Descriptions of food are found throughout the Bible from the fruit of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:16 and 3:3, to the elements of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Careful dietary laws are given in Leviticus 11:1-47. Mealtimes were often celebrations:
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
As in Solomon’s day, so it is in today’s high-stress society: peaceful mealtimes aid both the digestion and the disposition. Perhaps the most meaningful and effective way to bring an air of peace and grace to mealtime is to make a habit of inviting God to be present. To offer a prayer of thanksgiving together before you begin to eat creates an attitude of gratitude and peace:
Psalm 100:4, 5
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Turning off distracting noises creates an air of calm and allows conversation to focus on building relationships, generating peace, expressing love, and providing encouragement:
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Even when dining alone, mealtime can be a time to rest, to reflect on God’s blessings, or to enjoy scenic beauty.
Women have long been associated with mealtime in a special way. For example, the virtuous wife or woman of strength described in Proverbs 31:10-31 is willing to expend great effort to provide physical nurture for her family.
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Scripture also emphasizes that food must be shared in a regular and timely way:
Psalm 104:27 – “These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.”
Matthew 24:45 – “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?”
There is no more beautiful time to nourish the family and others than in those regularly appointed gatherings that provide physical sustenance and spiritual nurture.
Brother Lawrence, a member of the humble barefooted Carmelite monks in the 1600s expressed the special opportunity in service at mealtime in his prayer: “Lord of all pots and pans and things…make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates! The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen…I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
In this hustle, bustle, instant gratification world we live in, the family mealtime has gone by the wayside in many homes. What a great loss that is. It would behoove us to bring it back and have great quality time with our children and each other.