Confession time. On rare occasions (not to exceed once a month—other than around Christmas), this cut-the-grass-with-a-hand-pushed-reel-lawnmower workout warrior likes to swipe his way through the colorful confines of his wife’s Pinterest boards. I admit it; this social media powerhouse pulls me in. I’m a sucker for her jam-packed collections with such innocuous names as “Breakfast,” “Dinner,” and “Dessert.”
Those titles hardly do them justice. That’s because my wife’s mouth-watering online discoveries get my taste buds firing as I skim through beef barley skillet and peanut butter banana bread and French toast casserole. If she’s discovered it, that means we’ll be eating it soon. And with each tap, I can already taste the chocolate cheesecake, rosemary sweet potato fries, and ranch chicken pizza.
If you didn’t catch that . . . we like food.
Whether it’s Japanese hibachi or Thai noodles or Swedish meatballs, our culinary explorations take us around the world without leaving our dining room. She and I slice and chop and sizzle and julienne and grind with assorted gizmos and gadgets we’ve collected over the years. You could say we’re fans of God’s invitation to Adam and Eve to go out and enjoy the food He caused to grow (see Genesis 1:29 and 2:9) and Nehemiah’s suggestion that God’s people celebrate His goodness with feasts of choice food (Nehemiah 8:10).
Food is an intentional God-given “witness” to remind human beings daily about the Creator’s goodness.
As Christians, we don’t see food preparation as a “necessary evil” or an end in itself. (Paul warned about foodies “whose god is their belly,” Philippians 3:19; but he also says, “God . . . gives us richly all things to enjoy,” 1 Timothy 6:17.) We see food as something special, an intentional God-given “witness” to remind human beings daily about the Creator’s goodness.
How does food do that? For starters, it tastes so good! Seriously. On the one hand, God glories in the fact that He is the one who puts food on our tables (Psalm 104:14, 145:15) and gives us our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). But He does so much more—He brings the spice to our dinner plates.
We see God’s goodness not just in how He provides the
food we need; food is meant for our pleasure, and God in His
creativity gave us a great variety of genuinely tasty delights.
When the apostle Paul preached to Greeks in Lystra (known
to be lovers of good food and drink), notice what he said:
[God] did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did
good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling
our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17, italics added).
Food for Thought
Food appears throughout the Bible, but not as an incidental detail. The Creator intentionally inserted “food” verses to unpack a beautiful message about His ultimate purpose for us and creation. (And it’s not to merely fill our bellies!)
The Lord calls our attention to a delicious truth, which far surpasses our greatest pleasures, as chocolate cake surpasses unsalted crackers. But you must pay close attention.
Food in the Bible develops three themes that point to one purpose.
Mankind had a key role in cultivating plants for food from the beginning.
And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.” Genesis 1:29
After Adam sinned, God made it more difficult to grow food, giving us a physical reminder of our need to listen to His Word.
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have . . . eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground for your sake. . . . In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” Genesis 3:17–19
The Lord showed by His provision for His chosen people that He has a future plan to provide all our needs, both physical and spiritual.
So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.Exodus 3:8
Even in their wandering God sustained His people.
Manna’s taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.Numbers 11:8–9
Jesus reminds us of God’s care and provision for all of creation, and points us to something greater.
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?Matthew 6:26
As God’s people shared the Passover feast, the Lord wanted them to reflect on His ongoing provision. Notice that Christ later gave new significance to the bread and wine at the Last Supper.
This day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.Exodus 12:14
Amazingly, God fellowships with people!
The nobles of the children of Israel . . . saw God, and they ate and drank.Exodus 24:11
Food served a higher purpose than daily survival. God wanted all His people to give the best of their food to Him and then enjoy eating it in His presence.
You must eat them [special offerings of food, such as the tithe] before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses.Deuteronomy 12:18
Christ takes bread and wine and links them forever as a reminder of His sacrifice.
And they prepared the Passover. . . . And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:13–19
God wanted people to desire food that doesn’t perish.
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.Deuteronomy 8:3
Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
God designed food as a physical reminder of our deeper spiritual need to seek food that meets our eternal spiritual needs. Jesus Christ, the Creator who gave us food in the beginning, presented Himself to humanity as the “bread of life.” (John 6)
Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life. . . . Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. . . . I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”John 6:27, 32–33, 35
“O taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”Psalm 34:8
Time to Eat!
Mealtime is special in every culture. God
designed it as a regular time for people
to gather together, enjoy each other’s
company, and thank their Maker for His
provision. The diversity of dishes reflects
the rich diversity of people with whom God
filled the earth. No wonder the Bible says
He gave us food as a “
witness . . . filling our
hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
Our food could have been a bland, monotonous necessity, like the tube food that NASA forced on early astronauts. We’d get a tasteless white tube of vitamins and basic nutrients we need to survive, but we wouldn’t enjoy it. Instead, we foodies can rejoice. The Creator chose to sustain us with a cornucopia of delights that thrill us with each bite of ripe mango or sip of Sumatran coffee. Every time we sink our teeth into Parmesan crusted chicken or rich chocolate mousse, we have a good reason to stop and enjoy pleasant thoughts about the kind of heavenly Father who planned this wonderful spread for us.
