“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).
If more of America embraced Jesus’ teaching in John 4, perhaps we as a nation would not have the problem of rampant obesity that we do. In fact, it’s surprising that someone in Christendom hasn’t tried to capitalize on this as a weight-loss gimmick yet. Imagine: “The Jesus Diet: Serve God and Lose Weight…or Your Money Back!”
Why does Jesus compare food to the work of God in John 4? Probably because there are few other things in life as consistent a part of my daily routine as food. In comparing the two, Jesus is not saying that I should never need to eat (in other words, the will of God should be physically enough for me); rather, He urges me to compare my desire to eat to that of my desire to accomplish God’s work. Which is consistently greater? And why?
I eat – usually three meals a day – because I want to, and because I realize I need to in order to live. But do I have the same desire and realization as to the importance of doing the will of God and accomplishing His work? Why does the intake of food seem so automatic to me, but doing the will of God seems so optional at times?
Probably because of the varying visibility of the results of each. Because I am too often blinded by the physical nature (i.e that which I can see and feel), I am more aware of when I don’t eat (or don’t eat the right things): my body reacts by losing strength, I don’t feel all that good, and (most telling of all), I get hungry. The physical nature of my being takes over, and I become affected and motivated to do something about it.
However, if I don’t do what God asks, the physical repercussions often are not as evident. While my conscience might rage within me, I usually am able to still function physically; thus, my motivation to obey is diminished as the spiritual need for obedience often does not register in my world so consumed with the practical and tangible. Sadly, I must admit that my desire for food is at times greater than my desire for sanctification, all because my stomach becomes more of a god than God is. This sounds vaguely familiar to what Paul says in the New Testament: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
In considering all this, I arrive at the conclusion that I need to go on “The Jesus Diet.” I need to fast (for at least a couple of days) to make sure that I still do (and should) have control over my physical cravings. I need to read my Bible in the morning before I eat so as to not fool myself into thinking that just because I address my physical hunger, my spiritual hunger has been addressed as well. Finally, I need to take as much pleasure in obeying God as in observing dinner in order that, truly, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.”
Help me in all this, Lord, and enable me to only be a glutton in matters of serving You.
Craig Dunham is a husband, father, author, and seminarian (Covenant Theological Seminary) who lives in St. Louis. He is a member of Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) and blogs at Second Drafts.