You Are What You Eat, and You Are What You Steward

Last week in chapel, Marshall Teague, founder of Lookout Mountain-based “Eden Thistle” Land Stewardship LLC, gave a talk about what it means to care about the things we put in our bodies.

I want to write a response about what it means to me to be a good steward of the land and body, in practical way. I don’t want this to sound like another chapel talk. I just want to explain why I think this is so important. To begin, I really don’t think Mr. Teague had enough time to fully explore the issue. I think people left chapel assured that “stewardship” was significant, as supported by many quick Bible references, but not so much as to what the company itself did about stewardship, and how we should put our concern to good use. Let me try to offer up a few thoughts and hopefully some educated guesses at a few solutions, ones that include other ways to care about our bodies as well as how to care for the environment.

Marshall Teague’s main point was Christians ignore the crucial aspect of “creation stewardship” —  placing its importance completely under and removed from “evangelism,” “justice,” “compassion,” “discipleship,” and “missions.” If man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, and we as Christians strive to that end, then how come we easily overlook the step regarding creation? If we want to glorify God in the big things, why not the smaller things too? Paul reminds us through 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, bought at a price. Therefore we ought to honor God with them.

Jesus often talked about how every member of the body serves a purpose and all things ought to declare his glory. Every part of creation is integral. The things we might think of as insignificant (like creation stewardship,) are oftentimes some of the most important. A friend and I were discussing this the other day, and 1 Corinthians 10:31 seemed to sum it up briefly and to the point. It says, “So, whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Besides environmental pollution, nature is incredibly corrupted within the meat industry. Besides the horrific way animals are mass produced, processed, and treated, meat production exponentially exceeds consumption in the United States, which leads to unnecessary waste. By the time processed flesh gets to our table, the amount of preservatives, antibiotics, and fillers that are pumped inside will do our own bodies more harm than if we abstained from eating it altogether. Some people do cut out meat from their diets (I am one of those) — sometimes for the sake of the animals and other times because of their personal health. Others keep meat in their diet but choose an alternative to the mass-produced meat industry.

I am an advocate for a plant-based diet, but I don’t think the consumption of meat (properly raised and butchered) is bad in any way. This is what Marshall Teague’s local farming business is all about. Eden Thistle guarantees ethically and locally raised, pastured, and butchered meat delivered right to your doorstep. You don’t have to wonder about its relationship to stewardship because that is already faithfully taken care of by the farmers there. We can’t be passive on the issue. It’s our job to care. It’s encouraging to know farmers like those at Eden Thistle have God’s love for his creation in mind in their mission.

But how can we apply this to ourselves as students with a meal plan? I’m not saying you have to give up meat altogether, but at least be aware of where it’s coming from and if you can support creation stewardship one day. Do this by looking into local meat and dairy farms like Eden Thistle, who value quality over quantity. There are also ways to support creation stewardship. Seek out vegetarian substitutes for meat that are raised without genetic modification, consider how you can faithfully honor God by exercising your body, and be generally more conscious of consuming healthier foods. Be aware of environmental hazards you might unknowingly be a part of, like littering and excessive waste. Glorifying God with our bodies needs to start from within - with a mindset of cleaner consuming, and a concern for the land we abide in.