This morning I read these words in 1 Timothy 4:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 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.” (1 Tim 4.1-5, ESV)
You won’t be reading any exhortations to abstain from foods on this blog. (Gluttony? Now, that’s a different matter.) I realized when I became a father that my parents’ requirement that I always clean my plate was not simply a stewardship issue–wasting food is very poor stewardship–but also a contentment issue. The table is a great place to teach one of the most foundational Christian virtues.
It’s interesting how thanksgiving is connected in Scripture with food. In the garden of Eden, an attitude of unthankfulness was nurtured by Satan and culminated in the eating of the forbidden fruit. In Jesus’ sample prayer, after the initial declaration of worship, the first petition is related to God’s provision of our “daily bread.” If all we had to eat was enough daily bread (remember that stuff called “manna”?) it would be sufficient. But have infinitely more variety and God has allowed us in North America to enjoy far more than we need. In much of the world, when believers pray for their “daily bread” they are dead serious.
But thanks giving is not simply “grace before meals”. It is an attitude of heart that permeates all that we are and do, and its absence is clearly evident. I recently heard an interview with a public school teacher here in Ottawa who was involved in a program for refugee children, and she recalled how shocked she was when one of them thanked her for teaching him a math shortcut. She said, “I’ve been a teacher for many years, and never once did I have a student thank me for teaching him anything.“
I wonder how often God feels the same way.