In the past couple of decades, the wealth in the United States has led to greater international travel and gastronomical experimentation which, in turn, has led to a rise in the availability of gourmet food. As various tastes were brought from overseas and experimentation increased with sub-species of fruits and vegetables, the rise of celebrity chefs and internet sites such as Yelp and OpenTable have made us a nation of foodies. With a growing number of Christians spending large amounts of money to taste the newest fad, waiting hours in line at their favorite food truck, or taking their entire family on a vacation centered around food, I believe food is one of the greatest potential idols for today’s white collar Christian. Now before you close your browser or jump down to the comments section in defense of your kobe burgers and red velvet cupcakes, let me explain.
Like all good things from God, the enjoyment and pursuit of food can be turned into something that dishonors Him. In the same vein, enjoying a nice aged steak or a 7-course tasting menu in a pitch black restaurant served by blind waiters can glorify God. After all, doesn’t the all-encompassing 1 Corinthians 10:31 use food and drink as a representative of everything in life?
I think part of the attraction of gourmet food for the believer is the ability to enjoy one of life’s most popular pleasures (at least in this generation) and feeling as if they are living a life of luxury (keeping up with the Joneses?) without the stigma that more visible and permanent indulgences (such as a Porsche or a Rolex watch) would create within our church culture (although as with food, with the right attitude partaking in such things is not sinful in and of itself, but that’s for another time).
If you find yourself consumed with consuming, don’t throw away your Zagat guide just yet. Here are some issues to think through to keep you from idolizing food or at least keep your obsession from heading in that direction.
Stay Humble. Recognize that as you sit down to that juicy, perfectly cooked 28-day aged ribeye, you didn’t earn that no matter how hard you’ve worked or how much money you’ve earned. In Deuteronomy 8:18, the Israelites are reminded of God’s hand of protection and guidance in their lives, so they are to also remember that He is the one who gives the ability to make wealth. Often we hit up our favorite foodie establishment because we think we’ve done something to “deserve this.” You didn’t. God did. Remember that.
Be Thankful. This is a heart attitude that entails more than just an obligatory 3-second “Thank you” before you start sipping your java ever so carefully so as to preserve your latte art to the very last sip. So what do you thank God for in regards to a cup of coffee? The options are limitless. For starters, thank Him for the means to pay for these things. How about the privilege of living in a country where the options are vast. My personal favorite is to visualize in my mind how things grow from seed to adult and the amazing creative intelligence behind that. There’s also the genius of the tongue that allows us to enjoy a variety of tastes. God didn’t have to create the tongue the way He did, but He chose to for His glory and our enjoyment. Better yet, He could have given us the tongues we have, yet merely given us manna from heaven day after day after day – no difference between the manna on your lawn and the manna at Spago. Well, the list goes on, but you get the point. Don’t just thank, be thankful.
Be a Good Steward. Can you really afford that? Are you making sacrifices to your giving, your service, or your family. This isn’t just a matter of money, but also time. Does spending 4 hours in line at gourmet food truck jive with Ephesians 5:15-16? Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. It definitely can since you can spend time as a family in line, have spiritual conversations with believers during that time, etc. Of course, it could also not.
Consider Others. I’ve got to throw this in since it’s always on my mind. Philippians 2 sets up Jesus Christ as the great example of humility and service as He did not take advantage of His equality with God but humbled Himself to be a servant of ungrateful sinners up to the point of death on a cross. Verse 3 tells us to consider others as more important than yourself. Clearly this passage has vastly greater impact than merely food, but remember that this is all a matter of the heart. More often than not, sitting down to a lobster dinner is all about me, myself and I. Here’s a good gauge for you: are you willing to treat yourself to fine dining while only bringing your small group to Taco Bell. Food for thought (pun intended).
Well, that’s not an exhaustive list but hopefully it got the ball rolling.
And I’m very aware that some of you are reading this and thinking, “Are you kidding? Kicking off your blog and writing so much on this topic? It’s only food!” Exactly.