Why Food?
(A Christian-Agrarian Perspective)



Dateline: 30 June 2012



The book of Genesis tells us that God created our world and all that is in it by the power of His word. Which is to say, He spoke it into existence. Frankly, I do not fully comprehend the totality of God’s omnipotence; His utter sovereignty; the intricate orchestrations of His divine providence. My shortcomings in this regard are, I believe, due to the intentional limitations God put on my human brain (yours too).

Nevertheless, by faith, I am open to enormous possibilities. For example, I think that God, if He so chose, could have created mankind to subsist without the need for food. He could have altered our physiology so that we lived and grew only by drinking water and getting a periodic dose of sunshine. Imagine that.

Or perhaps God could have created us so that, instead of a vast variety of foods to eat, there was only one food source, like, for instance, giant puffball mushrooms (which would grow everywhere). There's something else to ponder.



That is a giant puffball mushroom

My point is that the prerogative of God’s creative omnipotence is to do as He pleases. He could have chosen to sustain us with little, but He didn’t do that. Instead, God blessed mankind with a vast variety of foods. Beyond that, He gave the foods different flavors, and He gave us the ability to savor those many flavors. Then there is the whole aspect of appearance—each and every food that God created for us is beautiful and amazing in its own way (puffballs included).

The abundance, the variety, the flavors, the beauty—it is all, without a doubt, a manifestation of God’s greatness. But it is more than that. It is clear and compelling evidence of His love. He could have given little, but He gave much.

Thus it is that God created food for our subsistence, and for our enjoyment, out of love, but is there another reason for food? Yes there is. This other reason is tucked into 1 Timothy 4:3 where it says (King James Version):


"Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”

Disregard the “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from” part of the verse and you have a statement about “meats.” But the word “meats” in that verse does not mean just animal flesh. The original translation means food in general, or “victuals,” which is defined as food fit for human consumption. So that part of the verse could read:

“...food, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”

I don't think we lose any meaning if we rephrase that to say that "God created food to be received with thanksgiving." 


Common interpretations of that part of the verse would point out that it means we need to thank God for our food. That is obviously correct, but I think there is more in that verse than just that. 

The verse can also be interpreted as saying that the reason God created food is so that it would be received with thanksgiving (by those who believe and know the truth). That understanding gives us a slightly different perspective on food and why we have food.

Understanding that the reason God created food in the first place was for us to remember and acknowledge and thank Him for it puts renewed importance on remembering and acknowledging and thanking Him for the food He has given us. This is no small matter.

Did it ever occur to you that God could also have created us so that we needed to eat only once a day? Or maybe even once a month? But, instead, He made us so that we need nourishment daily and, in fact, several times a day. 


If we figure that we consume food three times a day, that translates into acknowledging and thanking God at least three times a day. There is a direct relationship between food and our call to acknowledge the sustaining blessings of God in our life—three times a day. This is all by design!

God created food, our need for food, and our continual need for food so that we would be continually honoring and glorifying Him by acknowledging His goodness, and His greatness and his blessings in our lives.

I think that giving glory to God in the form of thanksgiving for the food we eat need not be a long and wordy prayer. A simple, “Thank you, Lord” is oftentimes entirely sufficient. It is less the words and more the acknowledgment of God’s provision and sovereignty in our lives. If you are among those who “believe and know the truth,” what you have just read has resonated with you, and perhaps you see more clearly that this really is no small matter.


A Further Thought ...
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With this matter of food and thanksgiving in mind, let’s now consider God’s created order and purpose for mankind, as opposed to the Industrial order we live in, and the industrial order’s purpose for mankind....

Genesis tells us that God had created all the plants we find within nature and "...there was not a man to till the ground" (Genesis 2:5). So God created man. And then, "the Lord God planted a garden" (Genisis 2:8). He put the man in the garden. A garden is a place where food is grown. God created the whole concept of gardening, of growing food, of man (and woman, the man's helper) being involved in tilling the soil to feed themselves. 


This responsibility, this universal, divine calling of mankind to work in the earth is often referred to as the “agrarian mandate.” As far as I've been able to determine, God's agrarian mandate for mankind has never been revoked. It has been avoided and neglected by many people, but never revoked by God.

So it was that, originally, all mankind was directly involved in the work of growing food. Surely there were other things that people worked at too. They built houses and worked with their hands, crafting different things that they needed. But all the people in early agrarian cultures were well acquainted with, and never far removed from, the production of food.

Bearing that in mind, please note that nowhere (that I’m aware of) did God direct mankind to congregate into cities. In fact, He specifically directs mankind not to congregate in cities. It was men who rebelled against God’s agrarian mandate who built the first cities, with Babylon being the most notable (with its infamous tower). 


Cities are typically places where people do not grow their own food. Today, as in Biblical times, cities are places that serve as centers of power and commerce. They are far removed from the agrarian culture that supports them. Manmade cities represent the opposite of God’s ideal for a decentralized agrarian civilization. Small towns and villages, yes. Cities, no.

For most of the history of mankind, spanning thousands of years, the vast majority of people have lived close to the agrarian mandate. In those instances when centralized civilizations have developed, they have eventually collapsed. Is there a connection between the collapse of civilizations and the fact that those civilizations distanced themselves from the agrarian mandate? I happen to think so. Is it the only reason? No. But it may well be a fundamental reason.

