Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 70

FOOD AS A SYMBOL OF GRACE - Harper Food as a Symbol of Obedience to God First is food as a symbol of obedience to God. This really comes out in the very beginning of the biblical story. We have the story of the Garden of Eden. When God creates human beings, Adam and Eve, he says, “Here you are in this amazing place, this Garden. Look all around you. There are all these trees. And there’s produce on all these trees. There’s fruit, and you can eat it.” It’s a fascinating imagery because God doesn’t talk at all about needing to work to get food. He just says, “There it is.” It’s totally gratuitous. It’s totally a symbol of God’s grace. He’s saying, “I’ve provided this for you.” In the story of Scripture, we get this really interesting and frustrating conundrum. God also says, “By the way, there’s this one tree you can’t eat from.” Do you ever just wonder if God had not done that, what things would have been like? But he did and that’s part of the plan of God and what it looks like for us to be in relationship with him. But he creates the environment where food is entirely an issue of grace. He puts this tree in the Garden and says, “Don’t eat of this, because on the day you eat of it you will surely die” (Gn 2:17). One of the first issues of food is that of obedience. God places food in the Garden and says, “Okay, this is an issue. I’ve provided all the food and I have moral connections to it. Are you going to obey me? Are you going to honor me in what I’m doing with this food, or are you not?” Food then becomes the venue through which God says, “Are you going to be focused on me? Or are you going to be focused on yourself?” So, we have an opportunity to say, “No, I’m going to just focus on myself.” Who am I going to focus on when I think about food? And is food really just about focusing on me and my survival? If it is, the world is not going to last. We are going to get to a place where we don’t have enough food if what we all do is focus on ourselves. So here’s this first story about food as a symbolic response to, “Will you focus on me and my grace and goodness, or are you going to focus on yourself?” After the Fall, then, Adam and Eve decide they are going to focus on themselves. So what happens to food when people focus on themselves is that it’s not good any more. It’s a difficult situation. They move away from abundance that’s right there for them, and apparently would be for everyone else. Now they go to this situation in the story where food requires a lot of work. Not only does it require work, but the land itself becomes both the provider of food and of opposition. God says, “Now when you go for food, you are going to have to grow it yourself and work at it; weeds are going to grow up, which are going to be in 67