by Michael E. Brooks
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 NKJV).
We came back to Khulna Bible College late one afternoon to find the staff and students gathered together by one of the water hydrants where they clean chickens, vegetables or other food to be prepared for meals.
When we went over to them to see what was on the menu, we found them separating hundreds of water bugs from some tiny shrimp they netted out of the school’s pond. The bugs were not for eating, but represented the amount of work required to obtain some forms of food here.
Two of the students took the net and went back into the pond. They caught a pan full of half-grown tadpoles, and these they did prepare for cooking. Most of the students and staff joined in eating them, and were very happy about the way they tasted. Thank you, but those are not for me. Frog legs I enjoy, but leave the rest of it off my plate, please.
The Children of Israel, under the Law given by Moses, had very strict food laws. Anything not specifically listed as clean was anathema. Peter once stated, “I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (Acts 10:14).
To them it was not a matter of taste, or personal squeamishness. God did not allow it; such food would defile them; therefore they would not, could not, eat it. Nothing could render a “common” thing clean. There could be no exceptions.
In Christianity this has changed. According to Paul’s words cited above, anything created by God is good and may be eaten. To Peter a divine voice had said, “What God has cleaned you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). What is the difference? Why the change? How can we justify eating now what was abhorrent to God under a former system?
The explanation is simple. Three things are listed which sanctify our food (and all that we have). These are thanksgiving, the Word of God, and prayer.
First, we must remember that we are to receive all things with sincere gratitude. When we take God’s blessings with an attitude that we deserve them and that he owes them to us, we boast in ourselves and take from him the glory due him. When we take them for granted, neglecting the one who gave them, we treat him as unimportant. Gratitude confirms our faith in him and our dependence upon him. It causes us to truly worship and honor him.
Second, we note that foods previously prohibited are now allowed, simply because God said so. His word authorizes us to eat them. We need no other authority or explanation. He is all-powerful. He is King of Kings.
What God permits, no one else can prohibit. For this reason we “speak where the Bible speaks.” We cite “book, chapter and verse” for all doctrine and practice. All things are sanctified by his word – that is all things addressed or approved by his word.
Third, our behavior is sanctified by prayer. Though this verse is obvious background for our common practice of praying before we eat, it has far more meaning and application than simply that routine. When we ask for God’s authority, and yield ourselves in submission to his will, we ensure that all we do is acceptable to him (James 4:7-8; 10).
When one prays for God’s acceptance and approval it is difficult to knowingly practice that of which he disapproves. Sincere prayer tunes our will to his, and assists us in following it.
Not only our food, but all doctrine and practice should be sanctified by these great principles. We must always be thankful; we must always consult God’s word; and we must always ask for his help and approval in prayer. Having done those things, we can serve him with joy and peace, never doubting his approval.