WHAT WOULD JESUS EAT?
Written by Doug Ponder on June 7, 2015
What Would Jesus Eat?
No one who lived through the 90s escaped without encountering WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? The question-turned-slogan was plastered on car bumpers and car windows, on T-shirts and Trapper Keepers, and especially on bracelets.
The question was meant to serve as a reminder for Christians to imitate the life of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Cor. 11:1). But once its meaning became unmoored from the author’s original intent, a mostly helpful question became a mostly harmful way of thinking about the Christian faith. For there is much that Jesus meant when he called us to imitate his life, but his diet was not one of them (nor was his choice of dress, his style of hair, his native tongue, and many other accidental qualities).
This conclusion falls under the “common sense” heading, but sin is sometimes stronger than common sense. Behold the vast number of authors urging us to imitate the diet of Jesus:
The Jesus Diet
The Jesus Diet (same title, different book)
The Food and Feasts of Jesus: The Original Mediterranean Diet
Cooking with the Bible: Recipes for Biblical Meals
Eating the Bible: Over 50 Delicious Recipes to Feed Your Body and Nourish Your Soul
What the Bible Says about Healthy Living
Miracle Food Cures from the Bible
The Good Book Cookbook
None of These Diseases: The Bible’s Health Secrets for the 21st Century
What Would Jesus Eat? The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great, and Living Longer
The What Would Jesus Eat Cook Book
(If you insist on locating these books, they can be found in Amazon’s “Missing the Point” category.)
Not What, But How
Surprisingly, perhaps, the relevant question is not actually, “What would Jesus eat?”, but, “How would Jesus eat?” (And I don’t mean ‘with his hands’.) God cares more about how we eat than what we eat, and we know this because God tells us so himself.
Jesus told his disciples, “Eat whatever is set before you” (Luke 10:8).
God told the apostle Paul to write the same, saying, “Eat anything sold in the market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’… Eat whatever is put before you” (1 Cor. 10:25-27).
The apostle Peter ignored God’s command and did raise questions of conscience, being quite worried that certain foods would contaminate him. So God rebuked Peter, saying, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15).
Lest we go placing GMOs on the “impure” list, the Gospel of Mark tells us, “Jesus declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:20).
Paul sums the Bible’s basic teaching on food in one verse: “Everything God created is good, and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Tim. 4:4)
In view of all these verses, the main message in the Bible about food is not “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (Col. 2:21). Paul says that approach may seem wise on the surface, but it’s actually “self-imposed worship,” “false humility,” and “a harsh treatment of the body” (Col. 2:23). Instead, the main message of the Bible about food is give thanks. “No food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
This means if you are someone who grows your own heirloom tomatoes, drinks raw milk from a cow you bought a share in, makes your own kombucha, participates in a local co-op, and buys organic from the farmer’s market, God calls you to give thanks.
And it also means that if you are someone who eats potted meat on Saltine crackers, Vienna sausages straight from the jar, McDonald’s on the regular, non-organic pasteurized milk, and high fructose corn syrup by the bottle, then God calls you to give thanks too.
The one thing that you may not do is pass self-righteous judgment on your brother or sister (Rom. 14:10-13). God says, “Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died… For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:15, 17).
Colluding with the Enemy
Because God’s kingdom is one of joy and peace, he will punish those who disturb the joy and peace of his people—and that includes those who make loud assertions about what is “right” or “good” or “acceptable” to eat. These assertions could come from either side of the fence, but the corn syrup crowd has proven to be much more laissez-faire than the organic-only crew, who act like their life mission is to “inform” the world about what is healthy. (It would be more accurate to say “evangelize.”)
Ironically, Christians are some of the worst culprits here. Believing that God made the world good (Gen. 1:31), we forget that God also made the world with pre-loaded potential (Gen. 1:28), the kind that can make coffee from coffee beans, wine from grapes, clothing from cotton, houses from wood, lecithin from soy beans, and high fructose corn syrup from corn.
Instead of celebrating the grace of God in the ingenuity of his image-bearers, these food Pharisees pick up the weapons of the devil—fear, guilt, and shame—which they use to intimidate God’s people into eating this instead of that.
“This food causes cancer.”
“If you eat that, you will die.”
“Jesus only ate organic.”
“Processed food is not from God.”
“Eating animals is wrong.”
“Don’t you know what’s in that?”
“This will make you fat.”
“That’s not ‘real’ food.”
“I would never serve that to my kids.”
“I used to eat differently before I knew better.”
“#healthymeals #glutenfree #imamazing”
Those words are found nowhere in the Scriptures, but they are found in the deadly cocktail of fear, guilt, and shame that apostles of the appetite drink daily with a spoonful of essential oil (to help the body absorb everything).
And they are not content to destroy only themselves but are compelled to “share” their “knowledge” with others. Claiming to be wise, they become fools and exchange the glory of God’s “yes” to all foods for a self-righteous “no” to most foods.
Recalibrating the Scales
None of this should be taken to mean that you could eat fried chicken every day and not have to worry about heart disease. We live in a world of cause and effect, and such laws were put in place by God too.
But don’t get your scales out of balance. Even though our bodies matter greatly, our spiritual health is more important than our physical health (1 Tim. 4:8). For a man who dies with heart disease and faith in the grace of Jesus will be with Jesus forever, while someone who enjoys “healthy living” through their 70s and 80s but doesn’t have a clue about grace, will suffer eternally for their arrogance.
The difference can be illustrated like this:
Two men sat down in their break room to eat, one an overweight factory worker, the other a self-styled nutritionist. The self-styled nutritionist looked at the overweight man’s food and thought to himself, “God, I’m so glad I don’t eat like him—processed meals, fried foods, and none of it organic or natural. I eat three healthy meals a day, and I blog about it, too.”
The overweight man saw the look of disgust on the self-styled nutritionist’s face, and he felt shame. He couldn’t bring himself to look the self-styled nutritionist in the eyes, so he kept his head bowed even after he had finished praying, “Father, thank you for this food. Please bless it, and use it to strengthen my body.”
When Jesus told a story very much like this one, he concluded with words like these: ‘I tell you that the overweight man, not the self-styled nutritionist, went home justified before God. For all who exalt their diet will be humbled, but those who humbly give thanks will be exalted’ (cf. Luke 18:9-14).
The difference is plain. The overweight man thanked God for provision in the form of daily breadsticks. He went home justified because he understood his meal had been fried in pure grace.
The self-styled nutritionist, on the other hand, was the kind of man who was “confident in his own righteousness, and looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9). So while there was nothing wrong with what he ate, there was everything wrong with how he ate it. His self-righteousness had reached the bottomless pit stage, and with every GMO-free kale chip that went into his mouth, his proud heart hardened just a little bit more.
So, What Would Jesus Eat?
If Jesus were alive today, what would he eat?
Based on all that we’ve seen, it’s safe to say that Jesus would eat kefir, coconut oil, and organic kale, if they were served to him. He would also eat Twinkies, Dr. Pepper, and white bread if those were served instead. Jesus wouldn’t be a glutton (Matt. 11:19), but he wouldn’t let anyone speak evil about food that God calls good, either (Rom. 14:16).
The point is that no matter what Jesus would eat or drink, he would do so with gratitude to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). How we eat matters more than what we eat. “No food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
That places all of us in the same boat, with lives so full of God’s grace that our hearts ought to overflow with gratitude and generosity. For we worship a God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17), and that includes Moon Pies and gluten-free brownies, agave syrup and corn syrup, almond milk and skim milk, grass-fed beef and corn-fed beef, mesclun greens and McDonald’s—yes, even McDonald’s. It’s all grace, so let’s give thanks.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.