by John Edmiston
Today I heard a Christian radio program from America talk for an hour about eating and dieting but never once mention giving thanks. Nutrition was more important than superstition which is what saying grace seems to be for many. If you ask most Christians why they say grace the reply is likely to be because we are not one of the starving millions and we ought to be grateful - or because it is a good witness.
I have discovered some very good biblical reasons for giving thanks at mealtimes. For instance: Did you know Jesus is recorded as giving thanks at mealtimes nine times ? He gave thanks to God as He fed the five thousand and broke bread at the Last Supper. In the epistles the church wrestling with the question of clean and unclean foods. The key verse is 1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanks giving. Here Paul is opposing false teachers who went on about right and wrong foods. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1Timothy 4:3) .
These verses indicate that from the beginning of Creation God meant thanksgiving and food to go together. Saying Grace acknowledges both the goodness of the Creation (all foods are good) and the goodness of the Creator. It is our most regular way of telling God that we are still gratefully dependent on Him.
Sure - Saying Grace can become a boring and meaningless ritual especially if the meaning has never been explained to us in the first place. The next section of this article will deal with creative ways of giving thanks. Giving thanks for food at mealtimes is a well recorded practice of our Lord, of the apostles and of the Early Church. It is theologically sound. It is a sign of spiritual health - giving thanks is the natural response of the believing heart to Gods good provision in Creation. Giving thanks seems to play a part in making all foods clean and frees us from guilt and condemnation (Rom 14:6).
Finally - we are to give thanks in all things for that is Gods will for us in Christ Jesus.(1 Thess 5:18) And what better to give thanks for than delicious food? Its just about afternoon tea time, so I think I shall go and practice some Christian thanksgiving. A final thought - A Christians diet should have thanksgiving in every course as a matter of course.
Creative Ways of Saying Grace
Thank you God for this good food...Amen Five seconds flat.. Now lets eat. Grace can become a rushed habit, a Christian incantation at meal times. Lets look at what we can do to truly give thanks to God.
1. Make it a time of prayer for all members of the family. Pray for one another and the concerns of the day. Let each person share their needs then pray for the lot when you say grace. This really is very loving and warm and makes everyone feel built up and cared for.
2. Turn off the television. It is nearly impossible to say thanks over a commercial or the news. God wants your total attention. Give it to Him. It also sends a clear signal to children that God is very important . He is even more important than television!
3. Incorporate touch and holding hands. This sends the signal that you are a family under God united before Him in love. It makes grace a special time. Increasingly I am noticing that children are hungry to be loved and touched. Holding hands to say grace says God is love and warmth.
4. Have some silly graces for stressful days. Joy and laughter should be part of every Christian home. Some days everyone is so stressed out that the dinner table feels like a battlefield. Let stress out in a fun way before the meal by saying or singing a crazy grace. Some may object to this as irreverent and that is OK. For me God is fun and comfortable and he likes me - and if I cant be silly at home before the Lord - where can I be crazy?
5. Sing grace with guests. Make grace with guests different - Sing a well known grace the guests can join in or get the kids to enthusiastically teach it to them. Let the joy flow from your family to your friends
6. Use Bible-reading notes. A short Bible reading or devotional before the meal can work as long as it is less than five minutes long. No-one wants the food to go cold! Suitable notes can be obtained from Scripture Union or CLC or any other good Christian bookstore.
7. Make the people more important than the meal. Sometimes grace is regarded as an inconvenient barrier to the joys of pigging out. People and God come second - a long way second, to the rush for more. This is idolatry and a reversing of our Christian values. Meals are one opportunity to demonstrate that we are a family before God. Jesus used them to build relationships and create times for teaching and discipleship. We need to put the family before the food. In the end everyone will feel happier from being properly valued as people.
8. Regularly remind everyone of why you give thanks. Do not let grace become meaningless. We need regular reminders to keep the meaning of grace fresh in our hearts.
©Copyright John Edmiston, Asian Internet Bible Institute 1995-1999. May be freely photocopied for non-profit ministry purposes.
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