Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate. (NLT)
I remember a television comedy sketch in the UK concerning the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her cabinet sharing a meal. Puppets were used to portray the scene. Mrs Thatcher was served first. The waitress placed several slices of meat on her plate and then asked, “and what about the vegetables?” The Prime Minister looked around the table briefly at her cabinet colleagues, many of whom were regarded as ineffective by voters. Then she replied, “oh, they’ll have the same as me.” This was not a meal shared in love!
Mrs Thatcher was known in the press as the ‘Iron Lady’ and her methods of leadership were not always respected. Despite this, and despite the attitude of her fellow cabinet members, Mrs Thatcher needed them, and they needed her. While a bowl of vegetables shared lovingly may be considered superior to prime steak shared begrudgingly, the common denominator between the two parts of this verse is that meals are not meant to be taken alone. The question is less about the menu and more about the company, and the attitudes of those around the table to each other.
In my work travels I often eat alone. It doesn’t matter how good the food is, a meal taken alone is not something I enjoy. Mostly I can’t wait to leave the restaurant. A conversation with a friendly waiter or waitress is a bonus. The fact is that God created us to be together. The need to share is woven into our DNA. So here’s a question. Is there someone you know who eats alone and who would benefit from an invitation to a meal at your home? A meal shared in love and a meal representing love. Jesus said:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:27-38)