Updated: Oct 27, 2021
As it is the first post of the Hungry Chaplain blog, I thought it best to start the blog with some thoughts and reflections about Food Theology. Obviously, I am a huge fan of two things: God and food!
I believe that the serious eater ought to be a serious worshipper of God, and likewise, the serious worshipper of God ought to be a serious eater.
So as a start, let's go to the book of beginnings of the Christian faith, Genesis, and explore the first mention of eating in the sacred text in both the first chapter and the second chapter.
Genesis 1: 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."
It is fascinating to observe that God had made Adam and Eve as food-eaters. This was part of the original design which God had called "very good." Even before the fall of man, humans were placed in a garden to take care of it that they may also eat from the fruit of their holy labor. So food isn't some kind of punishment because we disobeyed God and now had to suffer this cycle of hunger, foraging, cooking, and consuming. Working for the food we eat is part of what it means to be human.
We can reflect on that thought for awhile, that motion of working to eat is actually part of God's very good original design. This contrasts with some of our own sentiments today. Many today fantasize of a life where you can live without working hard, retiring early, living on passive income. God didn't make Adam and Eve simply as those who ate, but also as gardeners. It was inherent in God's design that humankind was to partake in food that came from the work of one's hands.
Growing up, I was privileged to have been in a family where my dad had provided for me. He will often cook really good food for me to consume. Interestingly, the dimension of my appreciation for the food often settled with taste, appearance, heat, acidity and so on. I am very grateful for his provision especially in my early years. However there was a newfound appreciation that I discovered when I finally worked my first job and used the first paycheck I had to get a bowl of Taiwan Beef noodles! Every slurp was just so so good. Something was different! My dad had brought me to the same restaurant before, but now that I was paying it with my hard-earned money, it was just better!
I realized that food you worked hard for somehow had a new dimension of enjoyment to it. There was a feeling of pleasant satisfied justice. God worked it in to our biology and psychology. For those who have never yet experienced this, I encourage you, work for your food one day, you will understand what I am talking about!
And perhaps that is why we connect with some food critics who mix buckets of emotion over poorly executed meals in our television shows. Be it Uncle Roger who says, "Haiya," when someone doesn't prepare egg fried rice properly, or Gordon Ramsey when he gets angry at undercooked scallops - we realize that within the vehicle of food we have carried in the trunk serious cultural meaning and understanding.
Food that we have acquired ownership - from purchasing it or from working hard at it ourselves - will always grant us that cycle of satisfaction that comes from God's design. This is echoed in Paul's advice found in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13:
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
However the Bible doesn't just talk about food that is acquired through labor, but also one that is acquired "without money and without cost." But I'm rushing ahead of myself. In the coming Tuesdays, we will explore other passages in Scripture with simple glimpses of thought as how these can point us to our Creator God and Heavenly Father.
If you have any passages of Scripture which has helped you understand God more and it has food related in it, do drop a comment below and I'll schedule a reflection about it in the coming weeks! Until next time, Hungry Chaplain