This is the first post on the subject of Economic Care, one of the five spheres of a Christian ethic of eating. We discussed before Creation Care and Animal Care. In today’s world, the majority of people by food. As Christians, we need to begin to explore how the money we spend on food travels through the global economy and how where food comes from is a justice issue.
I hate caring about what I eat or where I spend money. I am a thrifty person. Or, as most other people say, I am a cheap skate. I was the type of kid in high school that hounded his friends to pay back that $5 I lent for a hamburger. I lived in a very me-centered economy.
As I grew older I began to resonate with matters of social justice. I began to see the whole chain of the economy, not just my needs and wants. I was studying postcolonial literature and reading up on economics and began to connect colonialism, economics and social justice together. The big picture is a complex world where fair wages and safe practices are not always common. There are no easy solutions.
I get why so many people do not want to change their habits. Life is easier when you don’t think about ethics: about sweatshops and bonded labor, or suicides in tech factories and cruel working conditions in warehouses, or about how we treat animals or where that McDonald’s hamburger or Taco Bell meat really comes from.
It used to be so easy for me to just consume with reckless abandon, not caring about my health, your health, the world’s health—just me, all me. I could just walk blissfully through life with my cheap spending habits, buying whatever junk (food or otherwise) I wanted without a worry in the world.
See, it is so hard to change your eating habits because it requires discipline, a characteristic that is not very common in a culture that accepts debt, shopping sprees and overspending as normal activities. We as a culture have so little discipline when it comes to how we spend our money that people like Dave Ramsey (money) or Jamie Oliver (food) having created whole industries out of selling common sense.
For the Christian it is even harder. Changing our eating habits to line up with our faith means that we need discipline’s Christian cousin: discipleship.
Changing the way we eat as Christians is not a sin or holiness issue. Peter’s vision of all food being clean sets a clear message for the church about what we eat. Instead, changing the way we eat as Christians is a justice issue. Is what we are eating providing justice to the earth, the animals, the soil and all of creation. Is God’s kingdom and will kissing the earth when we eat? Are we saying grace for our food and realizing the true cost in terms of land and sacrifice? These are the types of questions that start to surface when we view food as an issue of justice.
Food costs money. It is part of a global economy that is incredibly complex. Yet, Christians are called to spend our money wisely and to be stewards of what God has given us. That includes learning where our money goes in the economic chain just like we have to respect where we are in the food chain.
Learning how to spend our money wisely and taking the time to learn how our food dollars affect the growers and pickers and butchers of our food takes discipline. As Christians, we are called to this kind of discipleship, to begin to see how the world economy can become more like God’s economy, even with such a seemingly innocent thing as food.