“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
Thorin Oakenshield was on to something when he spoke these dying words to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. There is something magical about sharing a meal with those that you love — whether it be with family, friends, or community.
From the foragers bringing back their findings to the Agrarians bringing in the harvests, the practice of gathering to share food is something we humans have done since the beginning. What is it about food, on a table, surrounded by people that can produce such childlike mirth within us all?
People loosen up at the table - they get real. In the rush of daily life we are quick to tell our friends that we’re doing okay even if we really aren’t. But when our community shares a meal together the, “everything is awesome” mask tends to be set aside. The genuine side of person comes out. It is a beautiful thing to behold because when people are honest with one another relationships are strengthened, lives are mended and can be made whole in Christ. It is a part of the process of edification that is only found in fellowship with one another. At table, confession often happens, iron sharpens iron, lives are changed. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than at the end of the second chapter of Acts:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)
Scripture paints this inspiring picture of the early church sharing meals together, daily. From this passage, it would seem that the believer’s lifestyle of sharing in Christian-fellowship led to the favor of the community at large. Perhaps the people of Jerusalem (where this particular church was located) saw how sincere, how honest, how loving the Christian family was toward each other? Perhaps this then caused the spectators to want what the Christians had. Whatever the reason for “the people’s favor,” Luke clearly shows that this close-knit community led people to faith in Christ: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)
May we learn the lesson of valuing food and cheer and song more than worldly riches, as Tolkien suggested via a dying dwarf. I am sure that even Thorin Oakenshield saw beyond the food and song to the heart of the matter: mankind sharing in the true riches of life, being loved by God and loving Him and neighbor in return. These are the gifts that have been so freely and abundantly given to us through Christ. It is our ability to share His love with others at table and elsewhere that is the true magic of the world.