“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
I try to be nice to people. At my jobs, I try to be (and am, mostly) genuinely happy to be there, and I want whoever I am assisting to have a pleasant experience. It’s just nice. Plus, if someone decides to get under my skin, I try to remember that in the grand scheme of things, I’m not working for my fellow man, but for God. No, answering phones and seating masses of hungry church crowds may not seem like divinely ordained work, but I think it could be. After all, I’m going out of my way to be super nice and my smiling face might help somebody out. Maybe.
However, in the midst of my day to day routine, I have often concentrated “working for the Lord” to my physical jobs and contact with other human beings. In reality, “working” for God can be something as simple as paying close attention to what I eat. For me, this moment came during a spring break missions trip, which included serving at the Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, North Carolina. In addition to working in the garden and at a local church camp, our group also learned the importance of eating as a Christian witness. What we eat can easily function as form of witnessing for Christ, just like other forms of service can as well.
One of the subjects touched upon during our many discussions was the treatment of animals on the farms of high profile meat producers. In all honesty, I’m not exactly the poster child for animal rights activism. The last thing on my mind when I’m eating chicken is what farm it came from or how it was treated. I’m not that compassionate when I’m hungry, I’m just hungry. That is all. However, when one of our guests stated that every time we eat food, especially meat, we as Christians must understand that one of God’s creatures had to die in order to prepare what we are eating.
When food, paticularly meat, was put in that context, the purpose of Christian eating became clearer. As a Christian, if/when you’re going to eat, be mindful of what you are eating. In order to accomplish this in my personal life, I have adopted an identity as a flexitarian, which is fancy talk for lazy vegetarianism. I haven’t totally eliminated meat from my diet, I like it too much. Instead, I choose to refrain from pork and beef, eating only poultry and occiasonally shrimp. On the other hand, if steak is in the equation, it’s not to say I won’t bend a little (or a lot).
Though abstaining from certain types of foods, such as meat, doesn’t make me a better Christian (see Romans 14), I think it does help me put my food in a better faith-based perspective. However, flexitarianism/vegetarianism isn’t for everyone.
If you’re interested in putting your food in a more Christian light, try this:
- Buy food from a local organization, especially those that help others, such as Quest Farm for my Kentucky friends (www.questfarm.org).
- Support your local farmer’s market. Not only do you help out the community, but the produce is fresh. (See www.kyagr.com/marketing/farmmarket/index.htm for your local market in Kentucky)
- Share a meal with somebody. Nothing says “I care about you” more than sharing a meal. Plus, you’ll make friends in the process. Read Mudhouse Sabbath (Paraclete Press) by Lauren Winner for great examples of being hospitable as a Christian and the act of choosing “fitting foods.”
Though I am still working on becoming more focused on my food choices, I believe that eating is a critical part of my Christian faith.
No matter if you choose to reduce certain types of food in your diet or simply pay more attention to what you eat and where it came from, eating can be a deeply Christian act that impacts not only your health and spiritual life, but those around you. Though I am still working on working, using food as ministry seems like a nice way to labor for the Lord.