Zero Plate Waste: A Christian Perspective
Many religious individuals utter a short prayer of thanksgiving every meal. This is to thank God, the source of everything, for providing food in the table. However, an interesting question to ask is that despite food being a blessing from God, then why is there so much food wasted?
At this point in time, many have been aware on the negative impacts of food wastage in different sectors of the society — whether be it about environmental impact, economic impact, and/or societal impact.
The Food and Agriculture in 2013 reported that around 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted per year. This is equivalent to 3.3 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide hindering the mitigation initiatives in combating climate change. The said volume also means 250 cubic kilometer of global water footprint wasted, a disappointing value given the declining supply of water resources in many communities. Its ethical value is also in question, as it means lost opportunity to feed the 870 million people who are experiencing hunger.
How essential is food according to the Bible?
Without a doubt, food is the most fundamental tangible need of a human. It is the primary source of energy of every living organism in the planet. Hence, it is not surprising that food is a highly essential element in the Christian faith and has become a center of many figurative texts in the Bible.
In fact, the most important figure in the Bible — Jesus Christ, the Son of God, declared himself as the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35). He said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
The central Christian prayer, Our Father, specifically mentions, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This specific line in the prayer highlights that among all basic needs, it is food that is most essential to living. However, it must not be disregarded that there are biblical scholars who describe the daily bread as more than food, but the Eucharist.
Also, the first sin committed by humans is eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is interesting to note that despite the settings of the first few Chapters of the Bible is the Paradise — implicitly described as a place of no hunger — food still remain to be a source of enjoyment of the first humans on Earth.
As essential as it is, food is sacrificed when doing religious fasting and praying. Giving up food means orienting oneself to something greater than the personal being, but positioning the self to focus on faith instead.
Food Waste and Spirituality
Having said the importance of food in the context of the Bible, the next question is what does the Bible say about food waste?
Many Books in the Bible mentioned about Jesus miraculously feeding thousands of men with small amount of bread and fish (Matthew 14:17; Mark 8: 5–7; Luke 9:13; John 6:9). Interestingly, in every book when this miraculously feeding is done, there is an also explicit mention of picking up of leftovers. These are evident in Matthew 14:20; Mark 8:8; Luke 9:17; John 6:12. Specifically, John 6:12 NIV quoted Jesus, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”
“…that nothing may be lost.”
This five-word phrase infers that Jesus is not fond of food wastage. While there is no exact reference on why, there are texts in the Bible implying that food wastage is an issue of morality- a prosperous man wasting food while his neighbour is starving- Ezekiel 16:49 ESV, “… she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
As a Christian, what must be done?
Wasting food is definitely not a mortal sin. Well, it can be, if the intention of wasting food is due to gluttony or greed.
However, if you desire to emulate the acts and values of Jesus, it is important to observe your food consumption. Are you wasting your food most of the time? What should you do to avoid having leftovers?
It is also important to note this traditional Christian mealtime prayer:
“Bless us oh Lord, and these gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord.”
If you asked Him to bless you and the gifts He has given you, are you going to waste that gift?