Several months ago, I picked up the little book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan. Pollan is a journalist who researched what his family should eat in order to be healthy. He recorded some of his journey and learnings in two other books (In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma), but in Food Rules, he distills the wisdom gained from this project into a short book of rules that we can readily apply to our eating habits. These are not all easy, but they are practical and some are downright funny too.
Here’s a sample:
- Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would recognize as food.
- If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
- It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
This is my favorite: “Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not.”
In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John’s Gospel does not narrate the Last Supper, in which Jesus institutes what we celebrate as Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, depending on what sort of church you’re involved with. Even though John does not narrate a Last Supper, we should have little trouble seeing that John addresses the sacred meal in the way he brings out Jesus’ teaching on being the bread of life here in these verses (John 6:25-59).
With Jesus, we may also assert: “Avoid things that are pretending to be something they are not.” Jesus is the bread of life; he is our true nourishment, so we are to avoid things that are pretending to be something they are not—our Savior, or our Lord.
When it comes to who or what to center our life, our identity, and our worth on, there are plenty of possibilities. Of course there are outright bad things to center our life on. Most of those are represented by and addiction and/or an -ism. And some people do make those choices. But for many of us, that is not as big of a problem as our preoccupation with making good things into ultimate things.
In his short novel on one man’s vision of heaven, C.S. Lewis has his narrator witness a woman unable to understand why her son is so happy and content in God’s heavenly presence. She is jealous for his full attention because she had made her son the complete focus of her life. The narrator asks his guide (each character newly experiencing heaven has a guide) to help him understand the tension here. His guide responds that bronze is more often mistaken for gold than clay is. Translation: It is simpler to distinguish what is bad from what is ultimate than it is to distinguish what is very good from what is ultimate.
Think about that. The great things in life—family, health, success, work we love—these are the very things that are more likely to become substitutes for Jesus Christ in our lives. Why? Because they are so good. The saying, “avoid things that are pretending to be something they are not” is helpful here. Some things (addictions, -isms) pretend outright to be our Savior and/or our Lord. The truth is that regarding the best things, we do the pretending. And when we do we place a burden on things like family, health, success, and work, that they are not capable of carrying. But when we stop our pretending and center ourselves on Christ alone for our identity and worth, we are able to receive those good things for what they are—gifts from him.
“I am the bread of life… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:35a, 54-56 TNIV)