Do You Eat Well Spiritually?
“A good diet is the most basic human need. . . . Without sufficient food, we would die.”—Food and Nutrition.
THAT fundamental truth is graphically illustrated in the emaciated figures of starving men, women, and children who are denied this “most basic human need.” Others are able to meet this need to a degree but are still seriously undernourished. Yet, many who could eat well often content themselves with junk food that provides little real nourishment. “Food,” says Healthy Eating, “appears to be one of the most abused of our possessions.”
It is little different with spiritual food—the truth found in God’s Word, the Bible. Some people lack even the most basic spiritual nourishment; they starve spiritually. Others simply neglect to take advantage of the spiritual food that is available. What about you? Do you personally eat well spiritually? Or could it be that you are depriving yourself of spiritual nourishment? It is important to be honest with ourselves in this matter because we need spiritual food even more than we need physical food.—Matthew 4:4.
Food for Spiritual Growth
Food and Nutrition, a textbook that discusses the importance of having a proper diet, gives us three good reasons for eating well. One is that we need food “to promote growth and to make good the wear and tear on body cells.” Did you know that each day of your life, a trillion of your body cells are broken down and need to be replaced? Proper growth and body maintenance require good food.
That is also true spiritually. When the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Ephesus, for example, he emphasized how each Christian needs good spiritual food to become “a full-grown man.” (Ephesians 4:11-13) When we feed ourselves properly on nourishing spiritual food, we are no longer like weak babies, unable to fend for ourselves, falling prey to all kinds of dangers. (Ephesians 4:14) Rather, we grow into strong adults, able to put up a hard fight for the faith because we are “nourished with the words of the faith.”—1 Timothy 4:6.
Is that true of you? Have you grown up spiritually? Or are you still like a spiritual babe—vulnerable, totally dependent on others, and unable to take on full Christian responsibilities? Understandably, few of us would readily say that we are spiritually like a babe, but frank self-examination is in order. Some anointed Christians were like that in the first century. Although they should have been “teachers” themselves, able and willing to teach others what God’s Word says, the apostle Paul wrote: “You again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food.” If you want to grow up spiritually, cultivate an appetite for good, solid spiritual food. Do not be content with spiritual baby food!—Hebrews 5:12.
We also need this solid spiritual food to repair any damage done by daily trials that we face in a hostile world. These can sap our spiritual strength. But God can renew that strength. Paul said: “We do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) How are we “renewed from day to day”? In part, by regularly feeding on God’s Word through personal and group study of the Scriptures and Bible-based publications.
Food for Spiritual Energy
Food is also needed “to produce heat and energy.” Food provides the fuel for our bodies to function well. If we eat poorly, we will have little energy. Lack of iron in our diet can leave us feeling tired and lethargic. Is that how you feel at times when it comes to spiritual activity? Do you have difficulty discharging the duties that come with being a Christian? Some who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ become weary in well-doing, and they lack stamina for Christian works. (James 2:17, 26) If you see that this has been true in your case, the remedy may to a large extent lie in improving your spiritual diet or increasing your intake of spiritual food.—Isaiah 40:29-31; Galatians 6:9.
Do not be fooled into cultivating poor spiritual eating habits. One of the greatest deceptions that Satan has employed over the centuries has been that of convincing people that they do not need to read the Bible and take in accurate knowledge from it. He uses an age-old tactic adopted by invading armies to subdue enemy cities—deprive them of food and starve them into submission. But he has carried this tactic a stage further. He deceives those he is “besieging” into starving themselves while they are surrounded by a mountain of wholesome spiritual food. No wonder so many fall prey to his attacks!—Ephesians 6:10-18.
Food for Spiritual Health
A third reason we need food, says Food and Nutrition, is “to regulate the health of the body . . . and prevent disease.” The health benefits of good food are not immediately obvious. When we finish a good meal, we seldom think, ‘That has done my heart (or my kidneys or my muscles, and so on) a world of good.’ Yet, try to do without food for an extended period of time, and the consequences to your health become obvious. What consequences? “The commonest picture,” says one medical reference work, “is a negative one: failure to thrive, failure to resist trivial infection, lack of energy or initiative.” A comparable kind of spiritual ill health affected ancient Israel for a time. The prophet Isaiah said of them: “The whole head is in a sick condition, and the whole heart is feeble. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no sound spot in it.”—Isaiah 1:5, 6.
