Every time I eat at McDonalds I leave there saying to myself, "I will NEVER eat here again!" But, for some inexplicable reason, I do.
So I stopped at McDonalds for lunch today on my way to a meeting at church. I was in a hurry. I knew I could grab something quick from the Golden Arches people. So I pulled into the parking lot, parked my car, walked in and got a Classic Grilled Chicken sandwich combo. I sat down and started to eat it, and that's when this thought hit me between the eyes, just like it does every time I eat at McDonalds: "This is DISGUSTING! No, more than that...this is WRONG!"
BTW, this is not just about McDonalds. It's about every restaurant that serves food in cardboard boxes and paper sacks. I'm not even talking about the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of the food. I'm talking about the whole fast-food experience. It's just wrong I tell you!
Here's what I mean:
Invariably, whether it's Taco Bell or Burger King or Arby's or McDonalds or Wendy's, you walk up to this stainless steel counter, stand in line, and place your order with a bored high school student who has worn his or her tacky uniform too many days. S/he doesn't smile at you. What s/he says is, "Next in line." And instead of ordering food you order a number (example: "I'll have a number 3 with no cheese; light on the mayo.").
S/he hands you a receipt and then you get to stand there and watch some very stressed-out people throw your and 7 other people's meals together. There's a lot of yelling going on back there. Bells are ringing and beeps are beeping. Your order shows up on a computer screen. A person whose name tag says "Manager" is walking around eyeing the workers, keeping them on task. You see apple pies stacked in little boxes. A milk shake machine is dripping goo into a bucket. You see unknown bits and puddles of stuff all over the floor. It's on everyone's uniforms too.
If you're at Taco Bell you get the happy experience of seeing somebody squeeze guacamole or sour cream onto your taco through something that resembles a caulk gun. If you're at a burger joint you get to watch someone pour a huge bag of frozen somethings into a cauldron of hot oil. Some guy in a pickup truck at the drive-through window is spitting mad because the girl gave him a Coke instead of a Mountain Dew. Nobody's smiling; it's a job. They're ready to go home.
Your order comes out onto the stainless steel counter. "Number 122," the lady behind the counter says. That's you. So you take your boxed-up sandwich and your French fried "potatoes" (also in a cardboard container), fill up your cup with soda, and sit down....but not before you wipe off the ketchup and salt from the table left behind by the previous customer.
See, that's the problem right there. You're a customer, and this is a business. They're selling speed, not food. Or, if you have kids, they're selling a couple of cheap toys that will be played with for a few minutes and then thrown into the toy box at home, to be forgotten until your next yard sale.
OK, maybe I exaggerated...but not much.
The reason I said this fast-food experience is wrong is that it's not the way God intended us to eat! Food, like God Himself, is supposed to be savored. The Psalmist says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). God gave to human beings an enormous variety of foods with all kinds of tastes, smells, and textures, as a reflection of His beauty and goodness. Food is one of the things God richly gave us for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). It was "created to be received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:3). So it should be prepared slowly and carefully, to preserve all the flavor it was intended to have. It should also be prepared with creativity and elegance, to glorify the creativity and elegance of the God who provided it. (I know how ridiculous that sounds to parents with little kids, but now that I'm 52 I can say it, and it's true!)
Not only that, but food is supposed to be a thing we enjoy with our friends and family, seasoned with plenty of laughter and conversation, not gobbled down in the car or squeezed into a 15-minute time slot at home. I believe that "fast food" is a contradiction in terms.
In the Bible, meals were special times of fellowship shared among believers, and between believers and God. Jesus ate with His disciples and attended countless parties at which delicious food and wine were served. Two of His most famous miracles involved an abundance of food (Mark 6 & 8). For His very first miracle, He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). He compared Himself to bread that satisfies (John 6:35).
At least 21 times in the Old Testament, the Promised Land is referred to as a place flowing with milk and honey. God wanted to give good food to His people.
Through Isaiah the prophet God said, "Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare" (Isaiah 55:2). Now obviously, God was talking figuratively about Himself. He is the food that delights the soul. But He used food as a metaphor for a reason. Food is a symbol for God. So let's eat it slowly, and make it as good and as savory as possible.
Will I eat at McDonalds again? Yeah, probably. But I won't enjoy it. And that's wrong!
Christians, let's rebel. When we eat out, let's go to delis and other places where folks smile and food tastes like it's supposed to. When we eat at home (which we need to do more often) let's go more slowly. Let's invite each other over and make meal time a time to talk and laugh and worship and taste and see that the Lord is good.