Does God care about what we eat?
Author and speaker Hope Egan explores the meat-related biblical food laws and GodÕs overall design for healthy eating in her latest book, Holy Cow! Does God Care About What We Eat? Egan, who grew up a nonobservant Jew, struggled with a variety of food and health issues before she came to Christ at the age of 30. Her faith journey has included a long, hard look at what the Bible has to say about eating. Egan, 39, has found that science and Scripture intertwine beautifully. Because this discovery has fueled her faith in the Messiah and the Bible, she has a passion for sharing with others what she has learned. She spoke recently with Assistant Editor Ashli OÕConnell.
PE: Christians are accustomed to looking to the Bible for guidance on issues like relationships and finances, but not so much their eating habits. Does the Bible offer clear advice on what we eat?
EGAN: Absolutely. How could the Creator of the universe ignore an activity that each of us does several times a day? In the Garden of Eden one of the first things God gives to Adam is food: Genesis 1:29 says that seed-bearing plants would be our primary food source. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts and beans. Later God makes it clear to Noah that animals are also allowed to be eaten (Genesis 9:3). However, as early as Genesis 7 a distinction was made between those animals God designed to be eaten and those that were created for other purposes.
PE: There are a host of popular books out right now that focus on biblical diets. To what do you attribute the increased interest in this topic?
EGAN: My question is, what took so long? We know from the Bible that people have been pondering GodÕs will for thousands of years. But the Bible also reveals that people have been pondering their food choices for that long, too. Think about the prophet Daniel, who made some wise, intentional choices about what he ate. His healthy, well-nourished appearance reflected his diet.
Why are biblical dietary books popular now? Well, looking at the best-seller lists gives us a clue. Two of the hottest categories are Bible-related (like The Purpose-Driven Life and Your Best Life Now), and diet-related (like The South Beach Diet or French Women DonÕt Get Fat). Combining these two categories seems like a natural fit; it almost seems like GodÕs Spirit is urging many of us to revisit this long-neglected topic.
PE: Why have you found pork and shellfish to be troublesome food sources?
EGAN: Leviticus 11 teaches us that pork and shellfish are examples of ÒuncleanÓ animals that apparently were not designed to be eaten. Interestingly, when we examine the physiology and anatomy of these creatures, we see some inherent wisdom in GodÕs commands to avoid them. For example, both are sort of environmental vacuum cleaners that will eat anything in sight, including feces, dead animals and garbage. ÒCleanÓ animals like cows, on the other hand, are generally vegetarians and are designed by God to eat only Genesis 1:29 food.
PE: Are there specific health benefits in avoiding scavenger meats?
EGAN: While it varies from person to person, pork is associated with arthritis, acne and chronic abscesses or carbuncles. Dr. Rex Russell, a Christian physician and author of What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, recounts how his chronic skin conditions and arthritis improved dramatically when he began avoiding these foods.
One of my readers recently told me that her overall sluggishness and digestive discomforts were alleviated as soon as she stopped eating scavenger meats. Because of the toxicity of these animalsÕ flesh, there may also be a link to cancer.
PE: What are some practical ways our readers can incorporate these concepts into their daily lives?
EGAN: The most important thing is to pray and ask for GodÕs guidance. If you are seeking His will, the Spirit will direct you. Reading the BibleÕs perspective on this subject is also important as you discern how to live it out. IÕve been astounded at the number of believers who have never actually read Leviticus 11. If you do decide to eat less of these meats, take a simple step like not ordering it at restaurants. When youÕre ready, maybe stop buying it at the grocery store.
PE: What are peopleÕs most destructive eating habits today?
EGAN: Our tendency to idolize sugar prevents us from achieving the amazing health and vitality that God intended for us. Sugar-filled diets have led to AmericaÕs obesity crisis, and sugars extinguish our desire for God-given Genesis 1:29 foods, which are actually quite tasty. More importantly, when we overfocus on our Òmust haveÓ foods, we lose our focus on Jesus.
PE: What are some simple diet changes that will have a big impact on overall health?
EGAN: Most folks find that trying to incorporate more of the Ògood stuffÓ is easier than trying to avoid the Òbad stuff,Ó at least at first. For example, if you donÕt like raw vegetables solo, find a yummy ranch dip or, even better, a hummus dip that might encourage you to eat them. Or make sure to always have your favorite salad dressing around, which makes eating salads easier. Adding vegetables to omelets, sandwiches, pasta sauce or rice dishes is another way to sneak them in.
The most important thing is to call out to God for wisdom, discernment and strength to change habits that have been ingrained for many years. I love The MessageÕs paraphrase of Romans 12:2. It says, ÒDonÕt become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. YouÕll be changed from the inside out.Ó PaulÕs words apply as much to our eating habits as any other part of our lives.
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