I love food. A lot. Probably too much. Food is, for me, an indulgence, a gesture of love, a luxury, a form of both rest and play. In fact, I’m eating right now, as I write this. I am not a food snob: I will eat anything! I am not a food critic, but an “amateur,” a food lover. I enjoy reading recipes, but I almost never follow them. I learned to cook from spending time in the kitchen with my mom. She’s a brilliant and economic chef: she was doing the raise-your-own-meat/garden-to-kitchen/preserve-can-freeze thing before it was cool! She creates masterworks of simple and delicious meals that, for her, are always gestures of her love for her family and her guests. Anyone who has had the pleasure of sitting at mom’s table knows what I’m talking about.
I love food, but I have come to realize increasingly (in directly inverse relation to my decreasing metabolism) that my love for food is all too often a disordered love. I place far too high a value on meal times, on food, on my food. I am loathe to say that of the 7 deadly sins, gluttony is probably my number 2 (right after sloth…but they’re related). My eyes have gradually been opened to how I am not the only one with a disordered love for food. The shocking statistics of eating disorders; the unnerving number of diet programs; and the growing disparity between those who eat so much more than their share and those who go hungry and suffer malnutrition, all point to a swelling problem in our country.
This was made abundantly clear to me this week, in the particular nooks of the internet I frequent.
- On Tuesday, I came across this CNN article about how misinformation and confusion about food labels causes extravagant food waste:
“Words like ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ are used so inconsistently that they contribute to widespread misinterpretation — and waste — by consumers. More than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U.S. food supply is tossed–unused–every year because of food dating.”
- And on Wednesday, I found this even more troubling article, where Sheila Steffen, a producer for CNN, lived off only the $30 which would be allotted by food stamps. This was the most poignant part of her reflections:
“I’m so very conscious, too, of all the things I have to forego. I can’t just grab a coffee or go to dinner with friends. I feel a bit isolated. Not having enough money for food affects not just your mood and health, but also your social life.”
- And then, under “related content,” I saw this video. I was appalled. Here is this woman lamenting her isolation because she can only spend $30 a week to feed herself, and then here’s this bar where you can spend $30 to have a nostalgic, personalized cocktail “experience” so you can “taste a smell.” What!?
- So on Thursday, when I read this meditation on Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, I was already primed to hear an important Word from the Spirit.
“Perhaps the good news for the poor that Jesus proclaims in this parable is also good news for the rich. Rather than a prediction or description of the afterlife, the story of Lazarus and Dives [The Rich Man] can be read as a summons to worship the God of abundance. In God’s economy, the distribution of wealth is less of a concern than is the human connection that contributes to the flourishing of all. In life, Dives refused to touch Lazarus, despite their close physical proximity. In death, he longs for Lazarus to touch him. Luke seems to suggest that the isolation created by wealth is done away with in the reign of God where we touch and are touched by those around us, where borders and barriers and all manner of divisions are broken down.”
So, to sum up. We live in a country where we throw out %40 percent of our food for fear of the odd chance it might not be safe, when there are people who spend $30 a week to feed themselves, and where people spend $30 a night (or more!) to enjoy an alcoholic beverage; and these people might never come into contact with one another. Obviously the cocktail video was not meant for the food stamp crowd; they’re not even speaking the same language! And isn’t that the real problem?
“In God’s economy, the distribution of wealth is less of a concern than is the human connection that contributes to the flourishing of all.”
Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.