‘You Are What You Eat’

was a popular television program in the United Kingdom from 2004-2007. It was based on the idea that what we eat affects who we are and what we are like. A cyber-search suggests that the phrase originated in the 19th century with Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who said, ‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are’; and Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach who wrote, ‘Man is what he eats’. Not intending to be taken literally, they considered that the food we choose to eat has implications for our health and state of mind.

It is not my purpose to debate the merits or otherwise of this. Rather, I want to use the phrase as a metaphor for the things in general we choose ‘to eat’ – the films we watch, the literature we read, the people we want to emulate. What we ‘eat’ in this more general sense, draws on assumptions we make about life, and these are usually dependent upon our spiritual values. And our assumptions in the spiritual sphere shape the choices we make in life.

Today’s problem is that so many people, even in the formerly Christianized West, have only eaten a diet of secular materialism. The majority of people in the large cities of the world, including the West, have no clear understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth is. When it comes to Christianity people have been offered a diet that has focused on the ungodly behavior of the few, rather than on the good Jesus’ followers have promoted through the centuries – schools and hospitals, churches and meaningful communities.

What we choose to forget are some of the toughest words of Jesus. In Luke 13:24f, we read: “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able… These words should strike dread in our hearts. One day the great doors of the new age will close, never again to open. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem With Pain: “The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”

Jesus goes on to say why many will be excluded from his presence: “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets’” (Luke 13:26). Some of us are too complacent about our faith: we are fellow-travellers. Yes, we attend church and give to the poor, we but do not enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Our problem often is that we don’t want him to instruct us and we baulk at obeying him. If we pray we tend to bargain or do deals with God; if we go to church, it is to catch up with friends or be seen with the right people. And because our own faith is not real or vital we ignore the plight of ‘the lost’.


So Jesus asks us, ‘What kind of diet do you eat? What choices do you make? Do you choose to taste the passing delights of a secular material world, or the lasting food of God’s Word and his kingdom?’ And, if you have truly turned to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, what of others? Do you pray for people you know and look for opportunities to feed them with the truth about Jesus and the hope he alone can offer us? The choice is yours.

Adapted from my commentary on Luke, John G. Mason, Reading Luke Today: An Unexpected God, Aquilla:2012.