By Mark A. Taylor
Usually my wife and I grab something at a restaurant after church on Sunday morning, but a few weeks ago the church fed me lunch. It was an information meeting for small group leaders at our church, and the menu was box lunches from one of my favorite local cafes. I tried the chicken salad sandwich. Never had it before—it was great!
There were extra meals on hand after the meeting, so each of us could take a couple home with us. My wife and I enjoyed ours the next day. So that means the church fed me twice that week! Sweet! And this in appreciation for doing a task I was already committed to.
But here’s the thing. The church doesn’t feed me every meal. I spent about $100 for groceries that weekend, and Evelyn hit the store for some midweek fill-ins later. Not only that, but I also had money in my pocket for at least a couple lunches out. I made plans, invested resources, and looked forward to some fine meals Evelyn and I would provide for ourselves. After the church offered me a couple of box lunches, I knew the rest of my “three squares” were on my plate to provide.
Pretty obvious, right? Eating is my responsibility, not anyone else’s. Preschoolers and invalids may depend on someone else to keep them fed, but thankfully I’m not in either category. I feed myself. If I looked at my wife and said, “I’m not being fed,” she’d probably tell me to pick up my fork or get off my duff and open the refrigerator.
Occasionally I don’t eat enough for dinner, so I supplement with a bedtime snack. Sometimes I end up at a restaurant that doesn’t please me and I decide not to go back. There’s nothing wrong with deciding the dispenser of the food is not satisfying me. When that happens, I choose another menu. But I don’t blame the cook. When it comes to being fed, I’m my own dietician.
Actually, there’s nothing new about this. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago a preacher friend of mine was reflecting on the accusation he’d heard from some disgruntled church members. Their beef? “I’m not being fed.”
Unfortunately, the complaint doesn’t go away. But neither has the response. “If you’re not being fed, go get something to eat!”
This is especially appropriate when the complainers are not new Christians, starving for truth, but experienced believers with a finely developed appetite for what they do and don’t like. I’m thinking of so many people I’ve encountered in the Two-Thirds World eating little or the same something day after day. I imagine them standing with a sack of White Castles in their hand, taking a bite of the oniony bullets, making a face, and saying to their benefactor: “I’m not being fed.” I don’t think so. Hungry people relish whatever’s put before them.
And here’s another angle: Some of the best meals I’ve eaten were when I was feeding someone else. Business lunches, Saturday-night company, holiday celebrations—I always eat better when I’m feeding someone else. And I seldom learn the Bible better than when I’m preparing to teach a Bible lesson, lead a small group, or prepare a sermon.
I have lots of concerns about my spiritual diet. I don’t know the Bible as well as I wish I did. I don’t read as much of it each week as I think I ought. I pray, but I want to pray more. I study, but each lesson reminds me how much I still need to learn. I eat, but not enough.
And I know whatever the church serves for an hour on Sunday cannot be anything more than an appetizer or, if done really well, a cooking lesson.
I’m grateful for the lunch the church served a few weeks ago. I was delighted for the leftovers to enjoy another day. But the church did not feed me enough that week. And it never will. And it never should.