Sometimes, you should stop and look around you. Really look. The things you’ll see might surprise you. They certainly surprised me.
In my time studying the Bible, I saw some huge, magnificent statements:
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Paul spoke of the enemies of the cross, saying,
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
Then, Paul shared of what God had taught him:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
The Biblical idea seems pretty straightforward:
food is not that important.
The shock came when I stopped and looked around. In examining my own life and the life of everyone around me, a discrepancy became decisively clear.
We were rewriting the Words of God.
In contrast to what Jesus prayed, I took my daily excess without asking. Against Paul’s warning, I let my stomach rule my decisions without a second thought. Opposite the apostle’s lessons about contentedness, I chose to learn only how to enjoy.
And everyone around me was doing the exact same thing. Maybe you can relate: you wake up in the morning to a glass of coffee or juice. You make your breakfast, then take a granola bar for the drive to work. You get something else to drink at work, then find a snack an hour into the day. You eat the candies at the desk, have lunch, and keep gum in your mouth for the afternoon. You find something to snack on right when you get home, then start getting impatient for dinner. After two or three servings of dinner, time for ice cream.
Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. Imagine if we did the same thing with sleep! We’d lose time, money, and a lot of relationships if our mind was always wandering toward our next nap. Might it also make it harder to actually sleep in the evening if you took six half-hour naps every day? And while your eating habits may not be quite so exorbitant, I think your mind might be in the same place: always concerned with how to fill yourself. “What in the world?”, I thought. “Why is this okay? Why isn’t everyone else more self-controlled?”
This shouldn’t come as a shock, but I think God wanted me to ask the question to myself instead:
why am I not more self-controlled?
I was determined to fight the human tendency to let our stomach be our god. God is our God! So, I tried a thing.
For one week of last month, I decided to eat only three meals a day.
That statement should be absurd to us. “Only three meals a day,” as if that’s a great big sacrifice. It is not. The ridiculousness of our habits simply makes it seem impressive. Through history, people have survived on two small meals a day. Even today, nothing except our culture dictates us “needing” three meals a day. How much less do we need all the snacks and excess?
And I have to tell you: trying this thing was unbelievably rewarding.
I saved time by not responding to boredom by staring at the fridge aimlessly.
I saved money by not buying overpriced snacks when I felt like it.
God was particularly gracious on Monday. I didn’t know about it until an hour before, but my parents had a gift card to one of our favorite restaurants that they decided to use that evening.
Physically, the most interesting effect was how much more enjoyable each meal was. A sandwich is twice as delicious when it isn’t preceded by chocolate. Mom’s rice and chicken dinners were twice as filling when I was actually hungry for them.
Spiritually, the most interesting effect was the opportunity to make Philippians 1:21 practical. It reads,
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
If you believe that true, you should make an effort to live it out. Alan (my mentor) and I were discussing this idea once, and I’ll never forget what he said: “Sometimes, the best way to treasure Jesus is by saying ‘no’ to some physical desire. Then, say a prayer in that moment. ‘God, I’m giving this up so that I can have more of you, even though I don’t know fully what that means.’ ”
Even without all the other benefits of giving up some food during that week, to have more of God made it so, so worth it.
A few quick things to remember in closing:
Food is not that important. Jesus takes care of us, so we don’t need to think about eating all the time.
This is not about me and my impressiveness. This is about you changing your mind about food: it is not as important as your stomach tells you it is.
You have opportunities to live as though Jesus were truly inside of you, sustaining and providing for you every moment. Take hold of those opportunities. Try a thing.