The Healthy Spiritual Diet
"Do not eat any detestable thing." Deuteronomy 14:3
In the Bible, eating is often used as a metaphor for those things we consume or partake of. For example, Jesus tells his disciples in John 6:53 that unless they "eat the flesh" and "drink the blood" of the son of man (title he gave himself) that they will not have eternal life. Eating and drinking are metaphors for the partaking by faith in his life, death, and resurrection. In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah in describing the toll of exploitative leadership in Israel upon the citizens of Israel, states that the leaders "eat the flesh" of the people. They were not cannibals. They were leaders who consumed the resources of the people and left them with very little. Again, eating as a metaphor for consumption.
Jesus calls himself the "bread of life" and the "living water". Again, Jesus knows that his listeners can identify with the staples of life: Food and water. He reckons our spiritual growth as dependent upon developing an appropriate spiritual diet.
The slogan of "We are what we eat" has been around for a long time as nutrition experts have warned us time and time again that our poor diets lead to poor health, and ultimately early death.
Isn't this was Jesus is saying as well. We are what we eat. Our spiritual health depends upon what we consume day in and day out. Spiritually, do we eat healthy foods or do we fill up with junk food or non-nutritious substitutes? What are spiritual junk foods? These are things that promise us immediate pleasure, but in the end are not life giving. These are inappropriate relationships that feel so right, but damage the soul. These are self-centered obsessions for power, positions, and possessions. These are philosophies that deny, displace and distort the presence of God in this world. A steady diet of these things not only make us feel temporarily satisfied, but keep us from desiring the truly healthy things: God's presence, God's Word, and God's Spirit. However, just like true junk food, spiritual junk food eventually weakens and harms. What's more, it never truly satisfies, only pacifies.
David Nasser, in his devotional "A Call to Die" states that spiritual eating requires "intention, selection, and effort".
Intention: If I want to eat well, then I must place myself in environments where nutritious options exist and avoid places in which junk food abounds. If I am hungry, I can not go to McDonalds and think that I will eat well. Most likely, I will not. Likewise, If I want a spiritually healthy diet, I must go to places or be with people who offer me spiritual healthy options and avoid people and places who offer me junk. You must reconsider you lifestyle when it immerses you into environments where spiritual junk food is accessible, abundant, and encouraged. (please read that last sentence again and contemplate this).
Selection: If I am what I eat, then the selection process is huge. This means that I have to make conscious choices based upon what gives me life, longevity, and wellbeing. So, vegetables do not trigger desire like chili-cheese fries, but I select vegetables because I know that they will lead to better health and a longer life. Interestingly, once you eat healthy for a while, you loose your taste for the junk. In 2006, I joined weight watchers for over a year. About 6 months into the process, I had a double cheeseburger and it felt like it was an oily piece of lead in my stomach. In the same way, once you begin to "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) it changes your palate for junk. In other words, you develop a spiritual dietary momentum that allows you desire more and more of the healthy while avoiding more and more of the unhealthy.
Effort: We have fast food, microwavable meals, and delivery foods. Convenience in king in our hypermobile, fast paced lives. Studies have shown that obesity is over-represented in the poorest of neighborhoods. Analysis of these studies show that it is not because the poor spend more money on food, but because healthy foods are geographically and financially out of reach. Very few good grocery stores are in poor neighborhoods and the healthy foods that are there are expensive. It takes work, time, and effort to health physically healthy as well as spiritually healthy. The classic disciplines of Jesus: Worship, Studying God's Word, Prayer, Service, and Fellowship are the spiritual foundations for health. These are the staples of the spiritually healthy diet. These things take effort. You literally have to make time to pray, read God's word, attend worship, serve others and fellowship. The payoff is huge, but it takes signficant effort on our behalf. The mystical aspect of this is that God's spirit often empowers this effort so that we are assisted in this endeavor (II Tim 3:16-17).
So, where's you spiritual health? If you are not as strong as you would like to be, its time to evaluate your spiritual diet. What are you partaking of? Are you chosing spiritual junk food, instead of sitting at God's table and feasting? I challenge you today to evaluate your experiences, exposures, and expectations and make a choice to be intentional, selective, and passionate about what you consume, because you are what you eat.
God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor