By Not Known
It was lunchtime. Jesus’ disciples had left him to go and get
food. Meanwhile, he spoke about spiritual matters with a woman who had a
colourful past and who seemed to have now become his follower.
Then the disciples returned with food. Their amazement about his conversation
with the woman soon turned into a rather practical urging: Rabbi, eat
something. Then followed another puzzling remark from Jesus until finally he
came out with a challenging saying: My food is to do the will of him who sent
me and to finish his work (Jn 4:34).
Jesus has some other challenging sayings about food: But here is the bread that
comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living
bread (Jn 6:50-51). Or again: Man does not live by bread alone, but on every
word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4, quoting Dt 8:3).
What is the point of these sayings?
Jesus is not saying that physical food is unimportant or that we don’t need to
eat. He was several times observed going to eat with people and attracted
criticism both for whom he ate with and even for the fact that he enjoyed food
and drink at all (Mk 2:15-16; Mt 11:19).
What Jesus is doing is challenging our sense of priorities. Food is good and
necessary, and all kinds of foods can be enjoyed when received with
thanksgiving to God (1 Tim 4:1-5). However, when food becomes an obsession
we fall into the sad state of those for whom: their god is their stomach (Phil
God, his word and his work are more important than food for the body. Physical
food nourishes the body. God’s word nourishes the soul. Eating food brings a
measure of satisfaction to our body. Doing God’s work satisfies our need for
significance and value.
All this is food for thought in Singapore where eating is a national hobby. Let us
enjoy the food that God provides for our body, but never let it stand in the
place that belongs to God, his word and his work. May God give us such a hunger
for these things in 2004 that they are more satisfying to us than the many fine
meals we will eat.