You Are What You Eat

O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
    for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
    and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
    seek peace, and pursue it.

(Psalm 34:9-14, New Revised Standard Version)

you are what you eat 2 

You’ve likely heard the phrase “you are what you eat.”  Of course, this doesn’t mean that when you look at me you see a delicious strip of bacon.  Rather, it’s meant to convey that the kind of food we ingest, whether it is physical groceries or spiritual sustenance, is of great importance and significance.  Eating unhealthy stuff makes you unhealthy.  Conversely, ingesting healthy things helps one to maintain proper health and vitality for functioning and thriving in life.

The psalmist encourages us to seek the LORD because in going after God we will be filled with goodness.  Using our tongues for good and not evil; our words for encouragement and not for forming lies; our constant verbiage for uplift and support and not with the poison phrases of evil; and, our voices for pursuing peaceful relations and not for disharmony; are all beautiful buffet foods of health and goodness to fortify our souls.

Back when I was in seminary (in a galaxy far, far away) it was difficult to keep up with the bills.  Finances were tight in our young family.  Despite working sometimes up to three jobs at a time, our budget had no budge to it.  In one unusually and particularly hard month, we were down to our last groceries.  In fact, on one summer evening we all had a bowl of Wheaties for supper.  The refrigerator was empty.  In our bedtime prayers with our girls, my wife and I voiced and expressed our need to God.

As Mary and I readied ourselves for bed, it was raining cats and dogs outside.  At 10pm, we heard a knock on our back patio door.  We looked at each other as if the other would know that we’re expecting someone.  We weren’t.  As I pulled back the curtain, there stood a sweet little Puerto Rican neighbor holding two large bags.  I quickly ushered her into our little apartment.  Her next words to us I will never forget:

“I went to bed at 9:00 and quickly fell fast asleep.  At 9:30 the Holy Spirit woke me up and told me to fill two bags with as many groceries as I could get in them; then, go and give them to the Ehrhardt’s.  So, here I am.”

All my wife and I could do was look at her and each other slack-jawed and simply say, “Thank you.”  No one knew our need.  We told no one about it; only God.

My family learned an invaluable lesson that stormy night, one you can’t learn any other way but being in a place of desperation.  The spiritual food that we eat is so important that Jesus put it this way:

One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Many years later after that rich spiritual feast, I told this same story in a congregation on a Sunday morning.  Afterwards, a middle-aged man came up to me and said something that initially took me aback: “So, how do you justify being in such a state of deprivation and not taking care of your family?”  After gathering my thoughts, I gave him this retort:

“You have asked me an honest question.  I will ask you one before I answer yours: Have your teenage kids, you, and your wife ever been in a situation where you needed God and cried out to him for something?”  Long pause…. “Well, no, not really.”  “Then, sir,” I replied, “I like the lessons my encounter with want and privation taught my kids better than the lessons your kids have never learned.”

You see, my friends, you are what you eat.  This obsession we have with being independent, self-sufficient, and our compulsions about money has spawned an entire generation of folks who just don’t know they need God.  Then, parents wonder why their kids abandon God.  God is simply irrelevant to them.  After all, why serve a God who has never touched my life in any significant way?  If we eat from a table of our own making, then the Table of the Lord becomes only a dusty piece of furniture in an empty church.

When we come and eat the bread which the Lord offers us we find satisfaction and fulfillment.  When we allow God to serve up a delicious spiritual meal we discover hospitality and joy.  When we accept the invitation to seek the Lord we find that little is much when God is in it.  In God’s upside-down kingdom, the poor are rich, and the rich are poor.

Good days of plenty don’t come because we ingeniously orchestrate it all.  Yes, of course, planning is both necessary and important.  Yet, all of our best laid plans are just that.  The outcomes belong to God, not us.  We have because God gives, and not because we figured out how to work harder, or smarter, or better.

you are what you eat

The one who truly fears the Lord has learned to first receive from Him.  Open-handed reception can only result from a heart posture of humility and need.  Close-fisted folks only know how to figure things out on their own and are not in the position to receive anything.

Whichever way you slice the Old Testament bread of poverty and the New Testament teaching on being poor in spirit, the rich are typically not in the best place – the poor are.  Being a spiritual beggar who recognizes his/her need for God, and who is desperate for Jesus is the one who has found the narrow entrance to where the Lord dwells.  And, upon entering, finds a lavish spread that is worthy of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Pursuing the Good Life

Everyone desires a good life.  No one wakes up in the morning and hopes they have a bad day.  A person might get up on the wrong side of the bed and grump his/her way through the first hours of the day, but nobody makes a conscious decision to deliberately have a bad life.  We all want a good life.  Students go to school hoping to have a good experience.  Marriages begin with the hope of having a good life together.  New employees start with the wish that there will be satisfaction in doing a job well-done.  Parents dream of their kids growing up to have a good life.  We want the kind of life that brings contentment, joy, and happiness.
            A good life comes through the fear of the Lord (Psalm 34:9-14).  Yes, that’s right, the fear of the Lord.  If we want to live a good life, it will have the fear of the Lord at the heart of it.  We need to make an important distinction between good fear and bad fear.  We as human beings are all too familiar with bad fear.  Bad fear is being too afraid to take the steps necessary to have a good life.  It is being insecure, risk-averse, and unwilling to take even a small step toward expanding my comfort zone.  Bad fear causes people to retreat in bubble of anxiety that keeps them stuck and imprisoned in a small world of protection, unable to engage God’s big world with any effectiveness.  Bad fear is to be afraid of what other people may or may not do or say.  Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe (Proverbs 29:25). 
The way to overcome the fear of others and the fear of the situations that might happen is to have the good kind of fear, the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the Lord means to honor and obey God, to be loyal and submissive.  It does not mean being afraid, like the bad fear of people.
            If you want to lack no good thing; if you desire to see many good days; if you do want to simply survive in life but to thrive in it and love the life you possess; then, the first thing that must happen is taking the posture of listening.
            The Hebrew word “listen” literally means to bend or to incline the ear.  It is to take a posture of listening in order to learn.  The prerequisite to any kind of good life is to have a teachable-spirit that gives focused attention to the wisdom God has for us.  A fool is a person who does not listen, but only mocks, complains, and is continually negative.  But a wise person is one who has learned to be attentive to the voice of God.  Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.  Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning (Proverbs 9:7-9).
            The fear of people is a death-dealing practice.  But the person who fears God through the posture of a teachable spirit discovers a life-giving practice that will serve him/her well.  The teachable spirit takes the posture of listening and learning from other people’s hard-won experiences.  It bends the ear to good advice.  It inclines toward acquiring knowledge and learning the skill set needed to live a good successful Christian life.  There cannot be a good life without having a teachable spirit, seeking after learning, discovering, and listening. 
            Therefore, Christians cannot learn if they will not read.  The Bible is a book.  If the Bible was a car I would tell us all to learn to be mechanics.  If the Bible were a fish or a deer I would tell us all to learn the best ways to hunt and fish.  If the Bible was a store I would tell us all to learn to be good shoppers and consumers.  But the Bible is a book, and so we all need to read it, memorize it, meditate on it, and learn from it.  Get in the Word of God!  Wise churches will find ways to immerse themselves in Scripture and have moldable teachable spirits. 


If we desire a good life we will fear God and keep his commandments; we will be readers of Scripture and take the posture of listening and learning.  If we want to experience the good life we will engage in personal reading, corporate reading, and bible studies.  We will find ways to get into the Word!