“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” – Daniel 1:12 (NIV)
Veggies, check. Water, check. Wait… Is that it?!
Daniel is one of the great heroes in the Bible and on this blog because of his intuition, his courage and his literal “Lion Tamer” skills and mentality.
Today, dieters admire Daniel’s “diet” of vegetables and water, even if they don’t worship his God. But our motivations for eating more veggies are likely nowhere near what Daniel’s were.
But when I see washboard-ab selfies with a quick #danielplan or #thankyoujesus, I proceed to bang my forehead on my desk.
Focus, people. You’re missing the point.
Let’s go deeper. Early on in the book of Daniel (way before the lion’s den and fiery furnace incidents), the Babylonians invaded Israel and made Daniel a slave. They forcefully relocated him to Babylon (now called Iraq) and told him he had to change his language, his clothes, even his name.
(…and I think MY life is stressful!)
Daniel made the best of a bad situation, keeping his head up, his wits about him and his eyes set firmly on how God was moving in the situation. But when it came down to food, Daniel had his fill.
“But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.” – Daniel 1:8 (ESV)
At first, I did NOT get this. Daniel put up with so much during his enslavement; it seems almost silly that he would complain when King Nebuchadnezzar offered him some of his private food stash! “Thanks for the steak, O king – but I’m not eating much red meat these days.”
What was Daniel thinking?
Here’s a little historical context into Daniel’s sudden brave stand.
Culturally, Babylonians worshipped many different gods. Food from the king’s table was placed before these gods as part of worship before consumption. Daniel knew full well that eating this food was a way of saying, “Yep – I worship the gods of Babylon.”
That’s where Daniel drew the line. He refused to worship any god but his own. He knew that it would likely mean severe punishment or even death – but he trusted his God would prove faithful, as always. So he took a stand.
Daniel asked the king’s attendant to give him and his friends nothing but Babylonian-worship-free vegetables and water for 10 days – and then see how healthy they looked compared to other slaves who eat the king’s food.
Guess what? It worked. After 10 days, Daniel’s crew looked healthier and better nourished than the others.
Should we really diet like Daniel?
Was Daniel appalled at the ideas of eating animals or drinking alcohol? No.
Was Daniel grossed out by the king’s rich, full-fat, calorie-laden food? No.
Did Daniel have an exotic beach vacation planned with hopes of washboard abs? No. (I admit – The Bible doesn’t address it specifically. But since he was living in captivity at the time, I’ll venture to say No.)
Daniel was tough – mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally and yes – even nutritionally. But it was about more than his health – it was about taking a stand, being unthinkably brave under fire. Daniel had the courage to do what he knew was right, even if it cost him his life.
I don’t believe God expects us to eat like rabbits. He won’t love you more if you eat your veggies or commit to five workouts a week. What He wants is to be first in your life, no matter the cost.
A few things I know for sure:
- Eating more foods grown on a plant instead of made in one just makes you feel better. If you haven’t tried cutting out packaged stuff yet, it’s worth a shot. And if you have the guts to go vegetarian or vegan, that’s freaking awesome.
- Fasting is a spiritual discipline that can draw you nearer to God as it benefits your health. The key is to stay focused on why you’re doing it in the first place. (Hint: If your “why” is washboard abs, you may want to reconsider.)
- Our bodies are temples – and we should treat them as such. It’s hard – believe me, I know. But our good stewardship gives Him glory.
After all, our identity lies not in what we eat – but who we serve.