Since the original forbidden fruit, the history of humanity has been rife with food rules.
Don’t eat this, do eat that. That food is bad, that food is good.
Today’s modern dieter (and most women, regardless of their dieting status) have a deeply-seated conviction that some foods are bad (maybe even evil.)
Popular diet counsel might disagree over which foods are good and which foods are bad, but all of them agree that food is moral and some foods forbidden.
That is frankly unbiblical.
When God gave humanity food, He gave them all the plants and all the animals. In other words, He gave them everything for food.
Later down the road, after a group of Pharisees berate the Savior and His disciples for their eating habits, Jesus replies in a landmark exposition on food:
“Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.”
In this passage, Jesus sets aright the wrong thinking of his day. Food cannot make one clean or unclean. Food is amoral.
Food enters through the mouth and is excreted at the bottom. It is external to the body, not internal to the soul.
Food doesn’t defile us, our hearts do.
In saying this, Jesus clarifies several hundred years of teachings and traditions regarding which foods one can eat and which foods one cannot.
As Mark, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote: “Thus he declared all foods clean.”
Perhaps we might still be able to excuse our attitudes and popular teachings about good foods and bad foods by saying that this is only one passage–and that the original context was about hand washing anyway.
But it’s harder to ignore the apostle Paul’s stunning of indictment of those who follow “deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons”:
“…who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
~I Timothy 4:3-6
Here, Paul not only says that forbidding food is unnecessary, he says that it’s demonic.
That’s right. It’s demonic.
The enemy would have us live in a world of forbidden foods. He would have us concerned about eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones. He would have us plagued with guilt over the food in our cupboards or what we order in a restaurant.
God, on the other hand, created all foods good. Nothing is to be rejected.
God (through the apostle) does not stipulate what we should eat, but how we should eat it.
There is no forbidden food. All food is to be received with thanksgiving.
I know that this is probably one of my most controversial teachings about food. I also know that many will ask about the Old Testament dietary laws–since Scripture certainly contains plenty of food restrictions. I plan to address those next week, explaining how the Old Testament dietary laws have been fulfilled in Christ–and are not binding on the New Testament believer (either as a command or as a suggestion of what to eat and what not to eat).