“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good..(He) gives food to every creature. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1,25).”
We’re trying to eat organic food around our house. I am actually surprised that I find it palatable. In some cases, I even like it. Organic peanut butter and organic ice cream are pretty good.
In the past I knew times were tough when pea soup started to appear on our dinner table. This dish is a staple of Finland, my wife’s country of origin. Although not pea soup’s biggest fan, it has grown on me. With a little salt and pepper I even like it. But the main thing is that it is cheap.
I have to admit, though, I don’t always like certain foods, especially if I eat them day after day after day. In the past I have burned out on apples, cucumbers, and carrots, for example. After a constant intake of certain foods I have had enough. I complain.
“Beans, Bacon and Gravy” is a song which expresses the attitude of a Depression-era man who is tired of the same old grub. Popularized by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, the song is something of a lament about having to repeatedly eat these cheap offerings.
|“Oh, those||beans, bacon and gravy,|
|They||almost drive me crazy,|
|I eat them, I see them in my||dreams.|
|When||I wake up each morning|
|And an||other day is dawning,|
|I||know I’ll have another mess of||beans.”|
The people of ancient Israel also had their own economic depression and sang the blues like the author of the above lyrics. The Israelites had left Egypt, where they were slaves, and God fed them with a heaven-sent food called manna. But the Israelites grew sick of it. Their attitude after constant meals of manna was, “Manna-Schmanna!”. They wanted to go back to the buffets they remembered from Egypt.
While they could recall the better food in Egypt, they seemed to have forgotten the painful slavery which God had delivered them from when he removed them from there. They whined and complained about their seeming hardship, and the food they had to eat was at the center of the whining (Number 11:4-7).
The ancient Israelites weren’t the only people in the Bible to have a preoccupation with food. In describing some people who he said “live as enemies of the cross of Christ”, the apostle Paul says that “their god is their stomach”.
When we don’t like God’s provision, we modern believers are just like the ancient Israelites and the people Paul wrote about. We grumble. The grumbling is just a symptom that shows the real disease. The real problem is that our hearts are not right. We’re mad at God in general and something like a real or imagined poor diet gives us the chance to air our grievances. We make our stomachs our substitute god. The wise man of Proverbs calls such a person a fool. This kind of attitude leads to some bad consequences (Proverbs 18:2,6-7).
One of the consequences of complaining is that the air of protest makes life hard for others. It is difficult to live and work with complainers. Moses was driven to extreme frustration by the Israelites. Even God got mad (Numbers 11:10-14).
On the other hand, people with their hearts right toward God have a pleasing way about them. People with good attitudes make friends and influence people and the effect actually in some cases brings them wealth (Proverbs 18:20-21). Ironically, if the complainers would just shut up, their chances of improving their situations, including the quality of their suppers, would increase!
When I was a young man, I trusted in Christ. My friends from high school who were already believers told me after I came to Christ that they could not stand being around me in the old days. I was an habitual complainer. This changed after I put my trust in Christ. People notices I didn’t complain anymore.
The old ways have a tendency to creep back in, however. I am a pretty good complainer again in my middle age. When things don’t go right, I beef.
What God really wants from me is thanks. After all, He is the one that provides my daily sustenance. When I whine and complain, I question his character. I am telling God He doesn’t really care, that His goodness isn’t good enough.
Even the worker in the Depression knew to give God thanks:
“We congregate each morning
At the county barn at dawning,
And everyone is happy, so it seems.
But when our work is done
We file in one by one,
And thank the Lord for one more mess of beans.”
Surely we can come up with some reasons to thank God,even if we wished that our circumstances, including our repasts, were of higher quality. I like the spirit of the following meal time prayer (which can be sung to the tune of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”):
“Thank you for toast and jam,
Thank you for eggs and ham,
We thank you, Lord (da, da, da, da)
Thank you for beans and spam,
Thank you for all I am,
Thanking you best we can,
We thank you, Lord.”*
After the manna, God actually gave them meat, more than they could handle. It seems though that the meat might have been the cause of a subsequent plague engineered by God get their attention. Maybe the Israelites didn’t take care of the meat properly. In any case, the old adage “be careful what you ask for” is applicable here. If the people had the right spirit, they might have seen that God was actually trying to keep His people healthy through the manna he provided, that this heavenly stuff was actually a sign of His care.
Some days it’s hamburger and some days it’s steak. But whatever He sets before us, we should thank the Lord for His provision. His supply of our needs shows He loves us and takes care of us.