I watched a home video with my family the other day (always a hilarious experience), and this particular video showed baby me trying out eating food for the very first time.
Oh, I wish I could show you the video. It is just the most lovely mix of delightful and disgusting. First of all, the look on my face was pretty much pure joy. My eyes were saying, “Oh, how amazing this weird mush stuff tastes on my wee little tastebuds!” But at the same time, I had no idea how to actually keep the weird mush stuff in my mouth. With every bite my mom would push in, I would open my mouth ecstatically and it would all fall out. I probably actually swallowed less than a quarter of it.
Got that picture in your mind?
(By the way, I am now much more talented at eating thanks to lots of practice. I even enjoy chomping down on a good steak from time to time, although there are always plenty of comments about how slowly I am eating said steak… Food needs savored, am I right?)
The point is, no sane mother would have ever tried to feed her baby a steak and no sane adult would still be feeding themselves baby food.
That’s actually the exact illustration Paul uses in a letter he wrote to some people in a city called Corinth, and the advice is strikingly applicable to us today.
Paul said it this way: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Paul was a preacher of sorts. He traveled the world and started churches, then visited churches to make sure they were still on the straight and narrow. Apparently this one wasn’t.
When he’s talking about food here, he’s talking about his teaching of doctrine, how in-depth he goes into the words of God and the character of God and the message of salvation, etc., etc.
Paul (as you can very well read for yourself) called these people “babes in Christ.” They had the spiritual walks of little babies and so he had to feed them what he called milk, meaning that just-scratched-the-surface teaching. Just like babies with literal food, they weren’t able to take in anything more.
But now that big question becomes: How do you know if you’re a baby?
Well, Paul says these baby Christians were carnal. They were totally focused on their flesh rather than their spiritual walk. They were still envying and causing arguments and divisions. They weren’t trying to follow God’s way. They were too distracted by the world’s way.
The same criteria applies to us. While we are all sinners and we all mess up on a daily basis, sometimes with those very sins (I struggle with envy more than I would like to admit), the description of them as “carnal” implies that their focus is on fulfilling themselves. They weren’t trying. So look at your life. Are you trying to follow God’s rules? Are you willing to sacrifice for Him when He asks you too? Are you seeing God grow you and change you? If not, you might still be a baby too.
Paul was frustrated about that. He wanted to show them all the riches of God’s Word, but they weren’t ready to hear it. They weren’t in-tune with God enough to understand. So he had to keep bringing them back to the basics, reteaching things they should have already known at the same shallow level.
So I have some questions for each of us to answer.
1. Are you still a baby in Christ? Have you accepted His beautiful gift of salvation but still don’t ever open your Bible or pray or work at focusing your thoughts on Him? Have you not seen very much life change?
- If that’s you, then you need to spend that time and put in that effort. Use what you can understand and what you can know, the beautiful milk of God’s Word, to help you grow. You may not be a theologian, and milk may be all you can grasp, but babies grow with milk. You can still get to know God and really entrust Him with your life while here in this stage. The idea, though, is to grow out of it. Once you have your focus right and are growing, you need to push yourself to keep growing and learning through the harder stuff.
2. If you are growing in Christ, are you starving yourself? Are you just taking the milk, the easy truths, because you know you can understand those? Even though you are working on your relationship with God, does the piece of steak just look too intimidating?
- The Word of God is our direction, it is our light, and it is the way we can know the God we were meant to have a fulfilling relationship with. Sometimes it takes work, but we should be hungering and thirsting for more, like the psalmist in Psalm 119, when he says, “with my whole heart I have sought You,” “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law,” and “Your testimonies are my delight and my counselors,” just to list a few of the 176 verses about the beauty of God’s Word. Our relationship with God is the most important thing and important things often take work. But God also promises that His Holy Spirit which resides in us when we accept Christ as Savior will guide and teach us and help us to understand (1 Corinthians 2:14).
So let’s pull out our Bibles and get to eatin’!