Strawberry tongue. Rice-water stools. Anchovy paste liver. Sago spleen.
Physicians are enamored to utilize common food terms to describe diseased organs, much to the chagrin of those gathered around the dining table, just ask my family! Numerous articles have been written about this odd penchant. The above terms are just a small morsel of terms that have been used, and why not? Food is universally recognized and assigning a familiar dish to a disease is a sure-fire mnemonic. Yet it is easy to misinterpret these monikers and arrive at the impression that physicians have warped sensibilities.
And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
Luke 13:20-21 (ESV)
Jesus used descriptions of food for the disease of sin. Perhaps the most memorable is the example of leaven. For years, I misinterpreted this quotation of Jesus. Leaven is yeast and all are familiar with the biochemical reaction that occurs when yeast is placed in the dough. The organisms quickly reproduce and ferment, creating carbon dioxide, resulting in the dough rising and expanding. It can happen very quickly, sometimes tripling the volume of the dough in a few hours. Yes, I surmised! This is exactly what the kingdom of God is like! Once God’s Word goes out, it does not come back void and accomplishes His purpose! (Isaiah 55:11) This is true but it is not the meaning that Jesus intended. Leaven always represents sin and evil in the Bible. Jesus was prophesying the stark reality that even within the Kingdom of God that was established by His Church on earth, sin will be present and like leaven, will quickly spread. Jesus was warning us to be aware of the insidious and destructive nature of sin within our own Church family.
Food terms are helpful metaphors to understand the profound concepts of God and medicine. However, like the example that Jesus gave, we must be clear about the meaning. How can we do this? Is it any wonder that Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of the Universe, refers to Himself as the Bread of Life?
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
John 6:35 (ESV)
When we take the time to understand the true nature of God, it will whet our appetites to dig deeper into the Bible and savor a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.