Some live to eat and some eat to live. Being a Baptist, we eat to fellowship and fellowship to eat.
I’m not sure why some people in the Lord’s work are conflicted on the subject of eating at church. Looks to me like, from reading my Bible, it’s one of the most natural and, at the same time, spiritual activities available to us.
One of my favorite teeny-tiny Scriptures is found in Luke 24. Now, most of that chapter is given to the account of the two discouraged disciples leaving Jerusalem on the first day of the week (not the Sabbath, remember) and the newly-risen Lord Jesus joining them. As they walk along, He begins to open their minds about Old Testament prophecies concerning Himself, His life, death, and resurrection. Reaching the small town of Emmaus, they invited him to stay in their home.
“And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” Notice, He’s the Guest who became the Host. “Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.”
A short while later, Jesus appears inside the locked upper room where the other disciples have gathered. Well, the disciples are so excited they almost lose it. “They were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.” Jesus calms them down, shows them the scars on His hands and feet, and waits for them to digest this overwhelming evidence of His bodily resurrection. Once again, they almost overdosed on joy.
Now, here’s the verse, one of my favorites.
“But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Anybody got anything to eat?'” (Luke 24:41) (Okay, I phrased it a tad different from the NKJV Bible in my lap, which has Him saying, “Have you any food here?” I prefer my way. It doesn’t sound so religious, but normal, the way real people talk.)
Now, in choosing this as one of my favorite verses I’m being serious and not trying to be cute. (If you know me, you know I sometimes have to point that out.)
Jesus is doing several things here: 1) He’s bringing the disciples back down to earth. After all, there is such a thing as being so heavenly minded and excited in Jesus that we lose all sense of perspective. Along with Martin Luther, I love that little line from Ecclesiastes 7:16, “Do not be overly righteous; do not be overly wise; why should you destroy yourself?”
2) The Lord is simply expressing the hunger He’s feeling. He hasn’t eaten in days.
3) And I think we could safely say He is affirming the importance of meeting physical needs in the midst of spiritual activities. I’ve known pastors who thought their task was solely to provide the gospel to the community but had no interest in feeding the hungry who came to their doors.
Remember, Jesus had not eaten since Thursday night when He sat in this very room with the disciples and it’s now Sunday afternoon. He was famished.
It would appear that the Lord had been planning to eat in the Emmaus home with the two disciples when something happened to end His visit. What happened and why is anyone’s guess, but the Lord just vanishes out of the room as they receive the bread from His hands and begin to eat.
Or, how about this line from Mark 5 where the Lord heals the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. She has been very ill and when the Lord arrives at the house, she has died. He goes into her room and restores her to life. “They were overcome with great amazement.” There it is again — people about to O.D. on joy.
“But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.” (Mark 5:43)
She’s been sick, probably hasn’t eaten anything substantial in days, if that. And what restores strength better than food. Jesus knew and ordered that she be fed.
Who wouldn’t love such a Lord?
Study the history of Christianity, particularly in the Middle Ages, and you come across a string of ascetics who believe it their God-given duty to forsake all food. Seems that I recall Bernard of Clairvaux disdaining eating a variety of foods since that just increases one’s appetite. Appetites are for the suppressing, some insisted.
Well, they didn’t get that from the Lord Jesus Christ, I’m happy to report.
Jesus seems to have loved to eat and urged us to feed others.
As for fasting, Jesus did it and allowed that His disciples would occasionally find reason to fast. (See Matthew 6:16ff) But nowhere does the New Testament record Jesus commanding us to fast. It seems to have been on a voluntary basis. “Do it if you will, but do it right.”
Over-eating is a concern of Scripture, on the other hand. Proverbs 23:21 and 28:7 are examples. Gluttony was listed as one of the seven deadly sins by the Catholic church ages ago, and, if you will notice the next time you walk through an airport, it has become an epidemic in America today.
However, I will admit it gives this preacher who is forever struggling to keep his weight down a little pleasure to know that our Lord was accused of being a glutton. “Behold, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matthew 11:19)
Our friend Devona Able, lawyer for the Social Security Administration in Alexandria and mother of three if I recall correctly, and dear sister in Christ, writes about her two-year-old son Matthew. When she set the brownies on the table, you would have thought the poor child had not eaten in weeks.
“Eat! Eat!” he called. Obediently, mom placed a brownie before him. As the child stuffed it into his mouth, he called out for more.
“That’s enough. You can’t have any more right now,” Devona told him. Not a good thing to say to a two-year-old. He began wailing so the neighbors could hear.
After telling the story, Devona writes, “In the course of Matthew’s mouth-open-wide fit over not getting a second brownie, much of the one he had ended up on the kitchen floor.”
We’re like Matthew, aren’t we. As his Mom points out, we fail to enjoy and use the blessings God has given because we’re too busy grumbling about the ones we do not have.
In our favorite Greek restaurant in Charlotte, Nick named one of his chocolate desserts “a basket of sin.” He would say, “It’s so good, it has to be sinful.” I once reminded him that God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts and chocolate is as close as we can come to one of those. And besides, the Bible assures us “He richly gives us all good things to enjoy.”(I Timothy 6:17)
If that’s not a pass for enjoying a Snickers candy bar, I don’t know what is.
Well, I’d planned to write more here, but it’s lunch time.