What we eat and how we eat matters, not only because of how modern food systems connect us with people and the rest of creation, but because food is a good gift from God and an expression of God’s love for us. Indeed, Psalm 104:14-15 is a joyful expression of how generous God is in giving food to humanity:
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate –
bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.
This is just one example of how food is, in the words of Norman Wirzba, a Professor of Theology, ‘God’s love made nutritious and delicious, given for the good of each other’. Characteristically, Jesus’ early followers ‘broke bread together in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts’ (Acts 2:46). Throughout Scripture there are countless examples of Jesus eating with others, so much so that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. He displayed ‘radical table fellowship’ within his ministry, and in the Gospel of Luke much of his teaching takes place in the context of eating and drinking. It is no surprise then that food and eating continue to be central in the spiritual practices of the Christian Church, in saying grace for example, in practising hospitality and ‘table fellowship’, and in taking communion.
At the core of a biblical approach to food is an attitude which deeply considers the food we eat not just as a commodity, but as a good gift from God, connecting individuals to a global web of people, culture and ecology.
In the Global North many people have access to convenient food as a result of developments in food production and distribution. But they may have little or no knowledge of where their food comes from and what it took to grow that food, of the ecology and cultural traditions that made it possible, of the health implications of their diet, of the impact of our food systems on nature and of the injustices hidden in those systems. The faults in our food systems stem from an inability to see beyond our own plate. A biblical response however, understands that we eat within a context of food insecurity and climate and ecological breakdown, and considers the impact of food systems on the non-human creation.
A biblical response also thanks God for making all food possible, and follows Jesus’ example of ‘radical table fellowship’ and hospitality to others. It’s a thoughtful approach to food and eating. To quote Norman Wirzba once more: ‘Thoughtful eating reminds us that there is no human fellowship without a table, no table without a kitchen, no kitchen without a garden, no garden without viable ecosystems, no ecosystems without the forces productive of life, and no life without its source in God’.
This article was written by Hannah Eves, A Rocha UK’s Policy Officer. It has been adapted from an article written for our spring/summer 2023 Root & Branch magazine.
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