Parallels: Over-Fed and Under-Nourished
A short stroll outside would reveal a painstaking truth: many people are overfed. We live in a time and place where food is so abundant we are far more likely to die from over consumption-related issues than under consumption. However, most of us, despite our abundance of food, are likely under nourished. Yes, we eat a lot of food but the contents of our food has the nutritional value of a packing peanut. Our bodies, desiring nutrition, continue to ramp up hunger signals which leads to more and more eating. While we consume enough to leave us full, we also leave ourselves never satisfied.
Cost and convenience have led many to substitute quick and cheap alternatives to real food. These foods offer enough to get us through the day, but lack the nutrition we need to survive. They satisfy the need in the moment, but cannot sustain you. Instead of satisfying you, these foods need you wanting and needing more. While you consumed calories, your body is still in search of nutrients.
This problem is one facing the church as well. Never before in history has there been so much access to so many Christian resources. This coupled with the lack of persecution to consume these resources has been a major blessing. No matter what niche market you find yourself in, there is something for you. There are hundreds of thousands of hours of sermons, podcasts and audiobooks for your listening pleasure. Yet even in our abundance, the average Christian is spiritually malnourished, having been convinced reading about the Bible is an acceptable replacement for reading the actual Bible. Learning about prayer has sustained our otherwise dead prayer life. Online pastors and teachers have removed our perceived need for genuine fellowship with other believers in the local body.
The Christian walk has become less about being holy and more about appearing holy. As long as you’re subscribed to the right podcasts, listen to only Christian music and put on your Sunday-Best you are checking off all the boxes. Because we have surrounded ourselves with enough moral activities and Christian teaching we believe we are fine.
To put it in perspective, I was 26 years old before I memorized the Ten Commandments. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s true. I have spent my entire life in the church and couldn’t have told someone something so basic about the Bible. You see, I was very good at talking about the Bible and knew enough Christianese to pass the eye test. I volunteered and was in leadership at my church, but I found myself woefully undernourished in reading the Bible.
The same can be said for our health. Some of the people who look the healthiest are far from it. Consider professional athletes. There is nothing healthy about doing the things they do to their bodies. However, because many of them have big muscles, run fast and jump high, we assume they must be healthy. Bodybuilders, physique athletes and even some personal trainers look healthy, but a quick peak behind the curtain would reveal that a large number of them have terrible relationships with food and exercise.
As Jesus said to the hypocritical Pharisees, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and pall uncleanness." (Matthew 23:27). Jesus isn't looking holy. He calls us to be holy.
The difficulty with getting physically and spiritually nourished is it takes work. It takes meal planning and prepping to ensure you get healthy food ready each day. It takes a lot of effort to dig in your Bible and see what it says for itself, instead of just listening to other people’s prepackaged, partially digested interpretations.
Instead of reading our Bible we read someone else’s thoughts about it. Instead of drinking bland, boring water, we drink diet soda. Confess our sins to one another? No thank you, I’ll just pray about it in my room or make #authentic posts on instagram to a group of strangers. Eat vegetables? How about some juice that claims to have four servings in it? Liking every Instagram post by Desiring God as a means of sanctification is the equivalent of taking a multivitamin in place of a meal - neither are necessary, it’s likely better than nothing, but neither will sustain you.
If you went to a third-world country, you would find giving them a multivitamin would add a lot of value to their lives. If you come from a place of zero nutrients, getting 100% of your RDA of vitamins would make you feel like a superhero. However, if all you continued to give them was a multivitamin, it wouldn’t lead to great health.
For many Christians, we engage in enough “Christian” behaviors to remove the sting of our lack of deep relationship with God. We volunteer for Sunday School, worship team, soup kitchens, etc. We know the same verses the atheists know and know that “God made you special, and He loves you very much” because some talking vegetables told you so. While these activities are not bad, they cannot be your only spiritual nourishment.
Peter writes, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) Peter is talking to new Christians and he tells them the “spiritual milk” will help them grow up into salvation. It’s good for babies to drink milk, it’s what they need and what their body can handle. However, Paul also addressed a group of people who were supposedly mature, but he calls them infants. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual persons, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready…” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Paul *rebukes* them for staying as infants. For an infant, an all-milk diet is great. However, If you saw a 30-year-old whose diet was only milk, you’d know something was wrong. Yet our churches are full of people who are fully content with an all “milk” diet.
Killed by Convenience
If your walk as a Christian has become convenient, you need to look at who you are following. Jesus speaks against that idea lots. He talks about denying yourself and taking up your cross (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23), hating your family (Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26), and knowing the world will hate you for His sake. None of those are easy things to bear.
There is nothing convenient about putting down your phone to read your Bible, cooking a week’s worth of chicken breast, waking up early on the weekend to go to church, or during the week to workout. However, each of these activities benefit our soul and body, often far more than the mindless pursuits we trade them in for.
I would never tell anyone to stop listening to podcasts - I love them too much to do that. Nor would I ever say you can’t eat processed food - again, love them too much. However, those things need to supplement time in the Word, gathering with fellow believers, prayer, and steak and potatoes. These extra things are not bad, and I would argue can be very beneficial, but they can’t be everything.
Are you spiritually malnourished?
Are you physically malnourished?
What is one small step you could take to gain spiritual and physical nutrients in your life?