What do you eat?

By Edwin Christiaan

Two stories caught my attention recently:

An aspiring Christian fashion model, participating in a reality television show, was told by the jury panel that they were shocked that she had gained weight during the short time she had been on the show. They asked her, “What do you eat?” One of the jury members said to this girl that her body is a temple that she is supposed to take care of.

The other story was from somebody who told me that his father, who was a diabetic, died at only fifty three years of age. Being curious, I asked this person: “How was your father’s eating habits?” He said his father was so stubborn when it came to his health; eating and drinking everything that caused his diabetes sickness to worsen – even to the point that he almost became blind when he finally sought medical help. It was too late. As he bowed his head, this person sighed: “My father was a lonely man who sought comfort in eating.” He had the same mentality many people have today, which is also described in the Bible: “Let’s feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die!” See 1. Corinthians 15:32 NLT

What we eat is one of the main factors that determine the condition of our health. If we eat healthy, we will feel a boost of energy, not feeling tired, always sick, and quickly aging, but we stay young, fresh, and good looking, having much to give as a Christian.

Consuming nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated (animal) fats in combination with limited physical activity, leads to being overweight and obese. Obesity and overweight, pose a major risk for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and certain forms of cancer. The health consequences range from increased risk of serious chronic conditions, which reduce the overall quality of life, to premature death. Especially concerning, is the increasing obesity among children and teenagers.

Statistics show, that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight, whereof at least 300 million of them, are clinically obese.

With this in mind, let’s see what the Bible says about this important subject of what do you eat?

In the Old Testament Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we can read how God commanded the Israelites not to eat meat of certain “unclean” animals. He forbade them to not even touch those animals, who are for instance predatory animals who eat the blood of other animals, or scavengers who eat dead animals.

You may not, however, eat the animals named here because they either have split hooves or chew the cud, but not both. The camel may not be eaten, for though it chews the cud, it does not have split hooves. The same is true of the rock badger   and the hare, so they also may never be eaten. And the pig may not be eaten, for though it has split hooves, it does not chew the cud. You may not eat the meat of these animals or touch their dead bodies. They are ceremonially unclean for you. You may not, however, eat marine animals that do not have both fins and scales. You are to detest them, and they will always be forbidden to you. You must never eat their meat or even touch their dead bodies. I repeat, any marine animal that does not have both fins and scales is strictly forbidden to you.

These are the birds you must never eat because they are detestable for you: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, the buzzard, kites of all kinds, ravens of all kinds,  the ostrich, the nighthawk, the seagull, hawks of all kinds, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the pelican, the carrion vulture, the stork, herons of all kinds, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Of the small animals that scurry or creep on the ground, these are unclean for you: the mole, the mouse, the great lizard of all varieties, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the common lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. All these small animals are unclean for you.

Consider detestable any animal that scurries along the ground; such animals may never be eaten. This includes all animals that slither along on their bellies, as well as those with four legs and those with many feet.
Leviticus 11:4-8, 10-19, 29-31, 41-42

Here is the list of animals God allowed the Israelites to eat:

These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Any animal that has split hooves and chews the cud may be eaten,…

As for marine animals, you may eat whatever has both fins and scales.

You may eat any bird that is ceremonially clean. (Edwin’s note: Chicken and turkey for example.)

But you may eat any winged creature that is ceremonially clean.
Deuteronomy 14:3-6, 9, 11, 20 NLT

To be more precise when it comes to the winged creatures, Leviticus 11:20-23 NLT explains it this way:

You are to consider detestable all swarming insects that walk along the ground.  However, there are some exceptions that you may eat. These include insects that jump with their hind legs: locusts of all varieties, crickets, bald locusts, and grasshoppers. All these may be eaten. But you are to consider detestable all other swarming insects that walk or crawl. Leviticus 11:20-23 NLT

These instructions about eating clean and unclean animals were given by God to the people as one of the three categories of law: ceremonial; which the eating of animals pertains to, civil, and moral.

