In our day of climate change, drought, and food shortages, it is essential to know God’s answer to these problems. The Bible talks about “a land of milk and honey.” Most of us probably think this refers to the product of bees and cows. In fact, the milk was mostly from goats, and the honey was entirely from date palms. This plant is so productive that each tree will provide 150 pounds of food a year.
Date palms can live for over 100 years and grow to the height of a five-story building. However, they grow best when the roots can find underground moisture while the tree is in arid and hot conditions above ground. That is the environment of the area where Jesus lived, and today groves of date palms grow on the edge of the Dead Sea.
Date palm seeds are so resilient that some from the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls 2000 years ago have germinated when planted and watered. In the United States, we merely call them “dates,” but there are many varieties for different uses, such as medjool, khalas, sukkary, barhi, rutab, ajwa, kimia, deglet noor, and halawi. In the Middle East, where dates have been used for over 4000 years, these varieties are well-known.
God has provided for human needs in a wide variety of ways. We can solve the problem of food shortages if we use what God has given us. Many of our staple foods in America are difficult to grow, especially in nutrient-poor soils or harsh climatic environments. Using God’s gifts wisely on a global level can reduce hunger, pain, and suffering enormously. God has given us what we need, but we must manage it intelligently.
One of the significant challenges today is controlling the collateral damage from growing enough food for our world’s population. This issue is especially true with livestock which create a large carbon footprint and require two-thirds of land devoted to agriculture in the United States. That includes the land dedicated to raising feed for the livestock, which requires massive amounts of water and creates water contamination by polluted runoff and soil erosion. We need to make better use of the food sources God has given us.
A National Science Foundation research program in Yellowstone National Park led to the discovery of a fungus named Fusarium flavolapis, which has amazing abilities. It can ferment sugar to produce a protein that mimics the taste and texture of meat and dairy products. A company called Nature’s Fynd is already making meatless breakfast patties and dairy-free cream cheese and marketing it in California, New York City, and Chicago. They grow this product in trays without soil or sunlight using just sugar, water, and nutrients.
Another food of the future is mycelium, which is the root structure of mushrooms. It grows incredibly fast and has fibers that mimic chicken or steak. A startup company called Meati Foods is now growing enough mycelium in a small facility to equal the meat of a cow in about four days. They are building a much larger plant in Colorado, with expected production to start there in 2022.
Imagine a future where we can grow food in controlled conditions inside a building and where there is no need for massive amounts of water or large areas of land. Also, pesticides or herbicides would not be needed. As a result, hunger could be eliminated from planet Earth, and there would be no shortage of water or release of greenhouse gases.
These products are not a fantasy but another case where humans are finally using food sources God has given us. Fusarium flavolapis grows in hot water springs in the natural world. Growing mushrooms produce mycelium. The big issue is getting people to accept these products in their diet, replacing the ones they have been accustomed to.
Every day, the mail brings letters from organizations asking for money for feeding starving people around the world and in the United States. Most of these organizations are directly or indirectly connected to the teachings of Christ. I don’t get letters from atheists who feed hundreds of people who don’t have enough to eat. When Jesus gives a picture of the judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46, the first thing He says is that His followers will provide food and drink to the needy.
As the population of planet Earth grows, the need for food will only increase. God has provided the means to feed our population. More than that, we could double our population and still have enough for everyone to eat. Hunger results from waste, mismanagement, greed, selfishness, and failure to live as God has called us to live.
Science has learned some superfoods are untapped or poorly managed. One example is the lowly chickpea. Chickpeas provide more than twice as much protein as corn and more than four times as much fiber as brown rice. In addition to providing nutrition for people, chickpeas enrich the soil with nitrogen so that farmers can use less fertilizer. Botanists have developed new varieties of chickpeas to grow in harsh conditions and even fight off blights. These new varieties allow farmers in Africa and Asia to double their yields.
John the Baptist ate locusts and honey according to Matthew 3:4. Worldwide, people eat more than a thousand species of insects. Insect farming is in its infancy, but grasshoppers, rhino beetles, and termites are the three most common insect food sources. Not only do insects provide all the nutrition that a human needs, but the cost of raising bugs is microscopic compared to cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs.
Potatoes are an essential crop for feeding people, and the top potato producer is China, with an annual harvest exceeding 150 million tons. No matter what climate changes we see in the coming years, chickpeas, insects, and potatoes can withstand the extremes. God has provided the resources for feeding starving people to make desperate hunger a thing of the past. Humans just need to learn to get along and use all the resources God has given us.
