Discerning Lies and Truth in the Clean Eating Trend

June 17, 2019

Editor’s Note: At our women’s breakfast in April, we enjoyed a panel discussion about how to replace the lies we believe with the truth of Scripture. We discussed issues of speech, body image, singleness, parenting, and much more, but we ran out of time for our last few questions on current social issues. So we asked Meghan to post her notes on clean eating in article form so we could benefit. Thanks Meghan!

Clean-eating is a pretty hot topic in our culture these days, and like any other cultural trend, it’s important that we bring biblical discernment to how we think about our food and diet. Let me start off by saying that I don’t think any one approach to food is the right way. I have friends who have been greatly helped with certain health issues by changing their diets, and I think that is wonderful. I also have friends who enjoy a lot of freedom in what they eat and are thriving in that. So there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to how we eat. But I do think there are two big lies tempting us when we think about food in our current culture.

Lie Number One: Food has the power to undo the effects of the fall, and if I only eat the right things and follow the right diet, then I can avoid all sickness and ailments. The truth is that we live in a fallen world, and we will all experience the results of the fall to varying degrees. We need to remember that only Jesus can undo the effects of the fall, and until He comes again, we will all continue to experience in our bodies life in a fallen world.  So we ought to expect to feel our own human frailty at times and that’s okay.

Lie Number Two: Food itself is moral or immoral/righteous or unrighteous, and therefore what we eat can make us more or less righteous. The truth is that it’s the way that we relate to food that becomes a problem, not the food itself (see Romans 14). When we import morality into the subject of food, then decisions about food become disproportionately weighty. For me this has played out in panic attacks in the grocery aisles as I look at the bazillion types of bread I could buy to make our PB&Js!  Should I buy the organic or sprouted or whole wheat bread?  Will my kids die at a young age if the bread I buy contains high fructose corn syrup?  Wait…should my kids be having gluten at all?!  And attached to that line of thinking is the quality of mother I am: if I buy the right food, I will be a good mom and if I buy the wrong food I will be a bad mom. However, our food was never meant to take on that kind of importance.

It seems that this problem of attaching morality to what foods we do or don’t eat is a rather old one because we find Jesus speaking directly to it in his day. In Mark 7, we have the Scribes and Pharisees asking Jesus why his disciples do not wash before eating and thus defile themselves.  Jesus responds by telling them that, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (v.15). So in short, Jesus cares far more about what is coming out of our hearts than what is going into our mouths.  If we can remember that, it will keep us from panicking in the grocery store or judging others who have a different approach to food than we do.

One last thought worth mentioning is the idea of keeping perspective. The question of what kind of diet we follow falls into the category of “first world problems.” Most people in the history of the world have struggled to have enough food to feed themselves and their families. They didn’t have the luxury of worrying about whether or not to eat organic or gluten-free. So let’s humbly acknowledge that the questions around clean-eating are far less dire than wondering how I will find a way to make sure my family has enough food. It doesn’t mean the questions of what we eat don’t matter, but it’s just good to maintain some perspective. This can also help push back the lie that these decisions are of monumental importance. So whatever foods we find ourselves eating, let’s receive them with grateful hearts and eat to the glory of God.


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