A Christian Ethic of Eating: Part 1

I recently purchased a North Carolina Hunting License.

For those who know me well, that may seem like the beginning of a joke. I’ve never been much of a hunter, which is odd considering most of my life has been spent in southern Mississippi—the deep south of the Deep South. If you would’ve asked me about hunting, I could give you a handful of reasons why I didn’t think it was worth my time or energy. It wasn’t until I left rural Mississippi for one of the fastest growing cities in America that the desire to hunt arose.

What caused this shift?

I’m sure some psychologist would tell you that it was an attempt to hang on to my Mississippi roots, an attempt to stay connected to those who are hundreds of miles away. That may be partially true, but it’s definitely not the primary motivation. My desire to hunt actually stems from a research paper I recently wrote for my ethics class.

The goal of the paper was to formulate a Christian ethic of eating. That may seem odd to some. Rest assured, though, that I’m not advocating that we reinstate the food laws of the Old Testament. But, like I said last week, the gospel is the lens through which we view all of life, including our eating habits. We are to do all things for the glory of God, even the seemingly minor things like eating and drinking.

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to see how that gospel lens affects our dietary decisions. Now, if you’re like me, you probably like simple rules. Eat this. Don’t eat this. Don’t even consider putting this in your mouth. Eat Chick-Fil-A, always. Rules are simple in a sense. But exact rules won’t help us here because Jesus didn’t outline a dietary regimen for His followers. Therefore, we have to do our best in applying our biblical and systematic theology to the innumerable food choices that we face every day.

As a means of introduction, the first principle that Christians must realize is that our dietary decisions matter, and they have long-reaching effects. Long gone are the days when most families were dependent upon their own ability to produce food to place on the table. Nowadays, the journey that our daily meals take to end up on our tables spans thousands of miles and, possibly, multiple countries. My point is that my decision to eat the things I eat affects more than just myself and the store where I purchased it. Since the gospel gives me a new perspective of viewing the world, I must—to the best of my ability—use that perspective to consider the implications of my dining options.

Just to give you an idea of where we’re going, here are the four beams that should be used to construct the framework for a Christian ethic of eating:

  1. Our dietary decisions affect our bodies.
  2. Our dietary decisions affect our neighbors.
  3. Our dietary decisions affect the environment.
  4. Our dietary decisions affect the animals.

As the series progresses, I’ll be unpacking these four factors, and my hope is that the consideration of these posts will help you make food choices that are ethically responsible. You may not agree with all of my conclusions, but I hope this will at least get the wheels turning in your head—like it has for me—for how you might better align your appetite with the principles that we find in Scripture.

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