Have you ever left a church potluck feeling uncomfortably full, regretting that second (or third) serving of Miss Bev’s famous potato casserole or Larry’s chocolate cake?
If so, you’re not alone.
According to a 2011 Northwestern study, young adults who regularly attend church are 50% more likely than their peers to be obese by the time they reach middle age.
That’s astounding. And terrifying.
Rather than being a shining beacon in the darkness of this national obesity epidemic, the church is struggling with this same food issue. As the bride of Christ, we can no longer afford to ignore this problem.
An Age-Old Problem
For ages, the church has grappled with what it means to be fully spiritual and physical beings. The Gentile first-century church was surrounded by two contradictory but equally dangerous philosophies: asceticism (despising the body) and hedonism (indulging the body). Sound familiar?
These first-century Greeks believed that what we do with our bodies doesn’t affect our souls. That’s another way of saying, “Eating a whole row of Oreos doesn’t affect my walk with God,” or “Obsessing over calories and maconutrients doesn’t matter to God.” It’s in this context that Paul writes this to the first-century church:
Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,’ but God will destroy them both.
(1 Corinthians 6:12-13)
When church potlucks become opportunities for gluttony and food idolatry, they perpetuate the dangerous myth that how we eat and treat our bodies doesn’t matter. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Scripture states clearly that what we do with our bodies affects our spiritual lives because our very bodies belong to God:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Whether at church potlucks or in our own kitchens, whenever we mistreat our bodies, we despise the very dwelling place of God. Whenever we allow our cravings to control our actions, we ignore the Lordship of Jesus Christ. “You are not your own,” Scripture reminds us. We are slaves to Jesus Christ, bought with His blood and redeemed as His own.
An Accessible Solution
Church potlucks can be harmful, but they don’t have to be evil. In fact, sharing a meal is the perfect opportunity to share our hearts and our lives with each other. Here are a few practical suggestions to make your next church potluck a blessing:
- Renew your mind with God’s Truth. Uncover thought patterns that lead to sinful behavior, and memorize Scripture that will set your free. Place verses on your fridge, in your pantry, or anywhere else you’re tempted to allow your cravings to take control of you.
- Bring a healthy dish, knowing that you’re providing yourself and your fellow church members a healthier alternative. Ask the Spirit to help you practice self-control, and discover how to be content with just enough.
- Read what Scripture says about food, and the role it plays in the Body of Christ. You can use a reading plan like this one, or get my new book Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction which has an entire chapter on food in the church.
Whatever you do, invite God’s Spirit to free you from food fixation and fill you with Himself (Matthew 5:6), and you’ll find His presence sweeter even than chocolate cake.