Monthly Archives: October 2014

Consume Only What’s Nourishing

Blind Faith (No. 41, 2014)
Weekly Devotional for October 30, 2014
Consume Only What’s Nourishing

The gastronomic gala that begins with Trick or Treat, swells
like a tsunami at Thanksgiving, Dances with sugar plums and party goodies
and restaurant gift cards at Christmas, and surges into super bowls of chips
and dip in early February is upon us! Hints for more healthy eating abound,
but the temptation to gorge on what nutritionally barely passes for food is
pervasive. The persistent question for the season is: Why do we eat all that
stuff that either by quantity or by various qualities is so bad for us?

An extreme example of gustatory folly occurred at a contest in
Oregon in which a dubious record bit the dust. In this case, however, the
record bit the pepper. The “Great Balls of Fire” contest is held annually at
Salvador Molly’s Caribbean restaurant in Portland, Oregon. It is a
fund-raising event for Oregon Heat, a non-profit organization for “helping
low-income Oregonians meet their energy needs.” The challenge is to see how
many cheese and Habanero pepper fritters contestants can eat. (Habanero
peppers are among the hottest peppers in the world, 10 times hotter than the
spiciest jalapenos.) The restaurant offers the fritters (something like a
hush puppy) on their regular menu. If patrons can eat an order consisting of
5 Balls of Fire, the eater’s photograph gets displayed on the restaurant
wall. Very few pictures have been posted. For the first time ever Michael
Schoenheit, a 25 year-old student, was a repeat winner. He ate 51 of the
atomic appetizers. The previous year he ate 26 of the fiery concoctions,
then curled up in profuse sweat and gastric pain. For the assault on his own
record he used the “Roman method,” disgorging the inferno before it
cauterized his stomach. Sadly for Michael, the record is sanctioned neither
by the Guinness Book of World Records nor the IFCE (International Federation
of Competitive Eating).

You have to wonder how anyone would choose to ingest such a quantity of what
only pretends to be real food. And consider the painful aftereffects of
consuming it! But you don’t have to be on the competitive eating circuit to
be painfully familiar with the behavior of consuming stuff that does not
truly nourish and is likely to subject you to distressing consequences.
Even with a noble motivation of a good cause like Oregon Heat inviting our
participation, too often we see something tantalizing, maybe a little
dangerous or exciting, perhaps appealing to more primal hungers or lusts and
take it in. Foods, pastimes, media, scurrilous conversations, and a host of
other dishes we literally and figuratively lap from our plates daily. The
result may be momentary feelings of fullness or contentment, but suffering
and emptiness too often are the final outcome. The genuine hunger for
authentic nourishment of our lives is unmet.

Isaiah the Prophet observed similar behavior in the 8th century
B.C. God spoke through Isaiah to call his people from their empty affluence
and their abandonment of the paths of faith. The word from God was, “Is
anyone thirsty? Come and drink–even if you have no money! Come, take your
choice of wine or milk–it’s all free! {2} Why spend your money on food that
does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen,
and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!” (Isaiah
55:1-2 NLT) in Isaiah’s day, commercial success, national political
alliances, and worship that deteriorated into vapid ritual failed to satisfy
the perpetual human hunger for security and meaning, just as such pursuits
fail today. But God invites his people to seek a more fulfilling way: “Come
to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at
stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you.” (Isaiah 55:3
NLT) Isaiah then offers them God’s special entrée: “Seek the LORD while you
can find him. Call on him now while he is near. {7} Let the people turn from
their wicked deeds. Let them banish from their minds the very thought of
doing wrong! Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes,
turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7 NLT)

Jesus knew that the same temptation to gorge our lives
unproductively constantly assaults us. He addressed the way to healthful
living: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s
food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” (Matthew 5:6, MSG)
Physical hunger was an appetite Jesus met for a crowd of over 5,000, giving
thanks for the 5 loaves and 2 fish. The crowd wanted as many fish sandwiches
as they could get. Jesus, however, knew the diet they really needed. He told
the misguided dinner crowd:

“I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw
miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. {27} do
not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his
seal of approval. . . . {32}And now [my Father] offers you the true bread
from heaven. {33} the true bread of God is the one who comes down from
heaven and gives life to the world.” {34} “Sir,” they said, “give us that
bread every day of our lives.” {35} Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life.
No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me
will never thirst.” (John 6:26-27, 32-35 NIV)

Neither eating a well-balanced diet literally, nor ingesting any variety of
“gut bombs” into our lives figuratively will bring us true fulfillment.
Jesus invites us to take him into our lives – as completely as we do in
eating his symbolic body and blood at Communion – so that he is fully part
of us and we are nourished by his presence. Wonder Bread may “build bodies 7
ways,” but Jesus, the Bread of Life, builds lives for all eternity.

Are you enticed by the gimmicks and flashy promises of events,
habits, and daily diet of things that can fill your life only briefly and
sometimes destructively? Getting caught up in the competitive consumption
contest can sound exciting – for awhile. But why spend yourself taking in
things that do not satisfy? Think how you can incorporate more of Jesus into
your daily diet. (And stay away from those Habanero cheese fritters –
literally and figuratively!)

J. Edward Culpepper

J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.
Huntsville, Alabama

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