Spiritual Side Dishes: What Comes with Your Meal?
Jack Klumpenhower

What spiritual food do you have with your dinner? Or alongside your breakfast?
Christians have long recognized that mealtimes make an excellent opportunity to get some spiritual nourishment in the course of a day. We all eat, so why not use the occasion to feed our souls along with our stomachs? It’s not a must-do rule to use mealtimes this way. But it makes sense.

Jesus explained this when he fasted for forty days in the desert. The devil tempted him to feed himself by turning stones into bread, but Jesus replied: “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, NLT). Even for a terribly hungry person, spiritual food is as necessary as something to eat.

So whether you eat alone or with others, here are four ways to feed your soul at the same time. Christians have practiced each of these for centuries. Think of them as spiritual side dishes.

Pray. This is the most familiar spiritual side dish. We’ve learned to “say a blessing” when we eat. Sometimes this carries connotations that we must bless the food before it’s fit to consume. But the more common idea in the Bible is that we bless God, meaning we praise him. We pause to acknowledge what he’s given us, and to thank him for it: “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me” (Psalm 103:2, NLT). Jesus thanked God before feeding the five thousand (see John 6:11), but a blessing can also come after eating: “When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God . . . ” (Deuteronomy 8:10, NLT).

Read the Bible. There’s no more direct way to feed on God’s Word than regular Bible reading. In simpler days, many Christian homes had Bible reading at every meal. Today, most of us feel too busy for that, but this is our loss. Imagine the benefit of regular doses of God’s Word as we go about our daily business. Perhaps we could learn to pray like Psalm 119:103, “How sweet your words taste to me” (NLT)

Sing songs of praise. Seriously. Americans in particular have largely forgotten the practice of singing at the table, except at birthday parties. But a song is a joyful way to celebrate God’s goodness. Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples as part of his final meal with them before his death (see Matthew 26:30). The Bible commends singing as a daily activity for God’s people: “Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves” (Psalm 96:2, NLT).

Eat together. This last one is more of a setting than a side dish, but it’s important in our busy world. Whether with family or friends, we need to make opportunities to eat with fellow believers. Every one of the Old Testament feasts that celebrated God’s goodness was eaten in groups. And the only meal Jesus commanded his followers to eat regularly is the communion meal—again, a group event. The early church not only worshiped together, but “shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:46, NLT). Shared meals are in themselves a celebration of God’s goodness.

I don’t want to make any of this feel like a rule or ritual that quickly becomes empty of meaning. But we all know the value of establishing good habits. Remembering to feed on Jesus whenever we get hungry is one of those helpful habits.

Feed on Jesus. Yes, Jesus himself talked that way. He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh” (John 6:51, NLT).

Jesus offered up himself. He died for us, that we may live. There is such nourishment in knowing this that if we feed on it day by day, hour by hour, we will surely grow into people who love him deeply. We will be well-fed believers, healthy and strong, alive forever.

Try it for breakfast. Have it for lunch and dinner. You may find it so filling it becomes, for you, the main course.

Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.