Food Fight!

I find it comical that the first recorded church dispute arose over food. It was probably no joking matter back then, but now that two millenniums have passed, we can laugh. It’s funny because things haven’t changed much. We may say “grace” at the supper table but we don’t always show it there. Even a potluck can cause riffs in the family of God. There is no denying that we Christians are pretty fussy when it comes to food. Just ask any waitress who works the Sunday shift.

As far as the record states, the twelve apostles didn’t raise up assistants until the meals ministry got out of hand. It’s a fascinating story and you can read all about it in the sixth chapter of Acts. It seems that there were widows at the end of the soup line who weren’t getting their fair share. Some thought the apostles were guilty of discrimination because it was usually elderly Greek women that wound up with crumbs. In actuality, poor management was to blame. The twelve apostles simply couldn’t keep up with the thousands of hungry mouths. Their plates were just too full. Maybe that’s a bad choice of words given the accusation against them.

To address the first ever conflict of the first ever church, the first ever deacons were recruited, seven in all. While the apostles concentrated on feeding hungry souls, the deacons focused on feeding hungry bellies. That’s why they were called deacons, by the way. Though we have stretched the term to mean something loftier, deacon is nothing but a fancy expression for “waiter.” And that’s precisely what their role was in the early church.

With the appointment of the seven waiters, the problem seemingly went away. But as Christianity advanced from Jewish to Gentile territory, the madness resurfaced. Once again, food became a major bone of contention. This time, things grew real ugly. It seems the saints in Corinth loved their bellies more than their neighbor. Even when gathering for the Lord’s Supper they showed little consideration for each other. Nor did they give much thought toward Jesus when the sacred bread and cup came around. For this reason, they got their hands slapped – for partaking in an unworthy manner.

It didn’t take long before food became a recipe for disaster in the Church of Rome. Members there argued over meat, what was kosher and what wasn’t. Those who favored meat offered to idols weren’t that polite about it. They pigged out in the presence of weaker brothers without a care in the world. Paul told these carnivorous Christians, If you are hurting others by the foods you eat, you are not guided by love. Don’t let your appetite destroy someone Christ died for.” (Romans 14:15)

Ever since Jesus gathered with the twelve for that infamous last supper, food has been as much part of the church as stained glass and steeples. In Acts 2 we read how early converts gladly broke bread from house to house on a daily basis. Even today, the bonds of fellowship revolve around food. But that which brings us together is also known to tear us apart. And when dining turns to whining, it’s time for the deacons to close the kitchen.

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