The Meaning of Food

I was in a conversation recently with a friend who said that food was just for fuel in our bodies. I asked him if he would just take a pill, if that pill would provide the same fuel, and he said yes. He said that it would save time and make him more efficient and, if made correctly, healthier. I have heard others echo this sentiment before and I just thought it was worth writing a response to. 

Food is fuel for our body but that is a small piece of a large list of reasons that I think food is central to life and faith. From the very planting of a seed we have been invited to co-create with God and creation itself. Ask anyone that has ever walked into their own garden and ate a tomato or a cucumber from it and they will tell you of what a special feeling it was. We value this food that we produce and after partnering with mother earth in its creation we eat it in what is the most intimate interaction of any activity between a man and creation. Not only is it a communion with the earth but for the Christian it is a reminder of the broken body of Jesus. It was no mistake that he tied the remembering of his death on the cross for our redemption to the breaking of bread which most of us do daily. Food is also usually eaten with others and it is around the table that our closest and most intimate of relationships with each other are formed. Food is delicious also. I personally think it is one of the most enjoyable activities on earth. On top of all of that it is also good for your body as fuel too.

In my reading of the bible I see food as a character that miss throughout the whole meta-narrative. In the Garden it is a fruit from a tree that is both forbidden and eaten in the Genesis story. Food restrictions and customs fill the pages of Torah as part of what marks the Hebrews as Gods people. Jesus uses Bread, as I said before, to symbolize the incarnation and crucifixion of the God of the universe. Even the pictures painted of the coming kindom have nature and food as a central part of the descriptions. Revelation 22 1-2 reads:

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

The City with a clean river, fruit and vegetation that brings healing and wholeness. Or take a look at Micah’s description from chapter 4:

1 In the last days
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

They demilitarize completely, recycling all of their arms into agricultural tools for the sake of cultivation. Micah continues the vision with a community sitting under food that they own, control, and have themselves produced. With the security that comes from a stable food source there is no need for war any longer and ‘nobody can make them afraid’ because they are a community that has the power of self determination.  The vision painted by the prophets speak of a time familiar to Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God. 

So I must disagree with my friend that made those comments about just needing fuel. I disagree to the point that if food did not fuel our bodies as it does and we had to take such pills, i would argue that we would still need to eat it to live a full life. Food is central to life, justice, communion, community, scripture and I would argue the heart of God.

Food is a symbol.
He took the bread and broke it, gave it to His disciples and said ‘eat this all of you, this is my body which is broken for you’


  1. Just found this older post on a food blog I used to keep with a friend. Some of the same ideas as this post so I just thought I would log it here alongside it.

    The meta-narrative of scripture is often told without a mention of a character that is part of the story throughout.

    The story begins with the creation of the physical word and God gives to man every seed bearing plant to be his food. Man is to sustain himself by this intimate ingestion of creation itself.

    So that man might have true freedom in creation God chose a tree and forbade mans eating from the fruit of this particular tree. This prohibition is the creation of a choice which is the only way that man was truly free. It is by food that man lives and it is by food that he disobeys and then dies.

    Throughout the story of Israel God gives his people many commands regarding their food. They are set apart and called to be holy and their diets reflect their commitment to and identity as the people of God.

    Jesus described judgement only once in scripture and he said to people on his right and on his left "I was hungry, I was thirsty" (referring to himself as though he were every hungry person) and they had been separated by what they did in response to his need.

    Jesus spoke of his incarnation and his redeeming death at a supper table and he used food to symbolize his being. He took the bread and broke it and said 'this is my body, eat it.'

    Revelation, in painting a picture of His perfect kingdom, speaks of trees that produce seasonal fruits and have leaves that are "for the healing of the nations".

    Food, throughout scripture, is a symbol. Food is central to life and the sustaining of life. We hunger for food, enjoy food, build community around food, and will die without food. Food is and will always be something that has a consistent place in our lives. When we attach meaning or practices to the table we place them in what has the potential to be the most disciplined area in our life. When we eat we remember Jesus body that was broken on our behalf, we connect with creation in a deeper way than any other activity in life, and we build relationships with each other. It is communion and community. Also we have been commissioned to share our food with the hungry as well. Share our bread, which is his body, our sustenance and joy.

    ....Give us this day our daily bread.....


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