What our children’s lunchboxes can say about our priorities

October 25, 2018

What’s in your child’s lunchbox? According to The Wall Street Journal, when the lunch bell rings, some kids are pulling out designer multi-compartment Bento-boxes stuffed full of colorful, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, nut free fare, artfully arranged and immortalized by moms on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

That’s nothing like what I carried to school back in the day. As a student at a private, Christian grade school and high school, I spent precious time each evening of my childhood packing my lunch. My mom did it willingly when we were young, but as we progressed through grade school, the chore fell to us kids. These were the 80s.

Some parents today might cringe if they could look into what we carried to school: crumpled paper sack lunches with smooshed sandwiches (peanut butter, turkey, or tuna), plastic baggies with a handful of chips or pretzels, another with pickles or carrots, and on a good week, a cookie or homemade, slightly burnt, granola bar. Not only does the food itself sound unappealing compared to what today’s lunchboxes hold: “veggie and tofu samosas, and eight assorted fruits and vegetables including broccoli, grapes, and lupini beans,” but also, it was just food. Not the stuff of professional photographs, food stylists, and menu planners.

What was once a thankless but necessary chore—packing lunch—has become in some circles an art form and cause for competition and even angst among moms eager to please their children and one-up their friends.

The Wall Street Journal’sThe Competitive World of School Lunches,” says “people’s obsession with posting pictures of food on social media has moved to the lunchbox crowd.” The craze is part social-media-fueled competition and part working-mom guilt. Nancy Yen, creator of the high-end lunch-toting OmieBox, said of her interviews with lunch-packing moms, “We got deep into the psychology of lunchmaking . . . It was, ‘I can’t be there for everything, so I am going to make you the most kick— lunch. I’m going to make sure you know I love you. And I’m going to do it at night when the kid’s asleep and it’s going to be amazing.’”

To elevate lunchboxes and lunch making to the level of lunchbox support groups and online competition is to miss the point of making food—to nourish the people you love.

Moms have stayed up late to prepare food for their children for centuries. Proverbs 31:15 commends it. But doing so out of necessity and doing it out of insecurity or vanity are not the same. To elevate lunchboxes and lunch making to the level of lunchbox support groups and online competition is to miss the point of making food—to nourish the people you love.

When our 11-year-old read the story in the Journal, he said, “Why don’t those Moms make the food with their kids? That’s what kids want. To just be together.”

Treating the superficial as transcendent

There’s nothing wrong with lovingly crafting a healthy, attractive meal for the people God’s placed in your care—we should be doing that. But we must guard against the spirit of this age that raises what we eat to spiritual proportions, while neglecting the more important matters of what we think, say, and do (Matt. 23:23). It’s what comes out of our mouth that matters more than what goes into it (Mark 7:18). And don’t forget the opportunity cost that comes with making elaborate lunch box meals—what things will you not be doing while you’re washing, chopping, and arranging eight fruits and vegetables?

Our primary job as parents is to attend to the hearts of our children, teaching them God’s Word and all his mighty deeds so that they might put their hope in him (Psa. 78: 1-8). Yes, we must feed them. But man—and children—cannot live by bread alone. They need every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Far better to hand craft what goes into their souls than their bellies.

Giving precious time to something as temporary as tomorrow’s lunch isn’t the only problem with the competitive lunchbox trend. Photographing what you’ve made and posting it to social media sends a strong signal to kids that it’s worth time and effort to make a big deal about what you’ve crafted (their lunch) to all your fans and followers.This tells them a lot about what’s most important to you. Social media can’t help but fuel the fires of pride and envy. We must use it with great wisdom and be vigilant lest our hearts deceive us into thinking that we really do have right priorities.

I didn’t eat gourmet lunches as a schoolgirl, but I didn’t miss it. I learned how to plan ahead and pack my own lunch, and I thrived on just turkey and cheese, pretzels, and pickles. (I don’t even know what lupini beans are.) Most importantly I had my mom’s time and attention, and often a handwritten note tucked into my paper sack. For this child’s heart, that was the best nourishment of all.

Candice Watters

Candice Watters is the Fighter Verses blog editor. She is a wife and mom, and author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, and co-author with her husband Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses have four children and are passionate about … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24