With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, chocolate and sweets often come to mind. Food is often a significant part of gatherings whether they be gatherings of family, friends, or church. Barring royalty or the blessings of developed nations (mostly), food scarcity is a real thing. In the days of Scripture, people would spend either the majority of their time or wages to secure food. When food is such a significant part of your efforts, food can take on deeper cultural and religious meaning.
The story of Daniel begins with a test of food. It is easy, but not certain, to believe that the king’s food did not meet Jewish dietary law. Or it could be that the food was first “sacrificed” to idols before being eaten. Or it could be that the four wanted to show that their sympathies were with their starving fellow Jews. Regardless, food was the center of a challenge. As the four were Jewish captives, this was viewed as a political move. The religious overtones within Scripture are there, as well. All of it revolves around food.
In Jesus’ time, there were many rules regarding food. The Jewish religious rules were intended to fulfill the requirements of Israelite law. And the religious leaders imposed further rules, just to assure that the original rules weren’t even close to being infringed upon. Under Roman rule, however, Jewish dietary law also took on political overtones. Dietary laws were often used to socially separate Jews from Romans, creating a barrier between people. Food, one of the unifying themes of humanity, was now a separator, not an uniter.
Jesus’ declaration regarding dietary laws was indeed not just about the food. It is definitely about relationships. Jesus takes the concept of food and turns it into the matter of the heart. When we look at how food was used to separate people, we can see Jesus’ point. Food was the outward symbol of an inward truth.
1) Have you been the guest of a family whose taste of foods was distinctly different than yours? How did you react? Did it impact your ability to fellowship with them around the table?
2) While Jesus was correcting the excesses of the Jewish religious leaders, he is correcting us. What outward symbol (food, attire, accent, stuff) have you ever used to categorize another person? Does that categorization help or hinder looking at others like Christ?
FD) Why do we use food in our gatherings? Why is that good? Why is that bad?