One of my favorite verses in the Bible has to be, “I have given you every French fry and milk shake on the face of the earth, every double cheeseburger and variety of pizza. This shall be your food to eat.” Ok, well, the Bible doesn’t actually say that, but some of us eat like that is a commandment from God. So, if the Bible doesn’t say that, what then, does it have to say about the food we should eat?
We were created as omnivores. It may sound a little Jurassic Park, but all it means is that God gave us the ability to eat both plants and animals. That being said, the Bible seems to indicate that we physically benefit the most from a diet consisting of less meat and more vegetables (Genesis 1:29, Daniel 1:12-15). After creation instructions about food, came some additional food laws, dietary restrictions that are found largely in the book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy; dietary restrictions that were intended to apply only to the Israelites. The purpose was to make the Israelites distinct from all other nations, but when we move into the New Testament those laws become a choice, not an obligation.
Jesus in the New Testament declared all food to be clean when He said: “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 7:15-16) Other references to our food freedom can be found in (Acts 10:15, Roman 14:1-3)
But clean food doesn’t necessarily mean healthy food when it comes to the diet we should follow on a daily basis. So what’s a Christian eat?
Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone
Perhaps looking at what people ate in Jesus’ day is a good place to gain some perspective. Most people in the late BC early AD time period consumed a plant-based diet. In that part of the world, lentils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dates, nuts and fish were all very popular and very plentiful. For snacks, some, like John the Baptist, even ate grasshoppers and crickets! Don’t worry this isn’t going to be an article listing Fifty Tasty Ways to Eat Crickets, there won’t be any honey roasted cricket recipes, no lightly salted cricket trail mix recommendations, and no instructions on how to make your own cricket jerky (although that might make an interesting cooking show).
Some of the foods that Jesus likely ate would have been olives, figs, grapes, lamb, legumes (like lentils or beans), melons, pomegranates, dates, nuts, raisins, milk, cheese, eggs, and cucumbers. A few foods we know Jesus ate were fish and honey (Luke 24:42), bread and wine (Matthew 26), although the type of wine commonly drunk would have been a less fermented version closer to our grape juice, and figs would also have been an everyday type of food for Jesus (Matthew 28:18-19).
The usual day-to-day foodstuff for that region, in that era, would mean a simple start to the day with a light breakfast of bread or a piece of fruit. At midday, persons in the Holy Land would likely eat a light lunch of bread, grain, olives, and figs. The main meal was eaten at the end of the day and was often a stew where bread was used to spoon the stew. The stew might consist of vegetables, lentils, or chickpeas and ordinarily would be spiced with garlic, leeks, and herbs. Meat was only served occasionally, for example when an important guest was visiting. Among the well to do, lamb or calves were kept for feasts (Luke 15: 23–30).
All You Can Eat
Clearly we live in a different day and age. It is a day and age in which there is an over-abundance of food choices, all you can eat buffets, and microwave ready meals. A day and age where bags of processed foods line the shelves of every grocery store, and where much of our foods come with additives and preservatives, artificial colors and chemically concocted flavors, and our dependence on “convenience foods” contributes to some serious diseases. So with all the modifications and developments to our food is there really such a thing as eating biblically in today’s day and age?
The simple truth is that eating a diet loaded with processed food means we are eating a diet of empty calories, a diet that is not as God intended. It means we are eating foods that are high in sugar, loaded with salt, and filled with fat, all the while providing our bodies with little nutritional value.
Does that mean if we want eat a more biblically based diet we must go to the extreme of clearing out our cupboards and throwing away all our processed foods, vowing never to drink another soda again, banning all cereals from our homes, and burying every individually wrapped cream-filled sponge cake in the back yard? Well, although that might be a bit extreme, you might want to stop and take an inventory of just how much processed food you are eating and make some adjustments! Now, the extent of your processed food cleanse is up to you, but one thing is certain, the less your diet consists of processed foods, the better and more biblical it will be.
You Are What You Eat
Whatever cleansing course of action you decide to take you need to be realistic in your approach to eating a healthier more biblical diet. You need to understand that a diet with fewer processed foods and more whole foods, a diet with less meat and more plant based produce, a diet of moderation and not of overindulgence, a diet that seeks to treat your body as a temple and less like a compost heap of junk food, will lead to a diet more inline with how God intended us to eat.
A realistic approach to eating biblically also needs to recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t go from junk food junkie to steadfast vegetarian in seven days. And while becoming a vegetarian certainly is one option, it isn’t necessary for eating biblically. The Bible doesn’t spell out what our daily diets should be, but it does have an important word of warning regarding how much food we eat. The warning here is against the regular practice of overeating, aka, gluttony. (Proverbs 23:20)
A realistic approach to eating more biblically means that as you begin analyzing your eating habits ask yourself a simple question, why am I eating this? Eating biblically doesn’t happen by chance, it means being purposeful and disciplined. Determine to start being thoughtful and intentional about what you eat and not haphazard and random.
