The Gospel According to IKEA

The best part of the meal is the conversation.

If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds are about ten to one that sentence was written by a woman. Maybe it was my wife.

Men do not think that way, especially when staring down a 400 grblackened rib eye, a great salad and a baked potato with a leathery, golden skin and a fluffy interior oozing with melted butter and topped with coarse, freshly ground black pepper.

A man thinks like this: “The best thing about the meal is…the meal.” It’s that simple.

When our children were young, they could make groceries disappear so fast it was frightening. Supper was like the gruel scene from Oliver!  So on the rare occasions when our budget allowed Donna and me to go out to eat, we enjoyed it. But if I had a dollar for every time she said, “Honey, talk to me–people will think we’re angry at each other!”, I’d have enough to take her out for a really good steak. My idiotic response to this plea was usually something like, “You know what? I don’t really care what people think. I just paid a wad of cash for a hot meal, so I’m gonna eat it while it’s hot. We can talk over dessert.” What a fool I was.

Actually, the opening sentence of this post comes right out of the new IKEA catalog. Even so, I have a sneaking suspicion Jesus would have agreed with it.

Luke tells us that Jesus railed against the Pharisees because, unlike John the Baptizer (whom they criticized for fasting or eating bugs and honey), “the Son of Man [came] eating and drinking.” (Luk 7.34) On many occasions Jesus was accused of keeping company with the wrong kind of people, and it was usually when he was enjoying meals with them. Jesus understood the intimate nature of a shared meal. He had a sense of occasion. This is the premise of Tim Chester’s book, A Meal With Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table, which resonated with me when I read it about a month ago. Though I can’t swallow everything the author says, I commend his book to you. As my father has always said about reading critically, “Chew and spit.”

The Apostle Paul tells the Roman believers, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Rom 12.13  ESV) Showing hospitality is important not simply because it helps to meet the needs of others, but because it provides an entrée into their lives. A meal is an equalizer–culturally, economically, socially. It puts people at ease. People around a table talk about things they might not discuss in other circumstances, and with people they might not have otherwise met.

I’ve had to reset my thinking about that “best part of the meal” thing. I have to admit now that I agree with IKEA. But I especially agree with Jesus and Paul. And my wfie. At our house, we’ve come to realize that the best lectern is a table full of food.

And we bought our table at IKEA.

The top three images are of part of a meal my wife made for our dear friends, James and Beate Evans, last summer. The bottom one is of the mango torte they brought from La Provence, a great French patisserie here in the west end of Ottawa. And this table actually came from The Home Depot…


6 thoughts on “The Gospel According to IKEA”

  1. What a feast! That meal doesn’t just say, “I want to hang out with you.” It says, “Let’s celebrate the Giver of life!” Preparing a meal like that is a very good work that appropriately adorns the gospel. An artful meal seems like a worthy reminder that all God’s works are to be wondered at–especially His new creation in the heart of man. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks for that insightful observation, Chris. What you say is true. We find also that very simple fare–hearty homemade soup, fresh home baked bread with good cheese, good coffee and a simple dessert or fruit can be just as appreciated as something a bit more extravagant. Even how one sets the table and presents simple food speaks to the guests of one’s regard for them. When we pray before a meal, we also acknowledge that every meal is a gift from God, on Whom we are dependent for everything. We tend to hold hands rather than fold hands, and we say that this is because it helps to make us “like family” and also joke that it’s so people don’t start to eat before it’s time! The corollary of this is that enjoying other people’s food, even when it’s completely new and different, is a sure way to express one’s regard for them and willingness to know and understand them. (It’s also an enriching and delicious way to live.) Thanks again for your thoughts and encouraging words.

  2. Rob, this was a really good post, thoughtfully written, and the points beautifully accentuated with photos! It is chock-full of truth! The old adage–The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach–is very applicable to your subject matter.

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