Food in the Bible: Matthew 11:18-19

Matthew 11:18-19 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

Sometimes you just can’t win. This passage says, “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” We are a culture of people-pleasers, but the truth is you can’t please everyone. Both John and Jesus were fulfilling their purpose and identity. We are also a culture that claims to value diversity in theory, but has difficulty putting it into practice. (That could be said of everyone I guess.) In the church we are often concerned with trying to fit everyone into a particular mold or model of what it means to be Christian, to follow Jesus, to be the church, how to vote, how to raise your kids or how to shop. Many denominations were created in some sense to limit diversity. A group (re)discovered some truth or doctrine and latched on to it as the answer, the one Truth. It seems in every case that this results in throwing some baby (or babies) out with the bath water.

With foodies it is often the same. PETA and others preach the gospel of vegetarianism. There is only one true way to eat and reform the corrupt food system. It seems, however, that meat-eaters will likely play a large role in reforming the meat industry. The industry cares more about the consumers buying their product than those abstaining. The gospel of vegetarianism is helpful in pointing out some of the fundamental problems with the amount of meat we consume and the way that our meat is produced. But like the gnostic gospels it is a myopic vision of the life God intends for us.

Paul seems to consistently uphold unity in diversity as the model for the Body of Christ. Some will be called to abstain from eating certain foods and sometimes eating all together. Some will remind us that God loves a party and invites the gluttons and drunkards into the wedding feast. If we are to be a whole people working toward a whole food system we must refrain from the myopic vision that so often traps us into dualistic ways of thinking. We must listen in love to even our enemies.

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