Hungry for God: Biblical Reflections on Food

Day 2 of 7 • This day’s reading

Food is Gift (Ex. 16:11-18)

One of the strongest memories of time spent in Ethiopia was being force-fed food by a beautiful girl called Sarai. I was in a centre run by a friend called Cherry who worked with street girls, teaching them vocational skills so they did not have to work as prostitutes. Sarai was a girl my husband and I had been involved with for a few years and she was now in a bad way but had come to see us, bringing with her a bowl of injera, the national Ethiopian food. As we sat together she dipped her hand into her bowl and shoved handfuls of injera into my mouth. It was a challenge for me: injera was never my favourite food (I think it tastes a bit like carpet underlay!) and I had no idea where her hands had been, living on the streets of Addis Ababa. But this was bigger than taste and hygiene: this was about food as gift.

Wirzba says that, ‘food is a gift to be gratefully received and generously shared’. (footnote: N. Wirzba, Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 12)
It is a gift because it has been given us by God. Yesterday we saw that the gift of eating is a part of what God has blessed us with: have you ever wondered why God created living things to need food (we won’t discuss here whether or not God originally intended us to be vegetarian)? Today we read the wonderful story of God’s provision of the quail and manna to the Israelites in the desert. Food always comes from somewhere, even if it sometimes seems to us to appear magically in the shops. Coming ultimately from God, food is a gift: it’s a gift from the soil that nurtures it, from the rain that waters it, from the farmer who tends it and from the workers who bring it into our reach.

And as we receive, so we give, as through food we are brought together into community, friendship and family.

Prayer: Giving God, thank you for your gift of food. May I likewise be generous with my food.