Food is one of God’s good gifts to us. As Christians, how we handle food reflects our relationship with God and our care for others. Unfortunately, enormous amounts of food are wasted each year while many go hungry. What guidance does the Bible provide on this important issue? There is much we can learn about valuing food and using it wisely.
Food waste has become a massive problem worldwide. An estimated 30-40% of food in the United States goes uneaten each year.GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK This amounts to around 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food.REFED Meanwhile, approximately 37 million people struggle with hunger in the U.S.FEEDING AMERICA As Christians seeking to honor God and love our neighbor, reducing food waste should be a priority.
The Bible contains principles and examples that speak to how we should view and use food. Careful study reveals that God cares deeply about our attitude toward food. He calls us to value food as a gift from Him and use it wisely, not wastefully. Here are some key takeaways:
- God created food for our nourishment and enjoyment. It is meant to sustain life, not be squandered.
- We should avoid taking more than we need or can eat. Leftovers should be minimized.
- Letting food spoil due to negligence is wrong. We are called to be diligent stewards of what we are given.
- Having more than enough food while others starve is against God’s desires. We should share with those in need.
- Throwing out edible food that could feed others is unrighteous, ignoring their plight.
- Planning meals wisely and creatively using what’s on hand honors God’s provision.
- Preparing meals with love and care is good stewardship that blesses others.
- God cares about our heart attitude towards food, not just our actions. Gratitude and contentment are key.
In the rest of this article, we will explore Bible verses and examples that illustrate these principles. The Scriptures provide clear guidance for the people of God on using food wisely, not wastefully.
God Created Food for Our Nourishment and Enjoyment
The very first chapter of the Bible establishes that God created food to sustain humankind:
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29 NKJV)
God didn’t just create humans and leave them to fend for themselves. Out of love and care, He designed the earth to produce food to nourish them. This food was pronounced “good” by God, meaning it was pleasing, beneficial, and exactly what man needed to thrive (Genesis 1:31).
The Psalms echo this goodness of God’s provision:
“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14)
“The eyes of all look to You in hope; You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalms 145:15-16)
These verses portray God as intimately involved in providing food for us, even “at the proper time” when it is most needed. Jesus also taught that God faithfully feeds us, just as He clothes the lilies and cares for the birds (Matthew 6:25-34).
Clearly, Scripture presents natural food as a divine gift, not something to take for granted. It is an expression of God’s grace and love. We can receive it with joy and gratitude, not guilt, knowing the “earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Enjoying food in moderation with thankfulness brings glory to the God who created it for our nourishment and delight. Wasting it dishonors the Giver.
We Should Avoid Taking More Than We Need
At the same time, the Bible warns against going beyond our needs when it comes to food. For example, when God provided manna from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness, they were instructed:
This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat…But let no one leave any of it over till the morning.’” (Exodus 16:16a,19 NKJV)
They were not permitted to stockpile extra manna. Whatever was surplus to their daily needs would spoil overnight as a reminder to trust God again the next day. Jesus later referred to this story to warn against anxiety over having enough food (Matthew 6:25-34). The principle applies to us today: resist the urge to accumulate excess food, taking only what you need for each day. Leftovers should be minimized, not inevitable.
Proverbs similarly warns against overindulging when it comes to food:
“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” (Proverbs 23:2)
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.” (Proverbs 23:4)
While these verses prohibit wastefulness in pursuit of wealth, they also discourage taking more food than our bodies reasonably require. Moderation and self-control are called for, not overabundance. We can honor God by being content with “our daily bread” rather than chasing after lavish excess that leads to waste (Matthew 6:11).
Letting Food Spoil Is Wrong
What should be done with excess food that remains after a meal? Can it be written off if allowed to spoil and thrown away? Scripture suggests this is unacceptable.
For example, when rebuking the priests who were improperly sacrificing animals, God said through the prophet Malachi:
“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” (Malachi 1:13-14)
One way the priests were cheating God was by keeping the best animals for themselves but presenting flawed ones as sacrifices. God condemned this faithless act. Similarly, we should not offer God the “leftovers” of our food while the best parts spoil from neglect. This represents a careless attitude toward God’s provision.
Likewise, in the Parable of the Talents, the servant who buried his talent and did nothing with it was called “wicked and slothful” by his master (Matthew 25:26 NKJV). When it comes to food, letting it rot and go to waste due to laziness or indifference is unacceptable. We are called to be faithful stewards, making wise use of all we are given. Throwing out edible food through neglect contradicts the value God places on food as a gift to sustain life.
