Of Freedom of Choice in the Selection of Food

On the 9th of March in 1522 Zwingli was present with Froschauer and others when they broke the Lenten Fast and ate sausages.  Froschauer was the printer in Zurich and he and his workers had a huge backlog of work and had to put in many hours each day and they just didn’t have the strength to do it without indulging in some famous Swiss sausages.

Zwingli approved of their actions (though he didn’t eat any sausages, the disgusting things) because such matters as Lent and fasting for some human-tradition appointed period of time lacked biblical justification.  Since the Bible is the final authority in matters of faith and practice, Lent and its observances could be safely dismissed as they have no home in scripture.

A little over a month later, Zwingli preached on the Freedom of Choice and Selection of Food.  Here are some excerpts:

To sum up briefly: if you want to fast, do so; if you do not want to eat meat, don’t eat it; but allow Christians a free choice. If you are a person of leisure, you should fast often and abstain from food that excites you; the worker moderates his desires by hoeing and plowing in the field. You say, ‘but the idlers will eat meat without needing to.’ The answer is that these very same people fill themselves with even richer foods, which enflame them even more than the highly-seasoned highly-spiced meats.

If you would be a Christian at heart, act in this way. If the spirit of your belief teaches you thus, then fast, but grant also your neighbor the privilege of Christian liberty, and fear God greatly, if you have transgressed his laws, nor make what man has invented greater before God than what God himself has commanded. . . . You should neither scorn nor approve anyone for any reason connected with food or with feast days whether observed or not (an exception is always to be made about Sunday until after hearing the Word of God and partaking of the Lord’s Supper). Take no notice of feasting on the Sabbath or at new moon, for these are now only symbols of Christian celebrations, freeing men from their sins and keeping them so.

Here is another sign of the times. I think that there is danger of this age being evil and corrupt rather than reaching out towards everlasting righteousness. Further, simple people think everything is all right if they go to confession in Lent only, observe the fast, take Communion and thus account for the whole year. God should, however, be acknowledged at all times and our life should be one of piety, whereas we act to the contrary when we think that it is quite enough if we pay attention only to the times of fasting whereas Christ says, “Be vigilant: for you know not the day or the hour” [Matt. 25:13*].

Sage words, especially these days when so much nonsense is passing itself off as piety.