great apostle Paul said:
“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them” (Romans 14:3).

There is also the issue of health. Some of us can’t tolerate certain foods and we should avoid them. More often, however, we lack self-control and eat poorly or in excess, turning God’s gifts into an expression of selfishness and even a means of personal suffering.

Finally, the Bible says that we will eat in heaven. Bravo! There, food will never be misused again. God has the best ideas.

The Bible and Food - What about alcohol?

If alcohol is inherently sinful, then we all have a problem. It’s a well-known medical fact that microorganisms in the human digestive system turn some of our food into alcohol—upwards of two glasses of wine a day. So we all have some alcohol in our blood all the time. In response to that, someone might claim that the body’s internal functions are irrelevant, and that only our purposeful actions matter. There’s some truth to that, but when it comes to alcohol, the Bible is somewhere in the middle.

On the positive side, Jesus Himself miraculously turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). He would never have done so if alcohol were a sinful substance never to be consumed. Alcohol acts as a preservative, so wine is to fruit juice as yoghurt or cheese is to milk.

However, as with food, MODERATION IS ESSENTIAL according to the bible without stopping entirely. The Bible is clearly opposed to both drunkenness and gluttony. What’s more, it may be that the unique physical nature of some people predisposes them to intoxication, just like some people are predisposed to gaining excess weight. Each of those two groups should be careful. We cannot live without food, but we can live without drinking alcohol. Others refrain from alcohol as an example of self-control. But whether we drink moderately or abstain entirely, we should not be proud. Personal desires are secondary. Primary should be our desire to glorify God and demonstrate his love for others. As Paul said:

“…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1).
We might note two additional admonitions given by Paul:
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20).

“To Timothy my true son in the faith … Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 1:1; 5:23).
Finally, we should note the words of Jesus:
“…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:34-37

In conclusion:

Leviticus chapter 11 lists the dietary restrictions God gave to the nation of Israel. The dietary laws included prohibitions against eating pork, shrimp, shellfish and many types of seafood, most insects, scavenger birds, and various other animals. The dietary rules were never intended to apply to anyone other than the Israelites. The purpose of the food laws was to make the Israelites distinct from all other nations. After this purpose had ended, Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19).

God gave the apostle Peter a vision in which He declared that formerly unclean animals could be eaten: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:15). This includes the laws regarding clean and unclean foods.

Romans 14:1-23 teaches us that not everyone is mature enough in the faith to accept the fact that all foods are clean. As a result, if we are with someone who would be offended by our eating “unclean” food, we should give up our right to do so as to not offend the other person. We have the right to eat whatever we want, but we do not have the right to offend other people, even if they are wrong. For the Christian in this age, though, we have freedom to eat whatever we wish as long as it does not cause someone else to stumble in his/her faith.

In the New Covenant of grace, the Bible is far more concerned with how much we eat than what foods Christians eat. Physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, unrighteous hatred/anger) and unable to keep our mouths from gossip or strife. As Christians, are not to let our appetites control us; rather, we are to control them (Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:2; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Corinthians 10:5).

I will also review the Quran takes on dieting in my next article and will finally write on food compatibility or personalized testing so you know what is good for you and not stopping food in entirety because we have diverse needs with aspect of diet.

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