Having More Than Enough While Others Are Hungry Is Wrong
Another important biblical principle is that food should be shared generously with those in need. The early church modeled this by distributing food and possessions to ensure no one was in want (Acts 4:32-35). Holding onto excess food while others go hungry is against God’s desires. As John the Baptist declared:
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
The same message applied to the rich man who feasted lavishly each day without concern for the beggar Lazarus outside his gate (Luke 16:19-31). His apathy toward the hungry reflected callousness and selfishness. As Christians, we are called to open our hands to satisfy the needs of the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Isaiah 58:7-10; Luke 14:12-14). This includes sharing extra food with food ministries and pantries rather than discarding it.
Throwing Out Edible Food That Could Feed Others Is Wrong
The corollary is that discarding edible food that could nourish the hungry is unrighteous and ignores their plight. Christ condemned the crowds who had followed Him for selfish reasons:
“You are seeking Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food which perishes, but for food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:26-27)
They focused only on their own bellies while disregarding the One who had miraculously fed them. Many churches today plan or cater events with little concern for excess edible food that gets tossed afterwards. This overlooks the poor and hungry in our own communities. We are called to open our eyes to their needs, not just feed ourselves lavishly or thoughtlessly.
Likewise, after more than 5000 were fed from just a few loaves and fish, the disciples collected twelve whole baskets of leftovers (Matthew 14:20). Jesus made sure no food was wasted, intentionally providing for the poor. Thus, proper use of leftovers should include sharing them with others, not trashing them. Waste reflects lack of compassion for the needy whom God calls us to care for and feed.
Planning Meals Wisely Honors God’s Provision
So how can we honor God when it comes to food consumption? One key is applying wisdom and stewardship in menu planning and food purchasing. As Jesus taught:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:28-30 NKJV)
The principle applies to preparing meals. It is wise to “count the cost” by taking inventory of ingredients on hand and planning achievable menus using what is available. This allows creative use of existing food rather than impulse purchases leading to waste. It takes effort but prevents discarding unused perishables. “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” (John 6:12 NKJV). With forethought, all food can be put to good use.
This planning also involves being realistic regarding portions. Large spreads ending with leftovers often reflect prideful showing off, not sensible stewardship. “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17) Simple, nutritious meals based on what needs using up demonstrates humble gratitude for God’s daily provision.
Preparing Meals with Love and Care Is Good Stewardship
Scripture also highlights the importance of preparing food with care and love, not apathy or haste.
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds…the lambs will provide you with clothing, and…food…” (Proverbs 27:23-27)
This admonition reminds us to handle food attentively at every stage. For example, improperly stored ingredients are more prone to spoiling. Failing to monitor cooking carefully can lead to burning food. Lack of attention produces waste.
But food prepared with love reflects the Provider’s care for us. In the verse above, the lambs are a source not just of clothing but also nourishment, implying conscientiousness and purpose in processing food. Jesus modeled this stewardship when He carefully prepared fish for His disciples after His resurrection, lovingly feeding them even in His glorified state (John 21:9-14). Our attitude as we handle and cook food should similarly reflect care and gratitude.
Eating together in love also builds intimacy, as seen at the Last Supper where Jesus used a meal to unite with His disciples before His death. Sharing meals should nurture our families and faith communities, not just fill bellies. Dedicating time and attention to meal preparation is an act of devotion. When food is made and served with love, waste naturally decreases as its significance and value become apparent.
Our Heart Attitude Toward Food Matters to God
Scripture makes clear that more than our outward actions, God cares deeply about the attitude of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). This applies to how we view and use food. Jesus condemned the religious leaders not just for neglecting justice and mercy, but for being greedy and self-indulgent (Matthew 23:25). He called them “whitewashed tombs” who were clean outwardly but inwardly full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
A similar indictment applies if we preach against food waste but our private attitudes condone profligacy and entitlement when it comes to food. Do we feel deep gratitude toward God for His provision or take it for granted? Are we living simply so that others may simply live or overindulging in lavish fare without concern for the hungry? Does food nourish our bodies or feed selfish appetites? God sees and judges the heart.
Proper use of food starts with nurturing a spirit of thankfulness, stewardship, and compassion. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) This should infuse everything related to our eating, not just outward habits. Food is sacred because it is a gift of God to sustain life. We must treat it as such from the inside out.
What lessons can Christians draw about food waste from Scripture? God created food for our nourishment and enjoyment. We should receive it gratefully as a gift, neither disdaining it nor taking too much. Having excess food while others are hungry contradicts God’s commands to generously share with the needy. Throwing out edible leftovers that could feed others shows lack of compassion. With prudence and forethought, wise meal planning allows full use of ingredients on hand. Preparing and serving food with care and love honors the Giver. Most importantly, God examines our hearts. Are we living with a spirit of humility, gratitude and stewardship toward food? May we grow in honoring Him through our attitudes and actions.