12″All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13″Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” – 2 Corinthians 6:12-13a
This verse seems chosen just for this Lenten season, as many of us given up something or taken something on that relates to our body, almost always centered around food or exercise. In fact, we seem to take Lent as some type of physical challenge, almost like a spiritual reality television show: “Watch what happens when two people give up meat and sweets for 46 days,tonight on GodTV. You won’t believe the drama.” We do not want to be dominated by our desire for chocolate or caffeine or meat or a variety of other types of food. Paul even quotes a popular saying, which reminds us that “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” which seems rather self-evident.
However, that popular saying is not what Paul wants us to focus on, as he adds in the next clause in verse 13, “…and God will destroy both one and the other.” What Paul really wanted the Corinthians to focus on was their spiritual well-being, not their physical one. Even though he tells them later in the passage, in one of the most-often quoted passages in the New Testament, “19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body,” Paul wants to remind them and us that our bodies and food will both one day be destroyed.
Lent is not about overcoming some physical addiction we have, some craving for food that we just can’t put down the other 319 days of the year. Instead, it is about remembering that our bodies, for all of the wonder of their creation, will one day pass away, but our souls will not. Those souls should be our focus during Lent, not our stomachs, not the food that goes in them, but the God who has created them both.
God, help us to find you over the rumblings of our stomachs, over the cravings for what we deny ourselves, over our tendency to focus on what is less important. Amen.