Christians joyfully celebrate the goodness of food and drink as part of God’s glorious and abundant creation.
They do not have any binding rules relating to food or drink which they are expected to keep. They believe that freedom is the consequence of the salvation that Jesus has brought to men and women. The freedom to eat and drink everything that is healthy is part of that.
From very soon after the life of Jesus his followers felt that they had been released from the restrictions that bound their fellow Jews. However, they were insistent that they would not do anything that offended other people. Instead of adhering to rules, they felt they should be led to do what is right by considering the impact they were having on others.
The same determination to live in a way that is beneficial to other people has led some Christians to forego alcohol completely. There are some entire denominations (groups of churches that have similar practices) that keep strictly teetotal. This has been more the case historically than in the present day. And there are some individual Christians who decide not to eat meat because of the environmental impact or for other ethical reasons. But mostly they tolerate those who do not share these convictions.
Christians have always given a prominence to eating meals together as one of God’s good provisions for the enjoyment of life. The New Testament eagerly encourages hospitality. However, it also recommends fasting as a disciplined way of becoming aware of the presence of God in the world. Jesus knew the time for both.
The Bible strongly rebukes excess, gluttony and drunkenness. Most Christians take that to suggest opposition to other drugs that were not available in Jesus’ time as well. It also encourages exercise, and has ancient guidelines for the welfare of land and livestock in farming for food.
Christians usually pray before they eat as a sign of their thankfulness for all that God has provided. ‘Saying grace’ acknowledges that they are dependent on God for everything.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.
‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up so I can find another drink?’
Where to find it:
About these words:
The proverbs of the Old Testament, collected about one thousand years before Jesus, are snappy, funny pieces of advice about how to live in a godly way.
And they said…
Brigit, abbess and founding figure in the introduction of Christianity to Ireland, 451-525:
I would like to have the men of Heaven in my own house, with vats of good cheer laid out for them. I would like to have the three Marys, for their fame is so great. I would like people from every corner of Heaven. I would like them to be cheerful in their drinking. I would like to have Jesus too here amongst them. I would like a great lake of beer for the King of kings. I would like to be watching Heaven’s family, drinking it through all eternity.
Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, 1567 – 1622:
When you begin to talk more slowly, walk more slowly, eat more slowly, then it may be possible that we can begin to do something about your spiritual life.
Bonaventura, Italian theologian and philosopher, 1221 – 1274:
Food ought to be a refreshment for the body, and not a burden.
Monica Furlong, writer, 1930 – 2003:
To fast is to learn to love and appreciate food, and one’s own good fortune in having it.
Ricky Gervais, comedian, writing in ‘My Argument With God’:
Imagination, free will, love, humour, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.