At one time cafeterias were a popular dining option in the United States. Large chains operated sites in many major cities from coast to coast. The appeal of these restaurants was in the speed of service, and in the variety of choices afforded the customer. Patrons passed along a serving counter and selected the components of their meal from multiple options. Those items they did not prefer could be omitted from their meal. Each person could construct his or her meal according to personal taste and never have to eat anything he didn’t want to eat. The formal cafeterias of the 1940s and 1950s have mostly gone the way of the Dodo, primarily because of the fast-food boom of the 1960s. Their closest descendant is the modern all-you-can-eat buffet, which carries on the time-honored tradition of picking one’s favorites from a large variety of offerings.
Although the cafeteria isn’t as prominent as it once was, the principle behind it continues to live, especially in religion. Many people look at the scriptures in the same way they might peruse the food line of their favorite eatery. Grace sounds good, so they take a double helping of it. Justice, however, isn’t as palatable, so they leave it on the counter. Faith is appealing, but obedience is too much like spiritual brussels sprouts. Love, on the other hand, is like the dessert counter. They heap it up on their spiritual tray because it tastes so sweet. However, like physical desserts that are loaded with extra calories, they try to ignore the tough things biblical love requires of them. Perhaps without even thinking about it some treat God’s word like a cafeteria, picking and choosing the things they like, while ignoring the things they don’t like.
As popular as this mentality might be, it is completely foreign to the scriptures. From beginning to end the scriptures declare that we must conform to everything God has revealed in His word. On multiple occasions Moses warned Israel to keep all of God’s commandments and not to turn aside from them to the right or to the left (Deut. 5:32; 28:14, et al). When Paul spoke for the final time to the elders from Ephesus, he reminded them that he had not failed to declare to them “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). Paul withheld nothing from them because God expects His people to obey all His commands, not just the ones they like.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he encouraged the young preacher to continue to teach what he called “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). The Greek word that is translated “sound” literally means “healthy”. In other words, for a Christian to be spiritual healthy, he must be fed everything that God has revealed in His word. Our souls are just like our physical bodies in this respect. If we only eat the “sweets” we will be unhealthy. If, however, we feed on all of God’s word, we will grow and mature in the faith, and we will become the servants God expects us to be.
This is exactly what God requires of us. The writer of Hebrews chastised his readers because they had failed in this regard. In Heb. 5:13-14 he said, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” He also said, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Therefore, if our goal is to please God, we must abandon cafeteria-style religion. Instead, we must take delight in all of God’s word and, like the psalmist, meditate upon it day and night (Psa. 1:2). By eating all of God’s word we will become spiritually healthy, and we will be faithful to Him in all we do.