The ceremonial law was specifically related to Israel’s worship to God. The purpose of the ceremonial law was to point forward to Jesus Christ in the New “Covenant” Testament. Therefore, since Jesus’ death and resurrection, these laws, which He fulfilled, were no longer necessary. (See Matthew 5:17) In other words, we are no longer bound by these ceremonial laws of food, but the principles behind them still applies – that we should worship and love God.

Here is a great illustration in the New Testament Book of Acts, where God gave the apostle Peter a vision in a dream concerning the allowing of eating forbidden animals in connection with the Gentiles:

The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the city, Peter went up to the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “Never, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never in all my life eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws.”

The voice spoke again, “If God says something is acceptable, don’t say it isn’t.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was pulled up again to heaven.
Acts 10:9-16 NLT

Because of the food laws, it was very difficult for Jews to eat with Gentiles, who were often seen as “unclean,” and therefore the Jews were running the risk of being defiled themselves. Peter’s vision meant this one thing: that he should not look upon the Gentiles as inferior people whom God would not redeem.

Afterwards, the Gentiles were being taught the following by James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem:

And so my judgment is that we should stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God,  except that we should write to them and tell them to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, and from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” Acts 15:19-21 NLT

The Jews were especially concerned about these four laws, and if the Gentile Christians would abstain from these practices, they would please God and get along better with their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. In those lines, the apostle Paul also wrote the following:

And you are sinning against Christ when you sin against other Christians by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong. If what I eat is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live — for I don’t want to make another Christian stumble. 1. Corinthians 8:12-13 NLT

Other than the instructions in Acts 15:19-21, God made it clear once and for all that all food is acceptable to Him, as well all Gentiles!

Here is more scriptural “proof in the pudding”, that God gave us the freedom to eat all food:

For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. Romans 14:1-4 NLT

You may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace. Don’t ask whether or not it was offered to idols, and then your conscience won’t be bothered. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 1. Corinthians 10:25-26 NLT

Now, the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from what we believe; they will follow lying spirits and teachings that come from demons. These teachers are hypocrites and liars. They pretend to be religious, but their consciences are dead. They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanksgiving by people who know and believe the truth. Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it. We may receive it gladly, with thankful hearts. For we know it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1. Timothy 4:1-5 NLT

So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink,… Colossians 2:16 NLT

So why do you keep on following rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle, don’t eat, don’t touch.” Colossians 2:20 NLT

Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. 1. Corinthians 10:31 NLT

We need to understand, though, that the freedom God gives us is freedom from living in sin and guilt. This freedom is for us to use and enjoy anything that comes from God, and not to abuse it by hurting oneself and others. We know, for instance, that too much drinking leads to alcoholism, and overeating or gluttony leads to obesity with all its harmful consequences for the overall health. Like I indicated at the beginning of this study; consuming nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated (animal) fats causes all sorts of chronic sicknesses that ultimately can kill us. In other words, even though we are free to eat or drink anything, certainly not everything is good and healthy for us.

You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.” But I reply, “Not everything is good for you.” And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” 1. Corinthians 6:12-13 NLT

You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is beneficial. 1. Corinthians 10:23 NLT

Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1. Corinthians 6:18-20 NLT

Because our bodies belong to God, we must not violate His standards for living. That obligates us to take care of our body, which belongs to God, who created us for the purpose of honoring Him.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple. 1. Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT

That is why it is important that we educate ourselves, as we allow God to lead us when it comes to what we put in our bodies, and how to maintain a good physical condition through, for instance, exercising. There is much helpful information out there on the internet, and in stores, on how to have a healthy diet.

Our recommendation would be, to eat in moderate fashion, the type of animals God initially allowed the Jews to eat, found in the list above, with lots of fresh, preferably organic vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Stay away, as much as possible, from the high in fat and calorie junk-food joints, sweets, processed can food, fried foods, soda beverages, caffeine drinks, alcoholic drinks, and smoking.

Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is. 3. John 2 NLT