Food waste is a global concern as hunger continues to be a problem for millions of people worldwide. Each year, nearly 40 percent of all food in the United States is wasted. That equates to about 130 billion meals totaling over $400 billion worth of food thrown away each year (“How We Fight Food Waste in the US,” www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/our-approach/reduce-food-waste, accessed 8/22/22). Wasting food, like wasting any resource God has given us, is not right.
Manna from Heaven
During their journey from captivity in Egypt, the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Sinai. There, the people began to grumble to Moses about not having enough to eat, wishing they still had the scraps given to them by the Egyptians. God told Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:3). This “bread” was called “manna,” which appeared each morning for the Israelites to gather and eat. Moses told the people, “Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent” (Exodus 16:16). So the people were to take only what they needed for their families, and no more. This doesn’t explicitly teach that wasting food is a sin, but it does advance the idea of taking only what is needed. Of course, taking only the food one needs is basic to avoiding waste.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
In the New Testament, Jesus directly addressed the concept of food waste when He performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand. After Jesus turned five barley loaves and two small fish into a feast for thousands, everyone ate and was satisfied. Then Jesus said, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12). The leftovers from this massive feast “filled twelve baskets” (John 6:13). While the disposition of those leftovers is unknown, Jesus specified that there be no waste. We can assume that Jesus’ intention was to feed more hungry people somewhere. Among other lessons, Jesus was teaching His followers the concept of proper resource management. Wasting what God had blessed us with is not proper.
Jesus spoke about the importance of doing charitable deeds for others (Matthew 6:3), and He specifically commended feeding the poor (Matthew 25:35). We can’t feed the poor with food that we’ve thrown away. It’s reasonable to suggest that willfully wasting food is a sin in that it deprives the needy of something we could have given them. Wasting food takes away a practical opportunity to bless others.
Several passages of Scripture commend a readiness to give. “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). The rich are “to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). See also Romans 12:8 and Ephesians 4:28. If we are to give food away, we can’t very well be wasting it. The idea that we would knowingly squander any resource that could benefit others is foreign to the Christian concept of charity.