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The Spiritual Significance of Eating
Eating Motifs in the Bible
The Spiritual Significance of Eating is a book by Margaret Minnicks that traces the biblical eating motifs from the garden scene in Genesis to the feeding narratives in the Gospels to the culminating activity of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Revelation.
Eating occurs throughout the Bible. Relationships in the Old Testament were affirmed by breaking bread together. Treaties were sealed with meals. The covenant with God was reaffirmed by ritual feasts. In fact, the word for "covenant" possibly had its origin in the Hebrew word for eating that occurs 810 times in the Old Testament Hebrew and nine times in Aramaic.
Usually eating refers to the physical consumption of food, but often eating is used metaphorically to mean being filled with spiritual knowledge.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6) The blessing of satisfaction is pronounced on all who have a passion for righteousness. This hunger can be satisfied for those who feast on Jesus Christ.
Sharing Food: A New Testament Theme
The sharing of food is a central theme in the New Testament. In the gospels, eating together is a symbol of unity, especially in Luke's gospel where eating is mentioned 31 times. Mark mentions eating 26 times. Matthew mentions eating 20 times. John mentions eating 14 times. Eating is a central theological issue and is mentioned 22 times in I Corinthians. Eating in all those places is there for a reason.
We must desire Jesus as we desire meat and drink. Hunger and thirst are appetites that return often and call for fresh satisfaction which requires daily portions of God's grace. The hungry soul searches for constant meals of righteousness as the body craves physical food. God promised to "satisfy those who are thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
The hungry soul searches for constant meals of righteousness as the body craves physical food.
Sharing Food: A Bridge Between Strangers
The activity of sharing food becomes a bridge between strangers, reduces hostility, strengthens family ties, and brings peace to confused situations.
I remember my first job as an English teacher after having just graduated from college in 1968. I had learned to teach, but I had not learned how to discipline the students. There was a disruptive student who helped me test my call to the teaching profession. She disturbed my class, and in my mind, she did everything she possibly could to make my life miserable.
Just when I was on the verge of reconsidering my profession, a friend suggested that I invite the student to dinner. I don't remember what we ate or even what we talked about, but I do know we bonded while eating together that Sunday afternoon. The student and I became good friends, and our relationship lasted long after that ninth grade English class was over.
Eating Together Draws People Together
Eating together results in people being drawn together. The primary bonding power of food and the most intimate Christian experience as a community is seen in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, a meal that has become a symbol of unity in faith.
The power of God's love is often shared as we break bread daily and as we eat together during festive times. Celebrations of rituals are ways the stories of faith are passed on. The early church in the Book of Acts kept the story of Jesus alive as "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42)
Breaking Bread Binds People Together
Breaking bread together binds people together. It is a time for covenant renewal and family bonding. Families who do not break bread together often become broken families. The common meal allows opportunities for family members to check in with one another, to tell their stories, to pray together, and to celebrate.
One of the first signs that a family might be drifting apart is the infrequency of family members eating together at the same table or celebrating traditional rituals and holidays together.
Take inventory to find out what is going on if members of your own family constantly make excuses for not eating together.
The need to eat is one of the few things that everybody has in common.
People Who Eat Together Bond
Have you noticed the bonding power of hostages with those who hold them in captivity after they share a common meal? Usually a bond is made soon after they eat together. Could it be that is the reason the hostage negotiator is so willing to grant the request for food?
Think for a moment and answer the question, "What does every human being have in common?" The answer is that we all have to eat in order to live. What do all Christians have in common? Jesus commanded us all to eat his body and drink the cup and do so in remembrance of Him.
Eating is one of the few activities of life that every human being has in common. Hidden within an invitation to eat with someone is the message that says, "I like you." "I care enough about you to share my meal with you." or "I want to bond with you in some way."
Those with whom you dine will not necessarily express those words, but the message is quite clear that when we break bread together and table fellowship, barriers of all kinds disappear and bonds are made.
When you invite someone to have a meal with you, you communicate a need to belong, at least for the duration of the meal.
How often do you sit at the table and eat with your family?
Sharing a Common Meal
People are social beings and like to belong. When we share a common meal we symbolically demonstrate the spiritual truth that we are most complete when we are together. In essence, an invitation communicates a need to belong, at least for the duration of the meal.
Eating as a universal daily requirement becomes a medium for social relationships that creates and maintains community. When we come together to eat in table fellowship, we come together to feast not only with one another but with God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift . . . including food.
(From The Spiritual Significance of Eating, Minnicks, pp.1-4).
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