If you missed part one, check it out here – Part one – My real food journey: can healthy eating become an idol?
Since posting part one of this series, I’ve received some very encouraging feedback! It’s always great to know that you’re not alone in something, right? It was wonderful to hear from many friends, near and far, that they have had similar thoughts about real food. Thank you to all who have reached out!
As followers of Christ, it’s so important that we match everything up to Scripture. His Word is perfect, trustworthy, and without error. There are some golden nuggets of wisdom available to us as we continue this conversation about healthy eating, and idolatry.
This past week I’ve spent some quality time in 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1. Paul is addressing the Corinthian church, and answering questions they had concerning food offered to idols. To put it in context, the pagan temples would offer parts of animals as sacrifices to the gods, and would also operate as butcher shops. The leftover meat was served in the temple dining rooms for various events. Meat from the pagan temple was also sold in the public marketplace for personal consumption at home. Paul urges the Corinthians to abstain from eating in the pagan temple, because it could cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble. They are encouraged to flee from idolatry, and give up their rights, for the sake of the advancement of the gospel. There is freedom for them to consume meat from the public marketplace (which may have come from a pagan temple), but they should never let it hinder the spread of the gospel.
With this in mind, there are a number of verses that I think are really applicable to us when considering our food, and the temptation to make natural living an idol.
1 Corinthians 8:8 – Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
Food cannot bring us closer to God, or gain His approval. Jesus already did that for us on the cross. If you are in Christ, it is done, and there is nothing you can do to be more approved by God! Food is spiritually neutral. This is such a good reminder when we are tempted to think we are holier, or more spiritual, than those who have chosen a different diet than us.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23 – I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Paul has just shared personal examples of laying down his rights for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:1-21). This verse comes on the heels of that. Paul’s love for the lost was so strong that he was willing to “become all things to all people” just to bring as many as possible to saving faith in Christ. I get choked up when I read these verses because of his desperation, passion, and urgency to reach the lost. It is stunning! How could I ever let something as insignificant as food hinder that?! The message of the gospel is the most important message that will ever exist. What we put into our bodies is important, but it is not ultimate. Food does matter, but people matter more. My prayer is that those of us who love to eat real food would joyfully lay down our “right” to local, organic, grass-fed, (insert your preference here), for the sake of those who are not yet saved.
God deserves all of our worship, not the “gods” we have invented on our own. When we make real food, and natural living our god, we are engaging in idolatry. Scripture is clear that idolatry does not go unpunished (1 Cor.10:22 – Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?). God is the Creator of the universe, and the Only true God. He is righteous, holy, and deserving of all our praise. He will protect that truth.
Paul really brings it home in these following verses. Here is where we get a little more practical with four principles for Christian liberty.
1 Corinthians 10:23-30 – 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
When it comes to food, there are four principles for Christian liberty that Paul has laid out (from the MacArthur Study Bible):
1) Edification over gratification, v.23. If it doesn’t build up the other person, we must lay down our own satisfaction and desires.
2) Others over self, v.24. We must consider the good of our neighbor before our own desires. This is a great principal to remember in our own families. If there are certain foods our husbands, or children, don’t like, we ought to be willing to lay our own preferences aside in order to serve them better.
3) Liberty over legalism, v.25-27. This is where we can easily slip into idolatry if we’re not careful. Food is not a moral issue, and those who have chosen differently from us are not in sin. We have freedom to choose whatever we want to eat. It would be rude, and unloving, to refuse a meal based on preference alone.
4) Condescension over condemnation v.28-30. One of the strongest witnesses we have is love of other believers. In this situation, Paul is saying that it is better to offend the unbeliever (not that we would want to), than to cause another brother or sister in Christ to stumble. We are unable to sincerely thank God for food that causes another believer to stumble.
1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Every aspect of our lives has the potential to honor and glorify God, or become an idol. What we put into our bodies is not exempt from that. I’m so thankful that God has given us His Word to guide us as we think through this very important issue.
In part three I will share some of the specific changes I made in my diet over the last two years. Check back soon for more!
Read part three here.