Why a Theology of Food Beats a New Year’s Resolution

images-1Barely two weeks into the new year and I blew it. Ugh! I hate dieting. As my wife and family will attest, I have a huge sweet tooth. When the sum total of my intake for the day is a green smoothie, a couple apples, and some crackers, it is hard to resist the temptation to binge when the late afternoon hunger hits. Rules don’t help: “watch what you eat, count your calories, exercise daily, blah, blah, blah.”

My youngest boys kindly cooked a pot of Mac and Cheese for lunch today. I know. I’m a sucker for Mac and Cheese. I love it. So I gorged. Always have. Probably always will. Now I’m sitting at my computer and I feel the lump in my stomach. I did manage to pass on the Twinkies—I won that battle with temptation at least!

New year resolutions related to diet and exercise are commonplace. Every year, I faithfully commit on January 1 to eat better and exercise religiously. And then my kids cook Mac and Cheese for lunch. I’m weak willed. But, I wonder if there is a better way. Perhaps it’s not merely my will that’s as weak as an overcooked macaroni noodle, but my thinking about food is wrong. I tend to think of food as a commodity: something used to get what I want (the enjoyment of the taste, fuel for the day, fellowship with a friend).

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What is God’s perspective on food? Not God’s perspective regarding how much or what kind of food we eat, but food in general? As the Duke University Theologian Norman Wirzba observes, as we begin to view that which God has made as creation, and not merely as nature, we begin to view the world and all it contains as a gift. Wirzba writes,

Food is first and foremost a gift from God given for the nurture of the world. Though it clearly functions within human economies, and so falls within monetary considerations, food is God’s love made delectable.[1]

God’s love made delectable. Mmm…that is good! The smooth feel and sweet taste of lemon meringue pie—God’s love made delectable. The juiciness of a New York Strip browned just right—God’s love made delectable. The snap of a carrot—God’s love made delectable. The artificial, savory taste of knockoff Mac and Cheese—um . . . God’s love made delectable.

I’ve never thought about food in this way. I don’t have a theology of food. But why not? All distinct from God reality is created reality. This includes food. Perhaps what I miss in my struggle against overeating is a proper understanding of what food is and its role in human life. As Wirzba observes, food as God’s love made delectable is “a perpetual invitation into a life of hospitality and sharing and fellowship.”[2]

Why does a theology of food beat a New Year’s resolution? Because next time I’m tempted to gorge on Mac and Cheese, I’ll remember that food is a gift from a loving creator, and as such, it is an invitation to fellowship with Another, not an invitation to merely fill my stomach.

 

[1] Norman Wirzba, From Nature to Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), 124.

 [2] Ibid.

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