Food in the Bible: Matthew 6:16-18

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Fasting is a spiritual discipline I talked about some during Lent (here and here). It seems that Jesus is combining fasting and feasting here in a way that I previously discussed. The purpose of your fasting is not so others will notice. So, dress and look as if you are feasting while your fasting. The things we do in secret reveal who we really are. The things we boldly proclaim to others only reveals who we wish we were, or how we want to be perceived. I know, because I’m guilty.

So, this passage got me thinking about food Pharisees. You know the whitewashed tombs, the cups that are clean on the outside but filthy inside. Yeah, that’s me. Okay, so we’re moving to this farm where, in reality, someone else does the hard work for us. The farm draws the lines and boundaries for our food in a way that we are unable or unwilling to do ourselves. That’s right. I’m confessing here.

Too often we climb on a soapbox and preach about the food system and then go home to fast food. We soothe our conscience by making excuses and justifications, but we’re just hypocrites. That’s the truth.

Look, I’m not saying we should all just feel guilty about our food and wallow in it. But we should tell the truth. We are all hypocrites.

Jesus turns the tables on us here and tells us to act the exact opposite. Don’t pretend you’re better or more spiritual than you are. Don’t pretend that the food you eat is untainted and pure. We are all enmeshed in the system. Instead we should be humble enough to admit that even the biggest activists are only a small piece of the puzzle.

Don’t think you’re more important or more righteous than you really are. That goes for Alice Waters, Michael Pollan and me.

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