The January 11, 2021, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science written by scientists from all around the globe raised an issue about problems associated with the decline of insect populations. The report points out that insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species, climate change, and agriculture and land-use changes are causing the loss of 1 to 2% of Earth’s insects each year. People hate bugs, and yet we can’t live without them.
We have written numerous times about the design of insects and how they benefit human life. Insects pollinate the food we eat. They are a significant part of the food chain, they get rid of waste, and in many cultures, they are a basic food. In my military survival training, I remember being taught how to eat grasshoppers, ants, crickets, and a variety of ground insects.
University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner who directed the scientific study, said, “Insects are absolutely the fabric by which Mother Nature [we would say God] and the tree of life are built.” The classic example of this problem is the struggle that beekeepers have with the dramatic decline of honeybees. Wagner goes on to point out that in the midwest, we are “creating a giant biological desert, except for soybeans and corn, in a giant area.”
People hate bugs, and we tend to resist any desire to help insects prosper. We must remind ourselves that they are part of God’s design, and the problems they cause are always related in some way to human mismanagement. We must wisely use what God has given us.
One of the frustrating parts of the world situation today is the waste of food. Nearly every day, we get letters from relief organizations about hunger and pictures of starving children. The fact is that God has given us a planet that produces more food than we humans can eat. Food shortages and starvation result from mismanagement and failure to use all that God has given us.
The World Resources Institute tells us that 35% of the food produced in North America goes to waste. Most of this waste occurs at the consumption level in our homes and restaurants.
Some farming practices also contribute to the waste problem. In our area, people grow watermelons. When harvest time comes, hundreds of melons are left in the field to rot. The problem is that what sells at the market is melons of a specific size and weight, so melons that don’t meet those criteria are left in the field. Green beans are grown here, and the machines that harvest the beans cut off the plants allowing only one harvest. If allowed to continue to grow, the plants would produce many more beans.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hardships for people of all economic levels, but children have been hit especially hard with child hunger becoming a national problem. Last year in Michigan, over 67,000 children faced hunger. In 2020, that number has increased to almost 118,000. Right now, one in six families in Michigan is struggling to have enough food. The challenge of feeding the hungry is being met, and there is a lesson in who is meeting it.
Feeding America is an organization that gathers and distributes food to relieve hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. They do this by donations of money and food from various companies and relying on volunteer labor.
The Does God Exist? ministry is dedicated to showing evidence that there is a God and that the Bible is His Word. Although the evidence for God’s existence is vast, perhaps more convincing is Christianity’s effect on people’s lives. Recently, the Feeding America truck came to our small congregation, where we unloaded food and distributed it to 103 families that don’t have enough to eat in our area. Our small operation reflected what is happening all over America. In 2019, Feeding America distributed almost 28-million pounds of food.
Our point here is who is meeting the challenge of feeding the hungry? Are atheist and skeptic groups involved? In 2019, volunteers turned three-and-a-half-million pounds of food into almost three-million meals for people in Western Michigan. Who were the volunteers making this possible? Four of the five groups were churches, and the other one was a Kiwanis Club. Feeding America lists agency partners for Michigan, and of the 20 partners listed, 13 were churches.
When churches feud or a minister is involved in a scandal, it frequently becomes front-page news. Atheist magazines like The Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic publish stories in nearly every issue about a church or religious leader involved in some scam or mismanagement of money. Not making the headlines are the people of faith who meet the challenge of feeding the hungry. They are the ones who manage the food pantries and are the primary workers in programs like Feeding America.
Many times we see animal behavior that seems impossible to explain. We see an interesting example of that in wading shorebirds called phalaropes. These birds can get food that is too deep in the water for them to reach.
Instead of the typical methods used by shorebirds to capture their food, phalaropes take a different approach. They spin around and around in one place at the breakneck speed of one complete rotation a second. They kick seven to eight times on each spin and move their heads to where they can quickly snap up food. Researchers have found that these birds can detect prey, thrust and seize with their bills, transport and swallow the prey, and do it all in half-a-second.
Own Olbricht sent us this summary of what your body does in a day. We thought it was worth considering the fantastic abilities of the bodies God has given us.
*Every day your heart pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through its chambers. *On average, your lungs take in 17,000 breaths a day with a typical lung capacity of roughly six quarts of air. *Your brain processes over 50,000 thoughts a day – 35-48 thoughts per minute. *Your stomach lining has cells which produce an alkaline substance every few milliseconds to neutralize stomach acid. The stomach would dissolve itself without its lining. *Your eyes blink 28,000 times a day, with each blink lasting 1/10th of a second. *Your body’s energy system expels enough heat to light twenty-five 100-watt light bulbs every day. *Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and you shed a million skin cells every day. *Your hair grows a millimeter a day. The average adult’s full head of hair consists of 100,000 strands. *Your liver filters 1.53 quarts of blood every minute, and every day it produces a quart of bile to help digest food. *Glands in your mouth produce more than a quart of saliva every day. *Every minute your kidneys filter 2.2 pints of blood or 3168 pints per day. They expel 2.5 pints of urine every day. *The average person will eat over 50 tons of food in a lifetime.