Good spiritual food gives us the power to resist such spiritual debility and the consequences of spiritual infection. Knowledge from God helps keep us in a good condition spiritually—if we feed on it! Jesus Christ commented on how the majority of people in his day did not learn from their forefathers’ negligence in the matter of proper spiritual feeding. They too refused to feed on the truths that he was teaching. With what result? Jesus said: “The heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.” (Matthew 13:15) The majority never benefited from the healing power of God’s Word. They stayed spiritually sick. Even some anointed Christians became “weak and sickly.” (1 Corinthians 11:30) May we never show contempt for the spiritual food God is providing.—Psalm 107:20.
Besides the threat of spiritual starvation, there is another danger we need to be aware of—the type of food that we eat may itself be contaminated. Taking in teachings infected by dangerous demonic ideas can poison us just as easily as can eating physical food that has been tainted with germs or toxins. (Colossians 2:8) It is not always easy to spot poisonous food. “Food,” says one authority, “may sometimes appear quite wholesome and yet harbour pathogenic bacteria.” So we do well to examine the source of our figurative food, bearing in mind that some literature, such as apostate writings, may be infected by the introduction of unscriptural teachings and philosophies. Some food manufacturers even use misleading labeling to deceive their customers as to the contents of their product. We certainly can expect Satan, the great deceiver, to do the same. Make sure, therefore, that you get such figurative food from a reliable source, so that you stay “healthy in the faith.”—Titus 1:9, 13.
Thomas Adams, a 17th-century preacher, said of people in his time: “They have digged their graves with their teeth.” In other words, what they ate killed them. Make sure that what you eat spiritually does not kill you. Seek out good spiritual food supplies. “Why do you people keep paying out money for what is not bread?” asked Jehovah God when those who claimed to be his people turned to false teachers and prophets. “Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul find its exquisite delight in fatness itself. Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, and your soul will keep alive.”—Isaiah 55:2, 3; compare Jeremiah 2:8, 13.
An Abundance of Spiritual Food
There is certainly no shortage of good spiritual food. As Jesus Christ prophesied, he now has a faithful and discreet slave class that is busy providing “food at the proper time” for anyone who wants it. (Matthew 24:45) Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah promised: “Look! My own servants will eat, but you yourselves will go hungry. . . . My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart.” In fact, he promises a banquet of food for those who want to eat it. “Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples . . . a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs, of well-oiled dishes filled with marrow.”—Isaiah 25:6; 65:13, 14.
Think of this, though: We could starve to death at a banquet! Surrounded by food, we can still end up seriously undernourished if we do not actually rouse ourselves to eat some of it. Proverbs 26:15 provides this literal description: “The lazy one has hidden his hand in the banquet bowl; he has become too weary to bring it back to his mouth.” What a sad situation! We can likewise become too lazy to exert ourselves in personal study of God’s Word and Bible publications designed to help us take in spiritual food. Or we can become too weary to prepare for or participate in the meetings of the Christian congregation.
Good Eating Habits
We have every reason, then, to develop good spiritual eating habits. The reality is, however, that many pick at their spiritual food, some even starving themselves totally. They can be like individuals who do not see the importance of a proper diet until they suffer the consequences in later life. Healthy Eating gives this reason why we may be careless about our eating habits, though we know that good eating is essential for life: “The trouble is that [as a consequence of poor eating habits] there is no rapid deterioration in health, no sudden result such as follows careless crossing of the road. Instead, there may be a very slow, insidious deterioration of one’s health, infections may be more readily caught, bones may be more fragile, healing of wounds and recovery from disease may be slower.”
In extreme cases one may become like a young woman who suffers from anorexia nervosa. She convinces herself that she needs little food, that she is perfectly well, despite the fact that she is wasting away physically. In the end she loses all desire to eat. “It is a dangerous condition,” says a medical reference work. Why? “Although the patient seldom literally dies of starvation she becomes severely under-nourished and may succumb to what should be trivial infection.”
One Christian woman admitted: “For years I struggled with knowing the need for regular meeting preparation and personal study and yet never being able to do it.” She eventually did make changes so that she became a good student of God’s Word, but only when she fully recognized the urgency of her situation.
Take to heart, then, the advice that the apostle Peter gave. Become like “newborn infants,” and “form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) Yes, “form a longing”—cultivate a strong desire—to fill your mind and heart with the knowledge of God. Spiritual adults also need to keep on nurturing that longing. Do not let spiritual food become ‘one of the most abused of your possessions.’ Eat well spiritually, and benefit to the full from all the “healthful words” found in God’s Word, the Bible.—2 Timothy 1:13, 14.
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Do you need to improve your diet?