In other words, every single day there’s ample evidence of God’s abundant care and love for us. And it’s as close as your pantry. When you look at how God designed this world and our role in meeting our culinary needs, you’ll “taste and see that the Lord is good” in a whole new way (no offense meant to what the psalmist said in Psalm 34:8).
Our Creator is a great provider—one look in the supermarket produce section proves as much. But that’s just the basic recipe. To fully appreciate His handiwork and provision, we need to put on our aprons or chefs’ hats, as creatures made in His image, and use our God-given talents to imagine and invent an infinite variety of new combinations to please our palates. All it takes is something we take for granted: food prep.
Ready? Grab your forks, and let’s dig in.
A Virtuous Cycle
Making food isn’t easy. I’m not talking about putting together ingredients from your refrigerator to make a BLT. I’m not even talking about whipping up a perfect lemon meringue. I’m talking about growing and gathering the ingredients in the first place. Farmers work hard to plant and cultivate crops, but that’s not the beginning. In our post-agrarian society, we take for granted the complex natural cycles and biological systems that cause seeds to sprout, shoots to spring up, and fruits to fill out.
Whether people give God credit or not, He faithfully keeps the cycle of sun and rain going (Matthew 5:45). Those waving fields of barley and pungent apple orchards serve as continual reminders of our Creator’s care. He designed the water cycle to drop rain on our vegetable gardens and the sun to send just the right type of light for plants to convert energy into food. Bees obey their God-given mission to zip in and pollinate our blueberry bushes and peach trees, and then return to make tasty honey. God designed all these delight-producing systems in the beginning.
All around you, God’s “food factory” churns day and night. Season after season, year after year, we’re seeing God’s kindness in all that He provides. Yet this is not all it reminds us of. He gave us the privilege of participating, too. Humans are overseers, or stewards, of His creation. God devised our work—tending the garden—from the beginning as an integral thread in His original design. He intended human beings to bring new and enjoyable combinations out of His original raw resources, just as He planted a beautiful garden east of Eden filled with every tree that is “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9).
In other words, God gave us the raw goods to make peach cobbler and tacos, but producing Sunday night’s feast out of stone fruit or black beans requires using our God-given noggin noodles to make magic happen.
Because of the Curse in Genesis 3, we sweat when we work (and suffer blisters and calluses and backaches), but the work itself is a blessing, and the “toil” is a valuable reminder of our dependence on God (Ecclesiastes 5:18–19). Many people barely scratch out an existence, but except in the direst of circumstances, even they find ways to add variety to their simple food with wild onions, garlic, and other spices freely available everywhere. All aspects of food preparation, down to laboring in the fields, should truly fill every heart with joy.
How Sweet It Is
We also need to realize that we didn’t invent the rich and varied flavors on our table. God did. Think about it. He gave us specialized tongues and palates to detect all these flavors so our food would taste incredible. He came up with the range of flavors and gave us the tools to experience them.
Enjoying food really matters to Him, it seems! After all, Jesus Christ designed the human body and then became human. He will remain human forever and feast with us throughout eternity, including the twelve fruits mentioned in Revelation 22:2; so He really wanted to enjoy His meals, too!
Consider all the times food comes into play in the Gospels, from Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand to the three occasions He ate after the Resurrection, including the broiled fish and honeycomb the disciples gave Him (Luke 24:42) and His decision to grill fish and bake bread for the disciples at the seashore (John 21:9). His fellowship with His followers often involved food. In fact, Jesus describes our gathering in heaven as a wedding feast—not just a plain meal of boiled wheat, but a full-fledged, prepared banquet.
Even just thinking about shepherd’s pie or sweet cherries or a cheese omelet can get you watching the clock in anticipation of lunch. That’s because God intended us to enjoy the produce He produced and the infinite variety of ways we can serve it.
Want further proof? Just open up and say, “Ah!” Right there on your tongue, you’ll find a conglomeration of thousands of pieces of evidence that God cares about you having a mouthful of yum. Those small structures, called papillae (puh-PILL-ee) contain taste buds where your taste receptor cells live. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, looking something like a coral reef under the microscope. Each receptor helps you enjoy different tastes.
Behind those receptors is a nervous system that processes this medley of information and makes sure we extract every ounce of pleasure possible from each morsel.
We could get into all the anatomy, but that’s the subject of another article (see p. 24). Just consider the highlights. When that delicious salmon enters your mouth, more than just the taste receptors jump into action. Special glands secrete saliva to help break your food up into tiny molecules so your taste buds can detect them.
Wait. What? The food itself is designed with tiny “flavor” molecules that your mouth was designed to distinguish as flavor, such as sweet, bitter, and umami (savory)!
