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Leading Question: What guidance does the Bible give us in establishing good nutrition?

The Bible says very little about what constitutes a health diet. Some of the laws given to Israel may appear to be health related when other factors were clearly involved. That means that we must use our heads – and seek for divine guidance that we may know how to eat and live.

  1. When we seek to establish good nutrition, should we follow broad principles or specific rules? If one is too preoccupied with specific rules, it would be very easy to miss the principles involved. Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV). Here are some key issues, some key passages to consider:
    1. Original diet: Gen 1:26-30. The original diet was vegetarian. After the flood, God allowed humans to eat flesh food (Gen 9:3-4). What rationale can we offer today for returning to the original diet.
    2. Clean and unclean animals: Lev 11 and Deu 14. Two separate chapters in the books of Moses make the distinctions between clean and unclean animals and birds. Is the prohibition against unclean animals absolute, or might there be circumstances in the interest of health where unclean animals could safely be eaten by a conscientious believer?
    3. C. Maybe nothing to do with health? Deut 14:21. Modern believers are so accustomed to finding “rational” grounds for biblical laws, that it is easy to overlook non-health factors in some of the Mosaic legislation. Here are two examples from Deut 14:21.
      1. An animal that dies of itself. The health reason for not eating an animal that dies of itself is so obvious to us, that we fail to read the rest of the verse: “you may give it to aliens residing in your towns for them to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner.” Clearly something other than health is involved here, especially if we value Jesus’ command to treat others the way we would want to be treated. In that connection, in the name of Jesus’ second command, Ellen White reprimanded a brother for selling diseased animals for food:

        The Lord marked the transaction of carrying to market that load of animals that were so inferior that they could not be profitable to keep, therefore were prepared for food and carried to market to be bought and introduced into the human stomach. One of these was placed upon our table for some time to feed our large family in the days of our poverty. You were not the only one to be blamed in this. Others of your family were alike guilty. It matters not whether it was designed that they should be bought and eaten by us or by worldlings. It is the principle of the thing which displeased God; you transgressed His command. You did not love your neighbor as you did yourself, for you would be unwilling to have the same thing done to you. You would consider yourself insulted. An avaricious spirit led to this departure from Christian principles, and caused you to descend to a species of trading which advantaged yourself at others” disadvantage. 2T 153 [1868]

      2. Not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. The prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is completely mystifying to us and Scripture gives no explanation. Apparently, a solution suggested by archaeological discoveries, Canaanite fertility rituals were involved here. The symbolism was so strong that God forbid Israel to have anything to do with it. Interestingly enough, this law is the basis for the modern orthodox Jewish prohibition against eating meat and milk together.
    4. Eating with joy: Deut 14:22-27. Given our modern concerns about alcohol, it is startling to heard God telling Israel to convert their tithe into money and buy whatever they wish: “oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire” (Deut 14:26). But the following words are also crucial: “You shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your household rejoicing together.” In other words, eating is supposed to be a joyous experience. To use Adventist jargon, the question of alcohol was not yet “present truth” for Israel. But to have a joyous attitude toward’s one diet was very important. Ellen White’s comment in that connection is worth noting:

      Some act as though that which they eat were lost, and anything they could toss into the stomach to fill it would do as well as food prepared with so much painstaking. It is important that we relish the food we eat. If we cannot do this, but eat mechanically, we fail to be nourished and built up as we would be if we could enjoy the food we take into the stomach. We are composed of what we eat. In order to make a good quality of blood, we must have the right kind of food, prepared in a right manner. 1T 682 [1968]

    5. Making changes slowly. There is no specific biblical passage that counsels how we are to deal with changes in diet and other health habits, but judging by how God deals with deviant behavior, one can conclude that God is willing to be patient with those who are reluctant to move to a better way. In that connection, Ellen White reminded the church of how important it is to move ahead cautiously in dietary matters:

      We must go no faster than we can take those with us whose consciences and intellects are convinced of the truths we advocate. We must meet the people where they are. Some of us have been many years in arriving at our present position in health reform. It is slow work to obtain a reform in diet. We have powerful appetites to meet; for the world is given to gluttony. If we should allow the people as much time as we have required to come up to the present advanced state in reform, we would be very patient with them, and allow them to advance [21] step by step, as we have done, until their feet are firmly established upon the health reform platform. But we should be very cautious not to advance too fast, lest we be obliged to retrace our steps. In reforms we would better come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it. And if there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people. 3T 20-21 [1872]

  2. Are people more important than our own dietary habits? Rom 14:13-23. Though Paul’s primary concern is not misusing our freedom to hurt others who still may be haunted by old scruples, his counsel in Romans 14 and in 1 Cor 8 is the same: Don’t ever hurt someone because of food! The key line is found in Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (NRSV).
  3. Attitudes and diet: Transformed by the renewing of your minds (Rom 12:2). Paul’s famous verse in Romans 12:2 points to the value of having the right attitude when we address issues of diet. A merry heart does good like a medicine (Pro 17:22), even in matters of diet. The point is brought out forcefully by Ellen White as she was writing to someone who was too “worried” about food:

    Exercise will aid the work of digestion. To walk out after a meal, hold the head erect, put back the shoulders, and exercise moderately, will be a great benefit. The mind will be diverted from self to the beauties of nature. The less the attention is called to the stomach after a meal, the better. If you are in constant fear that your food will hurt you, it most assuredly will. Forget self, and think of something cheerful. 2T 530.1 [1870]

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