Nothing is more unsatisfying than to request our food through a box, receive it through a slightly larger box and then eat it in an even larger box, as fast as possible without anyone else. Food is communal. Anyone who has been a part of a group knows that the table is a primary medium to move a group from a crowd to a community. Food is not utilitarian. Though, of course, food has nutritive utility – to nourish and heal — its purpose runs much deeper. It brings us together. This has always been true. In the ancient Book of Proverbs, it is “Loud Lady Folly” who declares that bread eaten in secret is pleasant, while “Wisdom” sets a table. Feasting calls us together and keeps us together.
The Bible connects most of life to eating. In the beginning, God places man in a garden and invites him to eat from every tree except one. Time and time again meals figure prominently in the unfolding of God’s redemptive purposes. The catalyst for the Fall was food, the patriarchs deceive and are deceived through food, and God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery is illustrated in the Passover meal. All of the major expressions of God’s grace toward man are pictured through feasts. The sign and seal of God’s grace in Christ toward us, of our community in Him, and of our ongoing spiritual nourishment in Him is a meal, The Lord’s Supper. The consummation of all things is described as The Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Those whom God calls to care for His people are called ‘pastors,’ a derivative of the word for shepherd, and they are told to feed their flocks.
Food is important to God and a consuming part of our daily lives. It pictures God’s grace and our dependence upon Him. But it also points us to something more. In response to Satan’s suggestion that Jesus end his forty day fast in the wilderness by turning the stones into bread, Jesus quotes from an Old Testament passage about the real point of food.
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3
Food is indispensable to physical life. Without it we starve and die. But notice what this passage says, even food is not as fundamental to life as God’s Word. How much time each day do you spend thinking about, acquiring, preparing, eating, and recovering from meals? Now compare that to time spent preparing, hearing, and applying God’s Word in your life? Are we as concerned about being nourished by Scripture as we are food? The prophet Amos noted that God’s ancient people were in the midst of a famine – “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8:11
Two things lead to spiritual malnutrition, refusing to ingest God’s Word and filling up on spiritual junk food. These were the problems Timothy faced in Ephesus. His congregation had cultivated an appetite for sugary snacks, not nourishing truth. They would “not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears … accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and … turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Sound teaching was no longer palatable. They had ruined their appetite for truth by filling up on empty calories. They wanted a word that would conform God to their image, not conform them to His. What about you? Are you cultivating your palate for “sound teaching” or binging on teaching that suits your passions? What guides our conscionable hearing of God’s Word? Desire for affirmation or transformation?
Join us this Sunday, May 12, as we examine 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and consider how we can cultivate a healthy appetite for truth and guard against spiritual malnutrition. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.