This whole system of lock-and-key taste molecules and receptors had to be planned from the start. Without these elaborate systems in place, we wouldn’t taste anything. And without a sophisticated brain to keep all these flavors straight, your salt-and-vinegar chips might taste like soap.
Any description of how your body preps the food and then savors the flavor doesn’t do our Creator justice. But even a basic picture shows that God went to incredible lengths to make sure you enjoyed that ham-on-rye sandwich and sweet corn.
A World Full of Flavor
So far we’ve talked about God’s design to bring flavors to our kitchens (natural cycles and human labor), and our bodies’ design to enjoy them (taste buds). But why do we have so many tasty foods in the first place? That’s a gift from God, too.
When I was a kid, I had no love for apples. I’d eat them, but given the choice between green Granny Smith and Red Delicious, I’d rather just pick applesauce. One soured my stomach, and the other had skin that reminded me of plastic. When I got older, though, I had several eureka moments in the form of Fuji apples . . . and Pink Lady . . . and Honeycrisp.
In my youth I somehow missed that other types existed. Talented agriculturalists have mixed and matched apple varieties over the past decades and keep coming up with new (and so much better, in my opinion) variations, though the potential for this variety has always been there, locked inside that crispy, sweet apple-kind DNA. I came to love the crunchy varieties, and now they’re a staple of our kitchen.
And the eureka moments have kept coming. Purple potatoes, chia seeds, spaghetti squash, white carrots, lingonberry juice—the natural variety of fruits and vegetables continually astounds me. When God spoke the plants into being during Creation Week, He put information within their DNA so that over the next 6,000 years, our world would blossom with their wide-ranging fruits. If you don’t like one, you can pick another.
Such variety reminds us that our Creator loves a veritable smorgasbord of flavors, just like we do. He’s not boring! He made every person different and cultures different. He made our palates different, and He provided an infinite variety of options for us to explore.
The ability of each kind of plant and animal to produce so many varieties has ensured that this world is a rich and varied place. That even extends to human cultures, which are in large measure built upon the local foods they can grow. Asians—whose life revolves around seasonal typhoons and flooded fields—enjoy rice, while Latin Americans—who live in the relatively dry, temperate zone—love maize and beans. People living in South America’s cold Andes Mountains feast on cassava, while people living in the sweltering, nutrient-poor jungles of Papua New Guinea thrive on taro.
Today, with our efficient transportation network, we can pick and choose from all these options and create new combinations never dreamed of before. The potential remains unlimited, literally. The Creator knew this ahead of time and planned for it. Like a Father who already knows all the possibilities in the kitchen, He laid out the tools and ingredients and waited to see what His children would do with them.
God didn’t just create different kinds of food; He created incredible variety within the same kinds. And this variety is much greater than you might realize. Take the cruciferous family. (They get this unusual name from the flowers of these plants, which have four petals that look like a crucifix or cross.) You’re probably familiar with one of the most popular vegetables in this family, broccoli, which finds its way into soups and casseroles at your church potluck dinner (and is quite tasty roasted with some olive oil, salt, and pepper). But did you know cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, collard greens, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and watercress belong in the same family?
This wide collection of vegetables is commonly known as the cabbage family. If you don’t like one variety, perhaps you’ll enjoy the other—and each one offers similar health benefits. God was looking out for those picky kids who never grew up!
Setting the Table
The next time you push back in your chair from a delicious meal and sigh in satisfaction, take time to remember just what goes into making that gumbo or Cobb salad so good to eat.
If you ever doubt that our God is good, let the savory flavor of food remind you of how much He truly loves and lavishes His goodness on all of us.
Then when you find yourself on Pinterest pinning that baked salmon or sharing a cinnamon roll recipe, remember that food is more than just a tasty part of life; it can be a platform to share the truth about our great heavenly Father. God gave food as a “witness” to people of every tribe and tongue, and every status of life. We all must eat; we all must prepare food. That means that every person on the planet already knows about His gracious character.
Taste [and share!] that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:3).
Amazing Variation Within the Simple Black Bean
The options on the Creator’s menu are mindboggling in their diversity. From almonds to zucchini, their color, texture, and taste cover the spectrum. But what about something as plain as a black bean? If you consider the delicious applications of this lowly legume, it will remind you that God’s full plate is astonishing not just by its variety of foods, but by the potential variation we can produce from each food, if we just use our imagination. Food isn’t boring!
Since you can turn black beans into flour, you can make just about anything with them, including pasta (top left).
Burgers and beef usually go hand in hand, but this all-black-bean burger is fantasic on a toasted bun (top right).
With their great flavor and protein, black beans are a popular addition to fresh salsa (center).
Black beans effectively replace flour in this rich, moist, and gluten-free spin on chocolate cake (bottom left).
Sneak in a healthy touch to your brownies with smashed up black beans. They are fudgy, chocolaty, and equally delicious (bottom right).