I recently read this new book by Timothy Keller, a Christian author and pastor in New York City. I’ve attended Keller’s church a few times, and heard him speak elsewhere, and I’ve always found his words to be poignant, intellectual, and well-reasoned. This book centers around the purpose of work from a biblical perspective; its title comes from this idea:
“…every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.” (p. 29)
The book got me thinking about why I’ve been given this passion for food, and how I can use it to glorify God, so that’s what I want to reflect on here. All direct quotations from Every Good Endeavor are italicized; bolding is my own.
“Your gifts have not emerged by accident, but because the Creator gave them to you…It’s liberating to accept that God is fully aware of where you are at any moment and that by serving the work you’ve been given you are serving him.” (p. 241)
This is hugely reassuring for me. Sometimes I wonder if my interest in food is petty, or self-indulgent, or simply the product of an advantaged upbringing and disposable income, without any lasting significance. But ultimately, this reminds me that regardless of those factors, God is keenly aware that I’m into food because it’s an intentional part of who he made me to be, and he wants me to serve him through it.
“Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and ‘unfold’ creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.” (p. 59)
Cooking food is such a great example of this. As silly as it may sound, each time someone takes ingredients and unfolds them in new ways, it shapes culture just a little more. That’s part of what is most exciting about food: the vast possibilities it has, the way it can forge new connections and provoke new emotions with each tiny dose of innovation. The role of food in culture is truly a complicated one – I’m not the first to be fascinated by it, and won’t be the last – so it’s worth following developments and creative patterns as they arise.
“God’s loving care comes to us largely through the labor of others. Work is a major instrument of God’s providence; it is how he sustains the human world.” (p. 184)
I love the idea that God provides for us through human labor, that we can glimpse his love through the myriad trades that people around the world pursue every single day. Food specifically is a concrete manifestation of provision and sustenance, so the connection is even more direct. Culinary traditions, dining experiences (including tasting menus), and food systems are all a result of God’s provision and others’ skills in action at each step of the way.
Keller also brings up the “ministry of competence,” or using talents as competently as possible in order to serve God and love others through whatever work you’re doing. Keller expands on this idea:
“…[It’s] consciously seeing your job as God’s calling and offering the work to him. When you do that, you can be sure that the splendor of God radiates through any task…” (p. 80)
I believe Keller’s right that if I’m consciously aware that tasting and learning and writing about food is a way that God has uniquely gifted me, and give him praise through my skill and competency, then I’m confident that he’ll be glorified in it as well. In short, it’s all about perspective.
You can find Every Good Endeavor on Amazon.
And I would love to hear what you think about this!