WWJE? Does Source Matter?

Funny story. I wanted an example of a food’s source. It occurred to me that my breakfast this morning, a package of Belvita biscuits, could be just the thing. Where did these originate? When I Googled the question, it gave an unequivocal (and incorrect) answer: Indonesia. It turns out that my Belvitas, at least according to the box, were made in Mexico.

For many foodies, “locally sourced,” is one of the principle commandments. At the very least, they would admonish us to know where our food comes from. As for me, Indonesia seemed like a plausible, and rather disturbingly distant, answer a few minutes ago.

Yesterday I took up the question of what Jesus would eat: WWJE? As promised, I would like to spend a bit of time mulling over some principles that I find useful in answering that question. I won’t hold these up as absolute doctrinal positions but rather as my best wisdom on the matter of what goes in my mouth.

Does the source, the origin, of your food matter? Clearly it matters in the area of taste and availability. Broccoli grown in our garden will most likely taste better than broccoli shipped in from California (which supplies 90% of the U.S. crop). On the other hand, we’ll struggle to grow that vegetable in the coldest and the hottest months of the year, meaning the availability is limited.

That’s all great for a food enthusiast, but does God really care about whether your vegetables are locally sourced? I’m not convinced that this is high on God’s list, but I could probably be persuaded otherwise.

When I talk about the source of our food, I think the more important thing is the ultimate source of it. God gives food to the birds, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6. He used birds to give food (from Him) to Elijah. He fed Israel miraculously for 40 years on manna.

He gives food to every creature.
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 136:25

The source of our food is not Hy-Vee or Whole Foods, not Indonesia, Mexico, or the garden a few steps from where I am sitting. My food’s source is God. It is a gift from Him.

If I give a gift to someone–and if it is truly a no-strings-attached kind of gift–then I will hope they will use that gift wisely but I won’t in any way force the issue. For example, about a year back, I gave my old car to my son. Will he treat that vehicle differently than he would one that he’d purchased? I’d like to think that he would remain grateful and responsible with it. Should he drive 30,000 miles without changing the oil, I would be disappointed, but it is his car.

I believe, when considering WWJE?, that it is more important that I remember that my food came as a gift from God than that I obsess over how many truck miles my beef or tomatoes endured before landing in my kitchen.

When we remember that each bite that goes into our mouth and sustains us is a manifestation of the grace of God, then we’re more likely to make Christ-pleasing decisions, which might include buying more locally sourced fare. But maybe not.

WWJE?

My sister-in-law will not buy produce at Aldi any more. Why, you ask? I’m glad you asked, since this would have been a very short post had you not. She stopped buying veggies at Aldi because they stopped selling ones with pesticides used on them. “I want my pesticides!” she said. (Yes, this actually came out of her mouth.)

People can get weird about their food, although I’ve never heard anybody yearn for pesticides before. Usually the weirdness comes from those who want to look disapprovingly at whatever it is that I enjoy eating.

  • “You still eat doughnuts?”
  • “I never go within 200 yards of a McDonalds.”
  • “Is that pineapple locally sourced, humanely raised, and organic?”

Do you know the type? But then as I travel around my not-quite-bourgeois city, I see the miserably obese people, the future diabetics of America, who clearly don’t think about what they eat except to think about getting more of it in their mouths. I think that the food police are misguided, but I also see the food ignorant as problematic. WWJE?

What would Jesus eat?

Would Jesus cram his mouth at Pizza Street until he could barely walk out of the place, groaning and saying, “My belly hurts; I ate too much!”

Or would he sit and point at different foods that no right-thinking person should ever consider: “Lips that touch high-fructose corn syrup shall not touch mine!

I struggle with both of these attitudes, and I think that the reason that I struggle with them both is that they both run counter to the spirit of the gospel.

On the one hand, we have a food hedonism: “If it tastes good, eat it. If it tastes bad, eat it anyway.”

On the other hand, we have a food legalism: “You must eat precisely this and not eat precisely that to be righteous in the eyes of the food spirit (today).”

Okay, so what would Jesus eat?

Actually, Jesus did not say a huge amount about food. He did, in Mark 7:19, declare all foods clean. I don’t think that means that tainted meat is suddenly healthy, and I don’t think it means that Jesus put his stamp of approval on HFCS. Instead, it means that consuming pork or a candy bar or even–I risk being expelled as a Baptist deacon–alcohol will not render us unclean before God.

To the best I can see, Jesus never directly talks about gluttony. This makes sense as he lived in a time when gluttony was much less common. Starvation was more of a problem, as the “don’t worry” teaching in Matthew 6 suggests.

The rest of the New Testament makes it clear that rules about what we can and can’t eat are misguided, but there weren’t giant factory farms, genetically-modified foods, and pesticides available in those days. Maybe, if Jesus had lived today, he would have spoken out about both the quantity and the quality of our foods. And maybe not.

In short, I still don’t know what Jesus would eat? And maybe that’s okay. Maybe what I should eat is just between me and the Holy Spirit. Maybe if my sister-in-law wants her pesticides, then it’s okay. Maybe, but I’d like to explore some principles that might move us toward an answer to the question of WWJE?