By Pastor Robert Perez
“8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” – 1 Corinthians 8:8-9
I eat and drink too much. I like fatty food that’s bad for me and drink bourbon frequently. I’ve put on pounds that do not flatter me. My health has declined considerably in the past few years of “living well”. Sure, it’s been fun with my friends and family. I love my nights of painting, loud music and whiskey that turn into what I call a “Paint Party” (I even gave it a name). Some of my best work gets done in those moments of highly intense introspective revelry. It is my right, as is yours, to “eat and be merry”. We could even argue that it is God who has provided us with the provisions to do so. In some ways, that is correct. But at what cost? I have stumbled over myself.
“Food will not commend us to God,” it says in 1 Corinthians 8:8. The Apostle Paul, in his seminal letter, was speaking about individuals who after being convinced that Jesus was the Christ and to follow his teachings, might still be habitually eating from and in areas of worship that belong to other religious practices, called idol worshipers. He argued that God really didn’t care about what you ate, who with or where. It wasn’t the food that would be the offense to God. What God did care about was your state of being in doing so.
For example, if I enjoy bourbon, well alright. If I drink too much, get drunk and eventually unhealthy, that’s a different condition altogether. The offense is not inherent in the bourbon. Whiskey cannot have a property of good or bad. The offense, in this case, is not the consumption of bourbon. The offense is in the lack of discipline when the innocuous act of drinking bourbon does become harmful to me. The act of disrespecting one’s body and mind are the offense to God.
Many spiritualists often site the need for purity of body and mind to become truly connected to God. The misconception is that it is the food, or the whiskey, or the music, or whatever, that is standing in the way of spiritual development. No. It is the lack of judgment and poor action. It is the lack of control. These are the stumbling blocks that “lead to the weak”, leaving an individual less capable and vulnerable.
The elaborate nature of the mature writing that comprises the pages of the Bible confuse the simple truths underlying spiritual development. I probably would better serve my readers if I just spelled out what to do. Don’t do this, do that. But although this may be simplified into easy rules, the brain is a crafty and complex entity and doesn’t accept what to do easily if it doesn’t know why it’s doing it.
Unconscious behaviors have mechanisms of rationale that instruct us why we should do something and avoid others. Our brains say, “you’re hungry”, so we eat. It says, “Mmmm, that’s good and we like it”, so we eat some more because it makes us happy. Same with all our behaviors. That’s why dieting sucks. Our mind says, “no Bueno” to withholding pleasure.
Am I committing terrible sins by eating and drinking too much? Not at all. Am I offending God so much that He has forsaking me? Nonsense. But am I living a healthy lifestyle? No, I am not.
What does any of this have to do with spirituality?
If we use my own example, I am in a weakened state, like an athlete that stopped training. I used to be a good rock climber, mountain biker, martial artist, trained dancer, etc. To improve, I must live a proper healthy life in order to achieve the best example of what is possible for myself. This can only lead to a better existence overall. Hence, living in a state of being that opens all my possibilities, including spirituality.
Paul said, “stumbling block.” He chose his words very wisely, as always. He didn’t say we’re doomed by simple behaviors. He meant that sometimes the simplest of acts, even as innocuous as eating, can trip you into places that you didn’t expect you’d go. He was talking about being “mindful”. Western religions don’t overtly speak in terms of mindfulness. That’s a very eastern understanding of spiritual development.
God is God for all, and humans for the most part are one and the same, with only minor differences amongst us. The essential structure of our beings is virtually identical.
Paul said, it is no matter if you eat certain food or not, but what the potential for doing so may be. So, it is also true that God is not concerned if you get your understanding from the east or the west. If you gain the wisdom and understanding of who and what God truly is, than however it happened is fine. Just the same, if you stray from or are kept away from God or godliness, by way of your choices, that is a tragedy.
Be mindful of what you do, what you think, and how you behave. Take notice if it’s helpful or harmful to yourself or others. The answers on how to behave become obvious when you do. I’m starting the year of our Lord 2020 with renewed commitment to my personal circle of mindfulness.
For instance, I am nicer. Not that I wasn’t a “nice person”, but I had my moments, especially inside, where I was less than nice. Opinionated. Easily angered. Impatient. Truly, I worked on these in a forced state of mindfulness to catch myself in the act. I was doing them more than I realized. I wasn’t doing anything that any of the other people in my community or even worldwide are doing. I was being a twenty-first century guy. But is that good enough? Am I “just a guy”? Do I want to live as an ordinary “dude”?
I actively started being “nicer”. I chose to be nicer. Inside, I chose to feel nicer. Surprisingly quick, I transformed to a different person where I wasn’t looking at nice as a possibility but was now looking at negativity as a possibility and saying no to it. I feel different. I am different.
My brothers and my sisters, we can all do this. We can change and be godlier in our selves. We start by choosing behavioral actions that better ourselves and those around us. This will please God. This will open the floodgates to spiritual potentials. The Spirit will find its way more easily into your being. We alone hold the keys to our own successes and failures.
I must be nicer to myself, take better care of myself, and end 2020 a new man of renewed strength in body, mind and spirit. Once I do, all the missing pieces will fall into place.
Above Artwork: “IC2: Ego Sum (detail)”, 2012-13 – Mixed-Media on Wood – 48 x 24 inches ©Artist Robert Perez – All Rights Reserved