This is the final post in the inaugural series What Would Jesus Eat? now turns to explore the relationship of faith to food and the ethics of eating.
There are a ton of really good food blogs (see links in sidebar) reporting on the farm bill and how to eat more local. I’m sure I’ll do some of that around here. What really interests me though is how Jesus fits into all of this. For me ethical eating is about following Jesus.
First of all, everyone has to eat. You and I eat what some people half way around the world produce. Those people can’t always feed themselves even though they’re feeding us. Food connects the world in ways that are truly enlightening. To follow the path of any single food product is to learn a lot about globalization and the nature of the global economy. Chickens are raised in the U.S., shipped to China to be processed and then shipped back to be sold. How does that make sense? I digress…
The ancient Israelites knew that food was important and connected people. God prescribed laws concerning what foods they could and could not eat (we call it kosher today). These laws were intended to differentiate the Israelites from their neighbors, contrary to what the food inerrantists might tell you.
There were laws concerning the poor in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19, 25 and Deuteronomy 15) that gave requirements for providing food for the poor. If you had a farm you were not supposed to harvest the very edges of the field so the poor could glean the leftovers. If you had a vineyard you were supposed to leave some of the grapes that fell for the poor to have.
There was also the concept of table fellowship. Sitting down to a meal with someone meant a lot. There were no business lunches. If you ate a meal with someone it meant you accepted them, respected them and considered them a personal friend. You didn’t eat with just anybody. That’s what got Jesus in so much trouble.
Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The son who left and squandered all his money gets a party from his dad, complete with fatted calf, when he returns. Finally, the central act of worship in the Christian faith, across all denominations, is the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper or Communion, depending on where you’re from. I won’t get into the theology of the Eucharist right now. It is incredible that food, a meal, is at the center of what it means to follow Jesus and be the Body of Christ.
I’m not sure where this pursuit of justice through food will take me. For now it is taking me back to the Bible. I’m going to begin a long series (and I do mean long) that will be ongoing and take some time. We’re going to walk through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation wearing the lenses of food. What does the Bible say about food? What does it mean when the Bible talks about food? Am I crazy for thinking food is so important to Jesus?
Well, we’re going to find out.