Time for a theology pop quiz! Question one: What was the first thing we are told God gave to man in the book of Genesis? Fortunately, there is just this one question. Unfortunately, given the fact that most of you answered either a wife or the job to take care of creation, it is a very difficult question! Both are good answers – but not, properly speaking, the correct answer.
Review Genesis 1:27-30 and Genesis 2:5-18. Do you see the answer? Yep, the correct answer is “food.” Look again at Genesis 1:29, the first time the Bible says God “gave” anything: “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Again, in Genesis 2:16, God says to Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden,” except, of course, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In America, we think about food and gifts quite a bit in November and December. On Thanksgiving we are grateful for all that God has done for us and we eat well. In December we give gifts to others, we remember Christ – our greatest gift – and, once again we eat really well. The trouble is, that as Christians, we rarely connect these two ideas properly. Too rarely, I think, do we truly rejoice with gratitude to God for food.
As Christians we often consider food a “guilty pleasure” of sorts. If a meal is wonderful we might call it “decadent.” If a chocolate mousse is just perfect it is “sinful.” Why should Satan get the credit for such things? The chocolate was God’s creation. The five star restaurant is evidence of God’s goodness and common grace. If our attitude towards food is that it is merely a temptation, or that some puritanical God would prefer us to take only as much sensory delight in our food as a horse in his feed bag, are we really grateful for this first gift of God – who gives us, explicitly in Genesis 1:29 – a huge and all-inclusive menu – and expands it yet again in Genesis 9:3. To what other creature has God given such wide ranging tastes and culinary license!
The trouble with being human on this side of heaven is that we can take any gift of God and make it the object of our devotion and worship rather than keeping our devotional focus on the Giver himself. We can worship our houses, sex, music, our careers, another person, etc… But let’s not allow sinful tendencies to remove a biblical gratitude for a genuine gift. In Psalm 136, the great “Thanksgiving Psalm,” the final item well reflects God’s first gift: “To the One… who gives food to every creature – His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”
During this season of feasting and giving, be grateful to God for his gift of food. The great delight that we take in the cranberry salad and the turkey or ham done just right – this too is the gift of God. To begrudge the gift is an offense to the Giver. And let these simple pleasures be the most meager of all appetizers as you come to the very table of God to partake of the body and blood of Christ Jesus himself who is of course, the greatest gift God has given us. At that great Table, in the words of Psalm 63:5, “Our souls will be satisfied as with the richest of foods!”