What your body does in a day is an excellent testimony to God’s wisdom, intelligence, power, and design.
One of the enduring questions with the COVID-19 virus is its origin. We know that it came from the wet markets in Wuhan, China, but it is essential to look at what practices led to this pandemic. No one in the scientific community denies that epidemics and pandemics begin when a pathogen moves from one species to another. We need to consider how God’s hygienic food laws which He gave to the Israelites prevented epidemics and pandemics.
When you read the Old Testament, you see all kinds of restrictions on food. Those include not only what the Israelites could eat, but also how it was procured and prepared. From the earliest times, eating blood was forbidden (Genesis 9:4). Any preparation that allowed blood to remain in the meat was prohibited, so an animal that was strangled could not be eaten. Eating anything that had died on its own was forbidden (Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 17:15). Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 give a long and tedious list of what could be eaten and what could not. There were even instructions on how to prepare the meat (Exodus 12:8-9).
The practice in the Old Testament was that eating meat of any kind (other than fish) was a rare situation and usually only for the wealthy. The main diet was grains and fruits. When humans began to build cities, this dietary practice changed, but the early Christians retained much of the Old Testament diet and restrictions. (See Acts 15:29; 21:25.)
As humans moved away from the biblical instructions of God’s hygienic food laws and the handling of animals, they instituted some very dubious practices. The July/August 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (pages 20-24) carries a discussion titled “Did Superstition Cause the COVID-19 Outbreak?” The article describes traditional Chinese beliefs about meat and other byproducts of wild animals.
In China, much of the food is distributed in wet markets. In these markets, fish and a variety of other animals such as bats are slaughtered and gutted on-site to guarantee freshness. In places like Wuhan, the ground is wet with melted ice and the blood of various species. The animals to be slaughtered are kept alive in closely packed open cages where the blood and feces intermingle.
When we read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we may feel burdened with what appears to be an endless list of restrictions and rules. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the wet markets’ environment is conducive to the spread of disease. Epidemics of the past can be related directly and indirectly to cultural practices that would not have happened in the Israelite culture in the day of Moses. We have new problems today because of the size of the human population and the closeness of animals of all kinds and humans. The COVID-19 tragedy is a reminder of the wisdom we see in God’s hygienic food laws in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament dietary laws did not allow the Israelites to eat certain foods. Genesis 9:2-4 says not to eat meat that “has its lifeblood in it.” Leviticus 11:1-47 and Deuteronomy 14 spell out a wide range of dietary restrictions. Today we know why those restrictions were put in place because the animals the Israelites were forbidden to eat were carriers of viruses infectious to humans.
In the New Testament, the picture changes. The early Church leaders met to determine what actions they should abstain from and what Christians can eat (Acts 15:28-29). They decided that Christ’s followers should avoid all trappings of idolatry, including licentiousness, drunkenness, and fornication. They should also avoid eating blood; specifically, animals strangled so that the lifeblood was still in the meat.
Colossians 2:14-16 tells us that Jesus nailed the legalistic rules of the Old Testament to His cross. The passage is clear that Paul is talking about “religious festivals, New Moon celebrations, and Sabbath Days.” Jesus did not do away with the lifestyle choices referred to in Acts 15, but with the Old Law’s legalistic demands that were difficult for the people to keep.
The other passage that deals with what we can eat is Acts 10:9-16. God gave Peter a vision in which he saw a sheet full of animals lowered to him, and a voice told him to kill and eat. What we tend to miss is that Peter identifies two kinds of foods he had never eaten. Verse 14 quotes Peter as saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten that which is COMMON (Greek word koinoo) or UNCLEAN (Greek word akathartos).”
The word “common” means ordinary, like everyone else. The word “unclean” means defiled, impure. God’s response to Peter was, “What God has cleansed don’t you call COMMON.” “Defiled” would mean what is referred to in Genesis 9:2-4 – having its lifeblood in it. “Common” would mean the things the Gentiles ate that were not defiled. Peter is about to convert a Gentile, a major change in his life. God makes it clear that he can participate in Gentile foods, but this passage does not approve drinking blood or any other impure foods.
What Christians can eat is virtually anything, but they need to avoid those foods that are dangerous for human consumption. By their diet, early Christians could be protected from diseases that were common in the pagan world around them.