I didn’t always love to cook. Growing up I preferred other things to all things domestic, including any time in the kitchen. As I’ve grown into adulthood, my interests have changed, and I have grown to love cooking, though I’m still learning to like baking.
It’s only been recently that I’ve seen the work I do in my kitchen as a holy act. I used to view it solely as a necessity—a means to an end. We need to eat, we like good tasting food, so I cook. But with each sautéed vegetable, browned meat, and buttered roll, I’ve come to think of this work differently, as not only serving nutritional purposes, but theological ones as well.
The God Who Feeds Us
Scripture is full of examples of God feeding his people, and even feeding the creatures in the world that he has made. He feeds the sparrows (Matthew 6:26). He makes manna come down from heaven (Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:24). Jesus fed the four thousand and the five thousand by working a miracle (Matthew 15: 29-39; Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 8:1-11; John 6:1-14). Even in creation, he gave Adam and Eve food to eat (Genesis 1:29). He is not only the Creator, but also the one who cares for his creation (Psalm 107:9).
But more often than not, he uses people to feed others, and specifically he uses our work to provide the food that we need (1 Kings 17:7-16). A chef crafts a meal that delights our taste buds and satiates our hunger. A mother or father makes a peanut butter and jelly for a needy toddler. A mother nurses a baby, using her body to sustain his or her life. A grandmother or grandfather warms a bottle, grateful for the ingenuity of formula that allows them the opportunity to care for the baby.
Humans are created in God’s image, so while God feeds and provides for the world he has made with his own power, he often uses flesh-and-blood people to do it. With every instance of feeding a hungry belly, even if it is our own, we are the hands and feet of God. Our work in the kitchen, or in buying groceries, or in planning meals is reminding others that it is God who feeds us and meets our most basic needs. He just delights in using his image-bearers to do it.
The Bread of Life
But we live in a fallen world. Even our best attempts at sustaining hungry people come up short. The food I make doesn’t last a long time. Sometimes we have leftovers, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I leave it in the refrigerator for too long and it spoils. I grocery shop every week because with three hungry little boys (and a hungry husband and pregnant momma) filling our home we run out of food pretty quickly.
In every instance, I am reminded that even my most intentional efforts to make food last won’t work. I make food that perishes, that runs out, and that spoils eventually. But food is metaphor for lasting food. It’s not ultimate. It’s reminding us that we not only serve a God who feeds us, but we also serve a God who serves us food that will never perish or run out (John 6:22-29).
My hunger is a reminder of a deeper spiritual need that can only be met in Christ who is the bread of life (John 6:32-33, 35, 51). So when my kids lament the fact that we have run out French Toast Sticks again, I can remind them that the food we have before us on earth will surely always run out, but the food that Christ offers will always satisfy and last forever.
The Kitchen As a Gift
There is a temptation in our cooking to miss the ultimate purpose of it in the weeds of the immediate purpose. We can either despair over its fleeting nature or treat it as the end goal. Healthy eating, good-tasting food, impressing others with our skills, and a whole host of other things threaten to cloud our judgment to the real point of our cooking—which is pointing to the Creator of all things.
The Bible’s exhortation to us is not to diminish the value of the food here, but to have rightly-ordered desires. Don’t work for food that perishes only. Don’t idolize it. Don’t treat it as ultimate. It’s designed to point you to the Creator, not the cook.
Instead, enjoy it. Delight in it. See it as God’s good gift to you, both as a creator and a consumer. See it as God’s kind provision to you, both as the worker and the recipient. God could have provided food for us in other ways, but he didn’t. He uses us to be his hands and feet. And in our work, we are pointing to the God who sustains us all by the word of his power.
The kitchen is not just a place where food gets made. It’s a place where God’s glory is displayed.