Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat
I have made this post into a teaching so you will be encouraged and motivated to complete your fast from January 26 – February 1. It is lengthier because it contains Biblical encouragement to finish your fast when your body cries out for food. Remember, this fast is setting the course for the rest of the year in our private, family and church lives. We are creating a spiritual climate for God to work among us and in our community.
Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat
Food has become a focus for our society. Many of us are attracted to the creative ads and commercials that make our mouths water over the delicious foods we see. Business and social activities revolve around food. We know more about health and nutrition than ever before and yet America’s health is at an all-time low. Obesity now affects 60% of our society and a large portion of the additional 40% struggle with excess weight.
I once knew a consultant from Nashville who created new businesses and recruited investors. He was very convincing and knew his trade. However, there was one glaring problem with his leadership - his attitude toward health and eating! He literally bragged about his obesity and how much food he could consume. He loathed exercise and was terribly focused on himself.
I stayed at a distance from him because I felt this self-destructive attitude would affect his business world. My reasoning went something like this: If you don’t care about yourself, you probably won’t care about investor’s money.
I lost touch with this person.
Statistics tell us he won’t be on this plant very long if he doesn’t change his attitudes and habits.
We can learn a lot from history. The Romans had as many as 76 festivals per year. Food was a priority at these events. Often a banquet began at 4:00 pm and lasted into the evening or the next day. They ate rare fish, rare birds and rare fruit. Some of the fruit was valued in today’s currency at as much as $40 per pound.
Favorite dishes included ostrich wings, flamingo tongues and canary flesh. After dinner, many threw-up only to return to eat more.
Seneca wrote, “They vomit to eat and eat to vomit.”
People squandered their fortunes on food. M. Gavius Apicius, who lived in the times of Tiberius Caesar, was a wealthy glutton. It was said that he spent over 4 million dollars on food. He checked his account one day and found that he only had $400,000. This alarmed him and he committed suicide, because now he would have to curb his gluttony. Food was his god.
One Roman wrote, “Intent on stuffing themselves, they follow their noses and the shrieking women’s voices to the kitchen; and like a flock of starving and screeching peacocks, they stand on the tips of their toes, biting their fingernails, waiting for food to cool.”
Cicero warned the Romans to “eat to live, not live to eat.”
Fasting helps us to bring balance to food and health. It teaches us to be controlled by our spirit rather than our fleshly appetites. It directs our attention toward God and others rather than ourselves.
How do you dethrone “King Stomach”? It has been said that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. The devil also knows this; he will use food to create a false sense of security.
In Matthew 4, Jesus starts His ministry with a 40-day fast. Satan approaches Him in verse 3, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
The devil knew His body was crying out for food, but Jesus answered him in verse 4, “It is written, people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Food must become a servant, not a master.
The Bible is filled with illustrations of how Satan used food to destroy people.
In Genesis 2, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat anything in the Garden of Eden, except the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food…she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Punishment came immediately. They literally ate themselves out of the will of God.
Ezekiel 16:49 – 50 describes the sins of Sodom and the reasons for their destruction. One sin had to do with food: fullness of food and gluttony.
In Genesis 25, Esau sold his birthright for bread and a pot of lentil stew.
Verse 34 says, “So Esau despised his birthright,” after this event. His stomach caused him to make an impulsive decision.
The Israelites complained about the manna God provided for them in the wilderness.
Numbers 11:4 – 7 describes their intense cravings for the foods they had in Egypt:
Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish, which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onion and the garlic, but now our whole being is dried up. There is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.
Numbers 11:18 – 20 describes how God sent quail in such great abundance that they stacked it two and a half feet deep. They ate and ate and while the meat was in their mouths, thousands of them died and were buried there.
According to verse 34, that place was known as Kibroth Hattaavah, which means, “the graves of lusters”. Food destroyed their destiny.
There are three reasons starting the year with a fast is a good practice.
1. By doing so, you set the course for the rest of the year.
Just as beginning your day with prayer sets the course for the rest of the day and covers anything that may happen the same is true at the beginning of the year with a fast. You set the course for the entire year by what you do with these first few days of the new year. You can carry that even further to give God the first part of each day, the first day of every week, the first portion of every dollar and the first consideration in decisions.
2. Blessings will happen for you and your family throughout the year because you fasted in January.
Pay attention to how God blesses your family, finances, relationships, health, ministry, etc., throughout the year. You will discover that this practice brings blessings to many areas of your life.
3. When you fast and pray at the beginning of the year, you release the principle found in Matthew 6:33:
Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things [food, clothing, protection, health, finances…] will be added to you.
If you seek Him first in the year, get ready for all these things to be added to your life throughout the rest of the year.
Don’t let food become your master and destroy God’s plan for your life.
Eat to live, not live to eat.