” Let food be thy first medicine “
This famous quote is very well known in the nutrition world. You probably got it, this is not from the Bible but from Hippocrates; also called the father of the Medicine. He also was a pioneer in Dietetic. He acknowledged the fact that food was one of the foundation of a good health.
Nowadays, the word « Dietetic » is most of the time associated with diet and restriction. In reality, the word dietetic comes from the greek word « Diaita » which means « Life style » or « Art of living » in a more poetic way. So food is an art of living and a way to keep us healthy and helps us to prevent from some diseases.
“Diaita” isn’t used in the Bible, probably because it refers to the physical area and not the soul or spiritual areas. But Food is still important in the Bible and many stories and metaphors are related to food:
Seeds, grains and fruits given by God to the Man in Genesis 1.
The man who disobey God by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge in Genesis 3.
God giving meat as part of the food-based in Genesis 9. The Jewish people being dependent on God to eat the manna from heaven in Exodus 16… Food and the rituals around food was a way for Jewish to be apart from the other nation, this commandment was given by God himself. The examples are many and it is only the two first books of the Bible.
Jesus, on top of making miracles and multiplying bread and fish for the hungry people (in the physical and spiritual way), used many metaphors related to food. The most famous is probably the one about bread and wine being the symbol of is flesh and blood given to us. He also spent lot of time around the table with his disciples and the “not very trendy” people. Table and food is a symbol of hospitality, a way to welcome and bless our neighbors.
What if apply the word Dietetic to the spiritual level? What would be our spiritual dietetic, or spiritual art of living? How and why our spiritual food should be our first medicine?
We often say “Prevention is better than to cure”. A healthy dietetic (Diet), can prevent diseases. The World Health Organization declared that 70% of deaths are from non-communicable disease which are most of the time related to lifestyle: tobacco, stress, alcohol, pollution, inactivity, food, sleep… A big part of decease could be avoided by a better lifestyle. What if it was the case for our spiritual lifestyle?
Symptoms from an unhealthy dietetic can be: Tiredness, irritability, lower energy, concentrations problems, lower performances, weight variations, breathlessness… In the other way round, from a good lifestyle you can notice: more energy, vitality and performances, weight stability, a good digestion…
In Galatians 5v19-21, Paul gives us a list of what could be the symptoms of a unbalanced spiritual life: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies. In the next verses, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit, that are the sign of a balance spiritual life: Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Food is one of health foundations, it can make us stronger or weaker, it can prevent from or accelerate the first signs of diseases. It is important to take care of the nutrients we choose for our soul and spirit but also to take care of the way we, daily, digest it.
Jesus, symbol of the living Word of God, says in John 6v51« I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world »
But He doesn’t only feed us, he hydrates us and quench thirst by his Holy Spirit. John 4v14“but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
Foundations of our spiritual food is the Word of God and the presence of his Holy Spirit.
Eating is not enough, we also need to correctly digest and absorb it, and the same goes for the Word of God: The Bible. Psalms 1v2-3“but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever they do prospers”(=sign of good health)
We usually look like to the persons we hang out with. We are influenced by our relationships and our environment, in a positive or negative way. What is our environment? What are my relationships and influences? Are they helping me to maintain a healthy and balanced spiritual health or do they lead me to an unbalanced and unhealthy spiritual health?
God presence can only influence us in a good way because goodness is in his nature itself. One of the key is to spend time in His presence, that can be in prayer, worship and encouragement of each other.
God is full of love and compassion, just as a good physician, he would rather prevent us from disease than healing: “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”Jude 1v24. The same way, we can find in his creation all the good nutrients that our body needs, he also gives us all the good nutrients to feed our soul and spirit. But God doesn’t have any limits and he is almighty to also cure us when we are sick. Let’s not be afraid of a scary diagnostic. It happens to everyone to be angry, jealous, selfish… Jesus said that “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Mark 2v17. And sin is like the disease of the soul and the spirit and he promises to cure us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light »– Matthew 11v28. Let’s start by taking or taking back good habits, a good dietetic which means take time in his presence, cry for help, read and meditate his word, pray, worship…
So yes, let your word and the presence of your Holy Spirit be our first medicine, and may help us in our daily life to grab the good nutrient that we maintain us healthy and help our spiritual growth that we can be a blessing for your kingdom, ourselves and our neighbors.
Written by Mélody Vigneron a friend of Raviv’France