Day 25: The Value of a Sit-Down Meal

Even when eating, Americans often feel the need for speed.

According to a study at the end of 2020, there were nearly 200,000 quick service restaurants in the United States compared to just 34,000 full service restaurants. Nearly ¼ of all Americans report they eat at quick service restaurants at least several times per week, if not daily.

The phrase “turn and burn” has never been more alive in the restaurant industry. The goal of many restaurants is to seat and serve as many customers as possible as quickly as possible – the more people that come through the door or drive-thru, the more revenue they make. The strategy is sound.

But think about the most fulfilling meals you’ve had. When a lifelong friend visits from out of town, are you taking them to Subway or a restaurant that allows you to visit and enjoy one another? When your family gets together for Thanksgiving, do you gather around a table and savor both the meal and company? Or does everyone wolf down their turkey and mashed potatoes so they can leave and move on with their day?

Jesus understood the value of community, and I think that’s why, despite having more than 5,000 people to feed, “He directed the people to sit down on the grass.” (Matthew 14:19)

From a logistics standpoint, it would’ve made much more sense to turn this operation into an assembly line: a few disciples hand out bread, others distribute fish. Feed everyone as quickly and efficiently as possible so Jesus could move on and get the solitude He so dearly sought (Matthew 14:13).

But that’s not what Jesus did. He encouraged everyone to linger (sitting, as Luke 9:14 says, in groups of 50) to meet and commune with one another. The disciples distributed the food and picked up the leftovers after, and people left at their leisure. If they wanted to stay and make new connections, they were encouraged to do so.

The scene makes me think of Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters.”

Jesus is the opposite of a fast food restaurant. He calls us to slow down in all areas of our lives. Sure, there are times when we need to be efficient and just get things done. But the Bible also encourages us to rest (Matthew 11:28), be still and wait patiently (Psalm 37:7), abide in God (John 15:4), and gather together (Matthew 18:20).

Relationships are built through time committed to another person. Whether we’re dedicating time to spend with and adore God, connect and enrich fellow believers, or witness to someone who doesn’t know Jesus yet, your strongest relationships are built through intentional “resting.”

When it comes to relationships, try to be intentional about passing the most convenient fast food joint and opt for a sit-down joint. Jesus is inviting you to sit down on the grass. Will you join Him?