“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person,
but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
It was 1972 when I perused the isles lined with bins full of luscious organic fruits and vegetables at the Sacramento Real Food Company. I had become a Christian earlier that year and my new journey with Christ included a healthy vegetarian diet. They hadn't come up yet with all the fancy new names to describe the different kinds of vegetarians we have today. Because of my former adherence to Eastern religion I still believed it was wrong to eat meat and I have to confess that I had developed an attitude of superiority about this.
How liberating though it was for me when I began attending a Bible teaching church and learned that all food was given by God to be enjoyed with thanksgiving.
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” I Timothy 4:4
And beyond that, Christ had even told His disciples when they went out that they were to eat everything that was served to them!
“Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you” Luke 10:9
I have to chuckle when I remember how excited I was when that first Thanksgiving rolled around and with a clean conscience and thankful heart I dove into that fabulous turkey and gravy our hostess had prepared. But God never lets us get too comfortable with ourselves after He’s taught us something new and it wasn’t long before I had exchanged one form of pride for another. I swung to the other extreme and became impatient with Christians who still followed dietary restrictions (except for medical reasons) but again, the Lord gently gave me the smack down.
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:1-4
When Paul addressed the Corinthians concerning eating meat sacrificed to idols he told them that we all have knowledge and opinions about these things and exhorted them,
“This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” I Corinthians 8:1-2
The same can be said about the use of alcohol. As a new Christian I had no problem claiming my liberty to eat whatever I wanted, but when it came to drinking alcohol, it was more than 30 years before I fully understood that I was free to enjoy that too, in moderation, of course. Part of the reason for my strict views on drinking had to do with my heavy involvement with drugs and alcohol that I had repented of when the Lord saved me. I had a wholesome fear of becoming ensnared in that mess again. But adding to that was also the fact that most evangelical churches in the 70’s and 80’s were still firmly camped on the soil of the Temperance Movement that sprang up in the late 18th century. Prior to that time, drinking alcohol was not an issue for the church, although it has always been understood that drunkenness or being enslaved to it was sinful. I'm ashamed to admit how incredibly self-righteous I used to be about Christians who drank. I didn’t doubt their salvation but I did think they were either worldly or spiritually immature. For more on this subject from this blog see "Christians and Alcohol".
To sum it up I see two basic truths here. First, God has given all of these things to us as gifts to freely enjoy but we also have the responsibility to exercise prudence and self control over them.
“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Ecclesiastes 9:7“All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”I Corinthians 6:12
Additionally, even though eating a healthy diet is a good thing if God provides the means for it, (some people in the world aren't so fortunate) it’s always good to remember that it can never reverse the ravages caused by the fall of Adam on the creation which includes our bodies. Also, God has preordained all of our days and that is not going to change therefore all of our fretting over what we eat will not add an extra minute to it.
“do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body,..And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25-27
Second, and far more important than what we eat or drink, is the fact that the Church is the dearest thing to God's heart and we are commanded to love one another above all else. We are called to be patient with one another because we are all in the sanctification process. And we may think we’ve arrived when it comes to some minor spiritual matter only to discover later on that we’ve changed our minds about it. Our earthly bodies and what we put into it are all destined to perish, but we will be with each other in Heaven for eternity. Love must cover our attitudes about all of these things because it never fails and will remain forever!
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:17-18