Next, a realistic approach to eating more biblically means you should start incorporating more fresh foods. As a Chef I can add this, fresh food always makes for tastier food and it is better for you too. Now, adding more fresh foods to your daily diet doesn’t mean that you are eliminating all processed foods cold turkey (no pun intended). Whether it is out of convenience or cravings, taste or time, odds are most of us are going to eat of the forbidden processed food tree from time to time, but our goal here should be that these times of processed food clemency should be the exception and not the rule in our regular food regimes. Make it a beginning goal to simply eat more fresh food.
Here’s a tip: I have heard it said that when grocery shopping you should “shop the perimeter” because the center of the store is where the more highly processed foods are located. And that is a good rule of thumb. One additional food shopping guideline I have tried to stick to as often as possible is when purchasing “processed foods” I try to buy only those products with five ingredients or less. The idea here is the more ingredients the more processed and the more words that you need a Chemistry degree to be able to pronounce.
Another realistic approach to eating biblically means you must use wisdom. Be wise when it comes to the food you choose to eat because in so doing you are being a good steward of the body God has given you. The Bible tells us that using wisdom leads to long life (Proverbs 9:11) and eating healthy is a wise decision that can improve your health and thereby extend your life.
Finally let me say this, eating biblically is mostly about choices. It is about finding simple ways to incorporate healthy choices into your current lifestyle and it is about choosing to remember and be motivated by the following, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
A good rule of thumb is to balance your diet in the following way, 50 percent of what you eat should be made up of vegetables, 25 percent nutritious proteins, and 25 percent whole grains (or starchy vegetable). Below is a list containing 45 foods to help you make eat biblically.
Fruits and Nuts: Almonds (Genesis 43:11; Numbers 17:8), Dates (2 Samuel 6:19; 1 Chronicles 16:3), Figs (Nehemiah 13:15; Jeremiah 24:1-3), Grapes (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 23:24), Melons (Numbers 11:5; Isaiah 1:8), Olives (Isaiah 17:6; Micah 6:15), Pistachio’s (Genesis 43:11), Pomegranates (Numbers 20:5; Deuteronomy 8:8), and Raisins (Numbers 6:3; 2 Samuel 6:19).
Vegetables and Legumes: Beans (2 Samuel 17:28; Ezekiel 4:9), Cucumbers (Numbers 11:5), Gourds (2 Kings 4:39), Leeks (Numbers 11:5), Lentils (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 17:28; Ezekiel 4:9), and Onions (Numbers 11:5).
Grains: Barley (Deuteronomy 8:8; Ezekiel 4:9), Bread (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 6:19; 16:1; Mark 8:14), Corn (Matthew 12:1; KJV – refers to “grain” such as wheat or barley), Flour (2 Samuel 17:28; 1 Kings 17:12), Millet (Ezekiel 4:9), Spelt (Ezekiel 4:9), Unleavened Bread (Genesis 19:3; Exodus 12:20), and Wheat (Ezra 6:9; Deuteronomy 8:8).
Fish (Matthew 15:36, John 21:11-13)
Fowl: Partridge (1 Samuel 26:20; Jeremiah 17:11), Pigeon (Genesis 15:9; Leviticus 12:8), Quail (Psalm 105:40), Dove (Leviticus 12:8), and Eggs (Job 6:6; Luke 11:12).
Domestic Livestock: Calf (Proverbs 15:17; Luke 15:23), Goat (Genesis 27:9), Lamb (2 Samuel 12:4), Oxen (1 Kings 19:21), Sheep (Deuteronomy 14:4), and Venison (Genesis 27:7 KJV).
Dairy: Butter (Proverbs 30:33), Cheese (2 Samuel 17:29; Job 10:10), Curds (Isaiah 7:15), and Milk (Exodus 33:3; Job 10:10; Judges 5:25).
Misc.: Grape Juice (Numbers 6:3), Honey (Exodus 33:3; Deuteronomy 8:8; Judges 14:8-9), Locust (Mark 1:6), Olive Oil (Ezra 6:9; Deuteronomy 8:8), and Vinegar (Ruth 2:14; John 19:29).
Mike Lutz is a chef and an author. His recently released daily devotional “God Every Day: 365 Life Application Devotions” is a must read. Mike also has authored the inspirational book “Discovering God’s Will for Your Life: Your Journey with God.” Coming soon from Mike is the biblical thriller “The Armageddon Conspiracy.” For more information visit www.MikeLutz.org.