I HEARD the head of a European cooking school interviewed on the radio the other day. She said she couldn't believe how brainwashed Americans have become about food. "They're afraid to eat anything!" she said. Then she proceeded to point out that many of the staples of people's diets in her country were thought to be dangerously unhealthy in a country like the United States. Yet her countrymen were living as well and as long as Americans.
It would be hard to deny that the press is continually detailing new "discoveries" about the latest benefit-or danger-posed by different foods. What is particularly confusing is that opinions change fairly rapidly.
Amid all this, something Christ Jesus said is refreshing: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" That is from the book of Matthew in the Bible (6:25). This question implies more than one might think. Does the food we eat determine our lives? Does it rule health, mental and physical development, and longevity? There are so many obvious exceptions to theories that come disguised as scientific studies, that we should feel great freedom in answering "No!" quite vigorously.
Why don't we have to fear health theories concerning food? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, recognized the same tendency over one hundred years ago. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she wrote: "Admit the common hypothesis that food is the nutriment of life, and there follows the necessity for another admission in the opposite direction,-that food has power to destroy Life, God, through a deficiency or an excess, a quality or a quantity. This is a specimen of the ambiguous nature of all material health-theories. They are self-contradictory and self-destructive, constituting a 'kingdom divided against itself,' which is 'brought to desolation.' If food was prepared by Jesus for his disciples, it cannot destroy life.
"The fact is, food does not affect the absolute Life of man, and this becomes self-evident, when we learn that God is our Life" (p. 388).
That statement doesn't mean anyone should eat a foolishly imbalanced diet or be a glutton. Mrs. Eddy's message was not to be careless or unwise about eating, but to achieve a clearer understanding of the role God plays in daily living. That's what's involved in finding that the life is "more than meat, and the body than raiment." That's what makes food a servant instead of a master.
It's surprising sometimes how one's views about something as ordinary as food can end up having profound spiritual implications. For example, the Gospels record that a young woman, the daughter of a man called Jairus, was gravely ill (see Luke 8:41, 42, 49-56). She died before Jesus was able to get to her home to heal her. But Jesus quietly entered her room and brought her back to life. Then he asked her parents to give her something to eat. Under the circumstances, it would be inconceivable that Jesus would have worried about the fat content, the cholesterol level, the vitamins or lack thereof, in the food that was given to the girl. Obviously, he implied that life and health transcended such matters.
God reveals to us that we are created spiritually, and so are subject, not to physical laws, but to spiritual laws. We are not "what we eat," as the saying goes, because we are what God creates and maintains us to be. When Jesus was tempted after a long period of fasting, he rebuked the suggestion that life depended upon food. He declared, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
If God, Spirit, is our Life, which Christian Science accepts from the Bible's message, then our lives derive energy and strength from Spirit. These are unlimited because God is infinite. Nothing that comes from God can be contaminated or harmful, because Spirit is pure and good. All that comes from Spirit promotes life; it never injures or limits its creation or curtails its health. Understanding this frees us from fear and subservience to changing theories about health and nutrition.