In the Message translation of the Bible, the word, “food” is mentioned 212 times. To give that a little bit of context, the word, “love” is in there 586 times, “obey” comes in at a 90 count, “faith” is mentioned 227 times, and “pray” makes an appearance 499 times. Now, I’m not saying that they best way to find out if something is important to God is to count how many times it is mentioned in the Bible, but there is something to be said for the frequency in which the topic of food is covered.
There are several places in the Bible where God gives specific instruction about food. In the first chapter of Genesis, he gave man “every sort of seed bearing plant on earth and every kind of fruit bearing tree” for food. In Genesis 9, God told Noah (after the flood receded), “all living creatures are yours for food. Just as I gave you the plants, now I give you everything else”. In Genesis 41, God gave Joseph specific wisdom regarding a coming famine and Joseph was able to take advantage of seven years of bumper crops in preparation for the seven years of famine that followed. God also gave specific instruction regarding food to the Israelites, His chosen people. In historical retrospect, we can see that many of those instructions protected them from common disease and food-born illnesses of the times. There are many other examples of God's direct involvement with mankind's food, but in the interest of my own short attention span... I'll move on! :)
Food is mentioned in the context of necessity, refreshment, companionship, sacrifice, temptation, blessing, fellowship, offering, and lifestyle. We are told to feed the hungry, to abstain from gluttony, to thank God for His daily provision of food, and to trust Him for it. Clearly, God not only understands the role that food plays in our lives, but as our Creator, He designed it that way. He provided us with a wide array of foods varying in tastes, textures, aromas, and nutrition. He gave us food, not only to provide for our nutritional needs, but also to bring us together, and to bring us pleasure.
I have done a LOT of research about food, food production, agriculture, and nutrition in the past few years and I am surprised by how little attention is given to the topic by Christians. I’m not saying there are not Christians out there who care deeply about the ethics of food (and have written about it), but they seem to be in short supply, comparatively speaking. It is far and away the secular groups that are leading the charge to improve the food system that we currently have here in America.
Our environment, the welfare of animals, the working conditions for low wage agriculture workers, our health, ethical practices in the food industry, our responsibilities as consumers… all of these things should matter to all of us, most especially those of us who claim to be Christians. We really are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our Creator gave us many wonderful things on this planet to eat, but we have strayed very far from the natural buffet that He provided. It just seems to me that since He made us, He probably knows best how to fuel us. Science has done a lot of wonderful things, but “improving” our food system is NOT one of them!