While Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, His disciples return with His lunch. When the woman departs to go tell people about meeting the Messiah, the disciples encourage Jesus to go ahead and eat. However, to their great bewilderment, Jesus informs them that He already has His own meat to eat. When they question Him about this mystery meat, Jesus tells them:
“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)
What does Jesus mean by doing the will of God and finishing His work? In this particular case, He is talking about bringing souls into the kingdom of God (referred to as “harvesting” and “reaping” in the next few verses). It’s an interesting metaphor, as Jesus equates doing God’s work to eating meat — it’s what fills Him and sustains Him; it’s what gets Him through each day; it’s what He enjoys.
Based on the above, can we say for ourselves that our “meat” is to do the will of God and to do His work? How do we define that for ourselves? Is bringing souls into the kingdom the only way to do the work of God?
While it’s not the only way to work for God, participating in bringing souls into the kingdom is definitely at the top of the list when it comes to doing His work. The fruit from this work lasts for eternity. There are many ways to participate in this work, including sharing the gospel with people, sharing your testimony, showing love, befriending people, praying for people who need Christ, teaching the Word of God and (for ministers) preaching sermons and baptizing converts. Hopefully, we each have a desire to participate in some way in this meaty work of growing the kingdom of God.
However, there are other ways to do God’s work. Without trying to make a list, suffice it to say that anything that falls into the category of helping or serving others qualifies as doing the will of God. As King Benjamin puts it, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). While this type of work may not necessarily result in growing the kingdom, there is value in strengthening the kingdom while also allowing ourselves to be God’s instruments that He can use to show His love to mankind.
At the risk of pushing this food metaphor too far, let’s talk about vegetables now. When you think of having a full dinner, you typically envision some type of entrée (the meat) with vegetables on the side to complement the main course. The more health-conscious you are, the more likely you are to eat your vegetables. Even people who don’t eat meat will make sure to eat vegetables to maintain their health.
Based on the above, what would qualify as “spiritual vegetables”? Perhaps the following would be on the list:
- Praying for your personal needs and your relationship with God
- Reading the scriptures to increase your knowledge of the Word of God
- Enjoying church meetings from home via Zoom
- Avoiding people and situations that could lead to temptation
These are all really good things to do! Each is a valuable action that will help maintain and even increase your spiritual health and well-being. However, if you were to limit yourself to only these activities as your service to God, it would make you a “spiritual vegetarian” — primarily interested in maintaining your own spiritual health, while avoiding the meat (of growing and strengthening the kingdom of God).
How much better would it be to allow these spiritual vegetables to be a complement to what should be the main course of allowing God to use us to touch the lives of others:
- Praying for the needs of others in addition to your own
- Reading the scriptures and then putting your knowledge into action to benefit the kingdom of God
- Approaching church meetings as not just something to enjoy but also as an opportunity to be a blessing to others (making it necessary to be there in person as often as possible)
- Not looking for temptation, but not totally avoiding people who don’t know the Lord — they’re the ones we’re trying to harvest for the kingdom!
So, don’t avoid the vegetables — they’re good for you — but don’t settle for that as your full diet of serving God. Jesus said His meat was to do the will of God and to finish His work. Our desire should be the same — looking beyond ourselves and working with others to build and strengthen the kingdom of God.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.