Volume 10, Issue 2: Miscellaneous
The Theology of El Sombrero
As I open the door, a wave of warm colors, festive music and pleasant aromas force their way to my senses. This is no fast food taco joint. This is real Mexican cuisine, served by real Mexican ants. As I walk through the door my pulse rate increases slightly. The waiter takes us to our table (usually a booth), smiles and then disappears. In a moment, he returns with a basket full of freshly cooked tortilla chips. The chips are warm, light, crispy, and very thin. He places a bowl of cold salsa next to the chips. The restaurant makes its own blend of salsa from scratch. Mild or medium is only suitable for the inexperienced. I request the hot version. With each bite my eyes water and satisfaction grows. The atmosphere is rich with an aroma that drives me to breath deeply as it multiplies my hunger. But the main course will not arrive for another ten minutes.
Something about this experience drives me to the book of Ecclesiastes. With Solomon my heart cries out, There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, That it was from the hand of God. (Eccl. 2:24)
Three main points come clear in this passage. First, we see that no grand luxuries exceed the joy of a meal eaten with gratitude. This experience is simple and profound. It can be as common as the dinner bell.
Second, we see that satisfaction is more than a passive experience. We must develop this attitude as an art. We must make our hearts feel the connection between vain labor and joy. God calls us to relish life and to create a daily celebration of His providence. Solomon sets the economic standard for this joy—anyone who works for food. In other words, all of us can potentially experience such luxury.
But notice the third main point that Solomon makes in this passage. This kind of pleasure is a gift from God. We cannot appreciate it on our own. We cannot enjoy these pleasures as we ought unless God opens our hearts. And God does not give every man the power to enjoy these things. In Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 Solomon says, "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: A man to whom God has given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wants nothing for his soul of all that he desires, yet God gives him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eats it: This is vanity, and it is an evil disease." Notice that he says this was common in his experience. How terrible to have the means of provision with no satisfaction; to be, as it were, inside a cage, hungry and looking out on a full banquet table.
As God's covenant people we have the promise that He will give us provision and satisfaction if we put His kingdom and righteousness first. When God has given us provision and the power to enjoy it, we are duty-bound to recognize His grace. Our Christian fathers bequeathed a great deal of capital to us, here in America. We have the most lavish foods of the world available to our palettes. We of all people should be most grateful. And yet we even complain with ingratitude.
One subtle form of ingratitude is spiritual rote. Too often we are not thanking God as much as we are trying to satisfy our own sense of need. We exchange a heart of thankfulness for an easy ritual. We start our meal with a patent prayer, and even feel awkward when we forget. But we must encourage gratitude in our hearts whether or not we say a prayer before the meal. And why not consider praying at the end of a meal, when we are most aware of the blessing? Being truly thankful isn't hard. God's burdens are light.
The next time you sit down to eat, remember to enjoy it. Cultivate satisfaction and a heart full of thankfulness. It's a simple thing really. Grand celebration starts, for me, with hot salsa. The meal arrives and after a couple of serious tacos my heart is lifted beyond the tangible to see the goodness of God. I'll bet that El Sombrero doesn't know what kind of theology they nourish in me. But they sure do it well!
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