You'd think the children who controlled their own eating would be heavier, but not so. The spoon-fed crew was the one that was more likely to be obese as toddlers. Eight of the 63 spoon-fed children became obese, while none of the 63 self-feeding children were. Ellen Townsend, associate professor at the University of Nottingham, who led the study notes, “Maybe with spoon feeding, if you've lovingly prepared a delicious portion, and you might want to get that portion into that child. There may be a temptation to try to get in an extra spoonful or two.” She went on to point out that the study should reassure parents that it's OK to let the child take care of food choices, as long as the parents are providing nutritious options like fruits and vegetables, proteins, and iron-rich foods like hard-boiled eggs or strips of meat. In fact, when asked what her own baby was eating for dinner, Townsend replied, “She'll sit down with us tonight and have pork chops, string beans, some baby sweet corn, and probably some potatoes.” Like many parents with more than one child, she doesn't have the time to cook up special baby food. And her children seem perfectly happy to eat what's on the family table.
We recognize that we were all once babes in Christ. We understand that all “infants” mature at different rates and no one can manipulate their rate of maturity. God in his wisdom ordained that there be elders in every church who would be responsible for “feeding the flock of God.” They are to provide the spiritual nourishment to those of their flock through the milk and meat of the word of God. Why? God wants us to be mature in Christ. He wants us to grow and there is a level of maturity that God wants from each of us. A perfect faith, namely a perfect faith in Christ means we become more like Christ. Therefore when we speak of being Christ-like, we are talking about maturity that comes through a healthy diet of the word of God.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations just like the one described. Elders have to spend a great deal of time “spoon-feeding” a majority of the flock. The “spoon-feeders” never learn to discern the word and gain spiritual maturity. Often times they end up “spiritually obese” unable to mature because they are dissatisfied with what is on the family table and demand a “special diet.” Two things are at play in this situation that are worthy of our close attention and consideration.
First, there is a responsibility that each individual maintains in coming from a state of spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity in Christ Jesus. That which God has provided at his “table” is for the feeding of his children (cf Eph 4:14-16 ). Granted, every baby matures at different rates and no one can manipulate the rate of maturity. While it is not uncommon a babe in Christ to need a little more time feeding on the milk, a continual diet of milk leaves them lacking in many essential nutrients and vitamins. The Christian who is content to sup on the milk of God’s word finds themselves as worldly or canal Christians; i.e., because they have failed to make any real spiritual progress, they remain very immature to the things of God. Consequently, the world’s standards of behaviour still condition their attitudes and actions (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 ). In infancy there is selfishness, quarreling, arguments, divisions, unreconciled relationships, unforgiven memories, and all such sins. In maturity there is unity, reconciliation, healing, and of course, the manifestation of the love of Christ. True spiritual maturity is of the Spirit not simply of the mind, which is why Paul says, “…let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” He is saying let us progress beyond the basics and start living what we claim to know. The Christians who are spoon-fed are more likely to become obese toddlers, chocked out by the cares and deceitfulness of the world, while the self-feeders, who were happy to eat what is on the family table, grow into healthy fruit bearing Christians.
Secondly, there is a responsibility that elderships maintain in providing the nutrition for the flock among them. The primary task of shepherds is making sure the sheep continue to be fed and watered so their life can be nourished and they can grow to maturity. They protect them in order that they may continue to be fed the truth. They guide them into the truth so that they don't go astray into something that's harmful and bad for them. What cannot happen is the “short order cook” approach to feeding the flock. This “special diet” becomes a hindrance to true spiritual maturity and causes not only the weak to suffer, but also is to the weakening of the “self-feeders.” Too often shepherds get caught up in making sure everyone gets what they want and allow the “spoon-feeders” to make the feeding decisions for them. As a result, they shorten bible class periods and gospel meetings and water down sermons and bible study topics. When elderships begin to cater to the needs of the spoon-feeder they inadvertently leave the self-feeders at the table hungry and longing for solid food necessary for growth and development. The reality is that there are those who are content to be served milk and aren’t concerned with maturing in Christ. They only come to the dinner table to make their scheduled appearance.