Stop Eating Like an Animal

By Joel Hess

Americans eat like animals

 “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game.” Proverbs 12:27

What you do around food betrays what you think about yourself and the world, your weltanschauung as the Germans like to say. As Solomon observed above, the fool cannot wait to roast his catch. He just digs right in…like an animal. Don’t be a fool.

The wise man, the civilized man, despises such base pragmatic practices at dinner time. He does not rush into it. He employs a variety of protocols and rituals; particularly played words and objects that accompany the meal. The table is set a certain way. There is a beginning and ending. Hopefully a prayer or two precedes and concludes the meal. For the civilized man, dinner is a ceremony of sorts. Dogs just stick their face in the dish and chow down as if their life depended on it. Dogs also growl when another dog draws near his food. For the dog, the food is everything. She may never be fed again. Do you look more like a dog or a human being when you eat?

In America we increasingly look more like dogs than civilized people when we chow down. We stuff our face with whatever is quick and easy as we hastily drive to work, type a blog post, or drag our family to the high school baseball game. It does not matter how we eat only “that we eat!”

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Even when we sit down for a prepared meal, most of us have lost any ritual of utensil arrangement or litany of words. Perhaps twice a year we pretend to be human beings; Christmas and Thanksgiving. At best we might say a prayer of 3 to 10 words.

It is no surprise we have degenerated into domesticated pets. Simple American pragmatism might be the biggest culprit. We aspire to do things as efficiently as possible. Efficiency has become the chief commandment of the modern American’s Decalogue. From our architecture to our vocabulary, we pride ourselves in cutting anything that has no use. We have even made it legal to remove useless people. So naturally we invented the spork, applaud fast food, removed the dining room, and munch on T.V. dinners. Watch out for the practical and efficient man. He is not your friend. He views life cheaply.

A second cause might be that we have embraced the study of “how things work” to such a degree that we have stripped dinner of its beauty and preciousness. Instead we only see our meals as a pile of vitamins and minerals meant to simply keep us moving. Our unbalanced focus on the material aspect of life preaches that we are only animals after all. So why not eat like one? What’s the point of pausing before eating or standing up before the lady of the house sits down if the goal of life is only to survive and produce progeny?

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Christians, of all people, should enjoy the freedom to take their time around a 12 oz. sirloin.  Like God’s gift of the Sabbath that required His people to not worry about tomorrow, let alone where they were going to get their next meal, Christ has rescued us from the rush of time, the stress of survival, and of course the god of pragmatism. There is no rush. We do not need to engulf our food, paranoid that this might be our last meal. Take your time. Also we appreciate the meal which is a gift from God. Decorate the table, bring out the dishes with fanfare pausing between each one. Engage in a litany between the host and dinner party whether it’s just yourself, your family, or by chance you are blessed to enjoy the company of others! Don’t take it for granted. God has placed a feast before you whether its leftovers or Grandma’s meatloaf. Give a good hearty prayer of thanksgiving and enjoy the sound of the words as they roll off your lips into God’s ear.

But perhaps we may see things in our meals greater than just daily sustenance. Perhaps we may see two other great feasts given to us by God; The Holy Supper instituted by our Lord and the great feast of the resurrection! Will that not cause us to enjoy our meals with ceremony?

George McDonald writes in The Miracles of our Lord, “With his divine alchemy, [God] turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries, yea, every meal into a Eucharist, and the jaws of death into an outgoing gate.”

As in His earthly ministry Jesus is our guest. Why not let lunch point to the foretaste of the feast to come!  Why not rejoice with friends around fondue because this will not be our last meal, but only the first when the table will be filled with all the saints, Abraham, grandmother, and Johnny Cash!

So stop being an animal, you slothful fool! Roast your game. You are made in God’s image! Eat like it.

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3 thoughts on “Stop Eating Like an Animal

  1. I love and respect your sentiment, but I’m so tired at the end of a lot of days I don’t have the energy to set a lovely table and pause to admire place settings. We certainly don’t wolf our food down. Some weekends, we do get around to a more celebratory meal, but not always.

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  2. Shamefully, I am reading this post while sitting in my car in the parking lot of a Wendy’s, hurriedly wolfing down my number six between meetings. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and appreciate.

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    1. Yeah, this post reminds me of much of my life. In RASP and Ranger School, we often had only two minutes to eat our MREs, run to the dumpster, throw away our trash and be standing back in formation at attention. Basic Training wasn’t much different. On patrol in Aghanistan, we ate our food while walking, or we had five minutes to eat a snack while taking a knee. To this day, I can’t eat a meal slowly, unless I’m really thinking about. Wolfing down food has been so drilled into my head that it’s my default. I don’t think I’ll ever master this one.

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