Let’s dig in:
“Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” John 6:27 HCSB
In context: Jesus had just fed the 5,000 and the people were seeking him to get more food. He spent a great amount of time telling them that he is the bread of life and their true needs would be met by trusting in him. Verses 49 and 58 reiterate that their ancestors ate manna in the desert provided by God and still died. Jesus, in this passage, continually squelched their concern for tangible food and pointed them to their true need of him.
Apply: This passage teaches that we are not to spend the focus of our energy laboring for physical food in comparison to seeking Jesus and laboring for Kingdom purposes. Jesus didn’t even acknowledge their physical need in this particular passage.
- Does this mean I am not to “labor” for organic food?
- If I had extra money in my budget, does this tell me I should put it toward something of spiritual value and not spend extra on organic?
My Thoughts: Last week I canned quarts of spaghetti sauce using tomatoes, garlic, basil, and oregano from my garden. With the exception of a few ingredients, you might consider it “organic.”
But technically, growing my own food is labor, as is working at any job that provides money to purchase food. We all need food. So what should we make of this passage?
The key to understanding this passage is realizing that Jesus is making a comparison. Labor in itself isn’t considered something to be avoided. In several parables, Jesus implies that work is good (Matt. 21:28, Matt. 25:16), Paul himself worked in order to spare others from having to provide for him (Acts 18:3, 1 Cor. 4:12, 2 Thess. 3:8), and believers are commanded to work to provide for their own needs and the needs of others (Eph. 4:28, 2 Thess. 3:10).
As you can see, other Scripture shows us that laboring for food isn’t to be avoided, which underscores that the intent of the current passage is to draw a comparison.
The question Christians must ask ourselves is this: Am I more concerned with the quality of my food or of advancing the kingdom of God? It is so easy to let fear drive our choices. It’s easy to make our quest for healthy eating (in the name of “temple maintenance” – a verse we’ll study later that I believe has been taken out of context in many of the real food discussions) yet not quest to be spiritually cleansed by the washing of the Spirit in our lives.
It’s easy to concern ourselves so much with healthy eating yet not seek to be spiritually cleansed by the washing of the Spirit in our lives.
Here’s a quick “heart-check” that might help us bring this passage to light in our lives:
- Do we make time to cook from scratch but don’t make time for Bible reading and prayer each day?
- Do we stretch our grocery budget to accommodate more expensive organic food but don’t give the first portion of our income to our local church or stretch our pocketbook to give to the needy?
- Do we spend more energy worrying about what food goes into your body than we do what media influences we consume that taint our minds?
- Does our fear over what we eat outweigh our trust in God’s sovereignty over our lives?
And for those who have not surrendered their lives to Jesus, the point of this passage is even more clear. Food, like our bodies, will perish. But Jesus is the spiritual food that when we “feast” on Him (accept his sacrifice for our sins that lead to spiritual death), we will have life that never ends.
Chime in: So, regarding the questions I posed above, should I pay a premium price at the grocery store for an organic apple? Or should I choose to buy grass-fed beef compared to the cheaper beef that was not raised the way God intended (see Food, Inc. for more details on this)? What do you think? Do you think this verse applies to the food we put in our grocery cart?
Reflect: Am I “laboring” more for food that perishes or for the kingdom of God?