No one would deny the importance of food for physical well-being, but how often do we neglect to recognize the significance of food in terms of our spiritual well-being? A close examination of food in the Scriptures reveals that God has given us food not only for our bodily nourishment, but for our spiritual nourishment as well.
Food itself is not spiritual, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 8:8, but the act of sharing meals does play a role in spiritual growth - especially fellowship. Meals are noted for spiritual significance from the very beginning of the Bible. The Garden of Eden is depicted as a paradise not only because of its beauty, but also because of its endless food supply. God's one rule for man pertained to food, and man's failure to obey that rule had physical and spiritual consequences. Esau gave up his birthright in exchange for one meal, which also led to spiritual consequences as his brother, Jacob, became a Patriarch in his place. Joseph's power in Egypt revolved around his authority to control the food supply, which led to an encounter of spiritual significance with his wicked brothers. In each case, the significance of food proved to go far beyond the physical element alone.
In dealing with the Hebrews, God continually emphasized food in connection with His providence and promises. He instituted the Passover meal to mark their deliverance from bondage and fed them manna in the desert on their way to a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. The law He gave them detailed which foods they could and could not eat as well as dietary restrictions during certain periods. Fasting - the act of abstaining from food - was often practiced by faithful men for spiritual enlightenment. In the Psalms, David praised God for preparing a feast in the presence of his enemies.
While on earth, Jesus constantly emphasized the spiritual impact of food. His first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. He later fed the multitude of 5,000 with another food-related miracle. In the parable of the prodigal son, He cited a feast with a fatted calf as the celebratory event upon the son's return home. In several other parables, He used food images such as seeds, sowing, working in fields, attending banquets, and storing grain to communicate a spiritual message. At the end of His earthly life, He shared a meal with His disciples in which He used bread and wine as symbols for His own body and blood, and He broke bread with those He encountered immediately after His resurrection.
In nearly every case, the spiritual significance of food is directly linked to fellowship. Partaking in meals together promotes unity, friendship, and celebration. Following Pentecost, the faithful were "continuing stedfastly in the teaching of the apostles, and the fellowship, and the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42)." Eating together was one of four foundational practices they engaged in on a regular basis for spiritual growth. Is it any wonder God has planned the marriage supper of the Lamb as a grand future event?
Understanding the spiritual relevance of food and its relation to fellowship directly impacts our daily lives. God has given us food not only as a means of sustenance, but as a tool to strengthen unity and friendship. There is no better place to gather than around a table for a shared meal. Whenever possible, families should eat together. As often as friends are able, they should share meals. We should take advantage of our Father's wonderful gift of food for its physical and spiritual benefits as we fellowship with one another in unity and love.
© 2012 by Stephen Hill