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Food Pharisees and Idol-Making Diets?

  • John UpChurch What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2013 Jul 19

Food fads and diet plans are big business these days, even in the Christian market. From eating like Adam and Eve to the ethics of genetically modified foods, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by what you should be dining on. After all, the barrage of studies warning about what foods or additives cause [insert disease] can make you afraid of your own pantry.

But what about God? Does He care what we eat? That’s the topic that blogger and pastor Stephen Altrogge recently addressed. In fact, he worries that these dieting crazes may be creating food Pharisees:

But does the Bible tell us what to eat? Does God have a divinely inspired diet plan we should all be following? Are some foods more spiritual than others? I don’t think so. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite [in Mark 7:18-23]….

Jesus’ point is that food in and of itself is not spiritual. It goes in the mouth and comes out the other end. Eating a particular food does not make us more or less spiritual. Vegetables are not more godly than meat. Organic is not more godly than processed. Oreos and Cheez-Whiz are just as holy as homegrown basil. An Eden diet is not more pleasing to God than a Paleo diet or South Beach diet. All foods are clean and can be eaten and enjoyed.

Why does this even matter? Do I care if you are on The Eden Diet or The Daniel Diet or The Maker’s Diet? Nope, not one bit. If a particular diet helps you lose weight, great! But, we Christians have a tendency to moralize our preferences and create artificial spirituality. If we say that God wants us to eat a particular food group we are on the verge of creating spiritual cliques in the church. The most godly people follow a particular diet, the less godly people eat processed food. A diet can become a stumbling block to the gospel and a source of spiritual elitism.

Lindsey Carlson in an article on iBelieve pushes this discussion further. She believes that our obsession with healthy foods and diets can even lead us to a form of idolatry:

Have you ever thought that as you’re eating pesticide-free, chemical-free, dye-free, calorie-free, fat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, or carb-free, you may also be eating Jesus-free?

I can nail my calorie intake day in and day out, exercise three to five times a week, and keep of food journal and still be more in bondage than ever before.

Instead of dreaming of Belgian waffles, maybe it’s greek yogurt and granola I long for. Instead of wondering what I’ll eat next, I think about how my lunch calories changed my dinner plans. I go hungry for the better part of the week to bank calories for a weekend out with my husband. I over-exercise to free up calories….

Not all healthy eating is idolatry. You may be naturally health-conscious; watching your weight, eating the right number of fruits and veggies and limiting carbs may be second nature to you. But if you are living a life consumed by crazed calorie counting, mealtime manipulation, and weigh-in worries, you are most likely staring into the face of your idol.

What’s your take? Are Christians too focused on particular diet plans and foods?