Some may wonder why I appear to be on a food jag. The principle is a simple one. If, for example, I encounter two or three instances of husbands getting angry with their wives and families, you can bet that I will assume that these three guys do not represent an exhaustive list, and the problem is going to start showing up in my sermons and in things I write. A preacher’s job is, in part, to attack sin. In the same way, when I encounter food issues of various kinds that are stumbling Christians, sometimes grievously, it has to be addressed. Secondly, when certain memes start to circulate in the Christian community and those memes are biblically false, then it is necessary to correct them. Those memes don’t stumble everybody, but they do stumble some very sad cases. So the standard always has to be the straight edge of the Word.
That said, here are some basic biblical principles. The starting point is that God doesn’t care what you eat. A man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth, but rather by what comes out of it (Mark 7:18,23). Food for the stomach, and the stomach for food, but God will destroy them both (1 Cor. 6:13). Eat what is set before you (Luke 10:8). Max nix, everybody. But just because God doesn’t care what you eat — tofu, bean sprouts, Wonder bread, red meat, peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches, He just doesn’t care — it does not follow from this that food is a sin-free zone. People sin all the time with their food, just not in their food. They can do this through gluttony, poor stewardship of their bodies, self-righteous censoriousness, bringing their own special food to someone’s house when they were invited for dinner, laziness, food snobbery, and more. But these are all motive issues, heart issues. We sin with food all the time, and God still doesn’t care what we eat. Mastering that distinction is crucial.
In the same way, it is certainly possible to sin in the production of food. People do that all the time too, and mark me down as one preacher who thinks they should quit it. If I had a dairy farmer as a member of the church who tormented his animals, that is the kind of thing that could end with an excommunication (Prov. 12:10). If you lived next door and knew for a fact that he was an evil man who had it in for cows — besides thinking he was in the wrong line of work — you would also be well within your rights to avoid doing business with him. But if the public rhetoric about all this has gotten to the point where you think a rancher is abusing his cattle simply because he is feeding them corn, and you want other Christians to recoil in horror along with you, as though his feedlot were an abortion mill, it is long past time to walk it back.
So here is my proposal for common ground. The lordship of Christ extends to everything, food consumption and food production included. Whatever we do, whatever we eat or drink, we should do it all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). But in order to glorify God in this, we have to take our standards straight from the Bible, and there is plenty of teaching on it. We must never take our standards from the arbiters of cool, what the apostle John called “the world.”