Far be it from me to contradict Stonewall Jackson on anything. An iconic Confederate General and educator, few characters in American history command more respect. 150 years removed from his tragic death at Chancellorsville, Thomas Jonathan Jackson remains immortalized as one of the finest military tacticians our country has ever produced. History tells us that he was a sharp theologian as well. He was brilliant, influential, admirable and much-revered.
But he was wrong about butter.
Maybe you’ve heard that as a young man, Jackson first tasted butter on a biscuit. And he liked it. A lot. As the story goes, Stonewall Jackson was so concerned that he might like butter on his biscuits too much (and consequently make it an idol) that he resolved then and there to eat his biscuits dry. Which is very, very sad. For the rest of his sad life, Stonewall Jackson abstained from butter, eating his biscuits dry. Can you imagine anything more pitiful? A hot biscuit with lots of melted butter is one of life’s great joys! (Someone has said that the first bite is a half-moon. The second bite, a total eclipse!)
Remarkably, God designed our bodies to be sustained and nourished by the good things we eat. Isn’t that wonderful? How very kind of God! Surely, it is for this reason that we are meant to eat food in a way that amplifies and exposes the excellencies of God’s character. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If your table is typical, good food will be featured in a special way tomorrow. I wonder: will you give thought during the meal to the miracle of taste? Will you slow down long enough to consider the sweetness of God in giving such wonderful gifts? It’s noteworthy that Scripture uses the language of taste to speak of our Lord, His Word and His ways. God, it appears, equipped the human tongue with papillae containing thousands of little receptors that allow us to discern sweet from bitter or sour from savory. Why did He do this, do you suppose? Perhaps, He did this, in part, to provide a window through which we might experience delight in Him! David certainly did.
“. . . how sweet are Your words to my taste . . .” Psalm 119:103
” . . . my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food . . .” Psalm 63:5
Concerning the Words of God, he said, “. . . sweeter than honey . . .” Psalm 19:10
” . . . O, taste and see that the Lord is good . . .” Psalm 34:8
God made us to taste! Christians have always flourished in the tension between epicurean indulgence and ascetic deprivation. Paul told Timothy that it was God Who has given “all things richly to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17) This morning, a friend made a pithy observation. “Christians fast”, he said, “but they also feast.” True. So, glorify God as you eat. Practice restraint, but don’t fail to enjoy the kindnesses of God. Experience it all as a gift.
Solomon advised us to “eat joyfully”. It could be that what makes gluttony so grievous is that it amounts to unconsidered and immoderate consumption. How much better that we enjoy nice long meals with friends and family, pausing often to relish particular tastes. God meant it that way.
I have long contended that a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut is ironclad evidence for the existence of a benevolent God. How else would you propose that we account for such gifts?
A cup of strong black coffee?
Or a South Carolina peach?
Or Franks Hot Sauce?
Or a good steak?
Or jalapenos stuffed with bacon and cream cheese?
Or those little weenies in barbecue sauce?
Or warm oatmeal cookies?
Or Kalamata olives?
Or hot cider?
God is kind and gracious.
So Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Eat your meat “with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). And by all means, in light of God’s goodness and for the sake of His glory, butter your biscuit!