In the modern world we live in, our concept of history is pretty much limited to the past 200 to 250 years, which takes us back to the rise of Industrialism. Modern culture celebrates the rise of industrialsim, and the hyper-industrialism we have today represents the ultimate in centralized, city-based civilizations.  Never before in history have so many people been so far removed from the agrarian mandate.

Today, at what I tend to think is the apogee, or near-apogee, of the industrial age there are many millions of people who do not grow any of their own food. What’s more, a surprising number of the industrial-world masses don’t  fully understand where food comes from, or how it is produced. To these people, food is made in factories, it comes from supermarkets, it is easily obtained, and there is plenty of it.
 

We live in a day and age when the industrial system has directed people off the land, into cities and suburbs, and assumed the role of Provider-God in our modern society. In so doing, the industrial system has usurped God’s glory. Praise be to the industrial system, is the modern attitude.
 
The anti-agrarian industrial system we now live in is a more perfect Babylon. Modern Industrial Babylon  is set up so that all its subjects will serve Modern Babylon, love Modern Babylon, and trust Modern Babylon. In return, Modern Babylon will give comfort, ease, security and a full belly.

There are now millions of people in this world who don’t even have to work to make money to buy food, let alone work to grow what they eat. Food is given to them by way of various government programs. And, amazingly, for the first time in the history of the world we have poor people who are fat.

We all know that if we work for something, we appreciate it more. That is the case with growing food. People who grow their own food (or some of it) work, and wait, and work some  more, and when that food is ready to eat, they appreciate it much more than if they bought it from a supermarket. When you grow your own food, you are much more cognizant of what a blessing it is. And you are more thankful for it.


I dare say that a civilization so far removed from the realities of food production, with so much food to choose from, living totally dependent on government and/or the Industrial Providers for its sustenance, can not be truly thankful to God for the food that sustains it.

There is trouble in store when a civilization, a nation, a community, families and people divorce themselves from God’s mandate to care for the garden; to be involved in the productive work of growing food.


Conclusion
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The way I see it, God is glorified when His people reconnect with the heavenly-ordained work of growing food; when they turn from total dependency on the industrial order to dependency on Him. Whether it’s a single tomato plant on the patio (a place to start), or a larger garden, or a field, we who follow Jesus Christ should be people of the soil, co-creators with God through the wonders of His created order, and ever thankful to Him for the food we eat.



10 comments:

Tacketts Mill Farm said...

Thanks again, Herrick, for providing a perspective that glorifies God. You may be happy to learn that I have used your poultry shrink bags to bag my first batch of ducklings this week. Keep up the great work and keep the posts coming.

Caroline said...

Thank you for bringing to my attention the 'simplicity' of eating as another glorious detail in the blessings of the Lord. I was wondering if you could point out some specific scripture(s) that speak directly to living in the city. I agree that the consolidation of people into cities has left them completely dependent upon a system that does NOT lean upon the Lord. So many people, including christians have put their faith in a secular and anti-god system for their security, health, and comfort. Leaning on the providence of the Lord is what I believe 'faith' means.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thacketts Mill Farm,
Thanks for the comment. It's good to know those shrink bags worked well for you.

Caroline,
Good question. Obviously we're not going to be able to find Bible verses that simply say, "Don't live in cities." The Bible doesn't always do that for us. Instead, we need to look at some of the information given and have discernment about what it's telling us. And, as always, we need to judge ideas and concepts drawn from Biblical analysis by the fruits they yield.

You can get some biblical perspective on city living as opposed to agrarian living based on Genesis 9 and 11 from my essay titled City Living & Some Thoughts on Christian Agrarian Community

Robert said...

That last painting of the Angelus is one of my favorite paintings about my favorite prayers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelus

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.

R. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Herrick Kimball said...

Robert,

Wow.

I never realized the painting was connected to Catholicism, and the worship of Mary, which is something I don't agree with. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. You've prompted me to do some research into it....

Anonymous said...

Herrick: I've always known that painting to be called "Prayer for the Potato Crop." A copy hangs in my foyer. I'm with you on the potential Marian connotation.

John L.

Herrick Kimball said...

The painting was commissioned by Thomas Gold Appleton, a wealthy American from Boston, and completed in 1857. It was originally titled, Prayer For The Potato Crop.

It was nothing more than two people being thankful to God for the food they have grown, They are acknowledging that He has supplied their need. I like that aspect of the painting.

When Appleton did not pay for the painting Millet added a church in the far background and retitled it, The Angelus. The Angelus is a Roman Catholic ritual.

I think it is safe to say that the painting can mean different things to different people.

Linda J. said...

I really enjoyed your piece. As a gardener, I find that I am far more thankful for my homegrown fruits and veggies than I am for the ones in the cans. With the homegrown variety comes a front row seat to God's promises. If I plant one kernel of corn, most times I will receive at least two ears of corn covered in kernels.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Linda J.—

I appreciate your comment. One kernel of corn yields two whole ears.... Isn't it amazing how God's "economy" works in the garden!

Fearless Farmgirl said...

Fantastic post. This is what my husband and I believe as well and we are currently working towards complete non-reliance (as close as we can get) on our industrialized food systems. I have a degree in Horticulture, he came from a very garden growing family, we think we'll be ok!

Thanks for such an honest and thoughtful post.