“All the fat is the LORD’s.” Leviticus 3:18
Baby Chris is now in his 17th week of development and his “fine tuning” continues: He can touch his own face and suck his thumb; he’s inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid as he learns to breathe; his eyes are beginning to move under eyelids and his ears detect sound; and that cuddly baby body is starting to accumulate fat tissue.
Fat gets a bad rap, but really, it’s a highly specialized organ, important to our health throughout our life. Our vital organs are cushioned by surrounding fat. Fat helps keep us warm; and fat protects us from starvation. Our brains need one in every three calories consumed. If we starve our bodies, we starve our brains too, resulting in seizures, loss of consciousness and even death. The key to human survival in times of famine has always been in the stored body fat that keeps our brains functioning. Enough highly concentrated energy is stored in our body fat to keep a healthy human being alive for several weeks.
Fat – in the right places and in the right amount – also makes us beautiful, plumping our cheeks and hips and giving us healthy skin and shiny hair. In some cultures being fat is considered esthetically more appealing than being thin; and fat is often seen as a sign of prosperity and robust health.
In Scripture, “fat” is a delicacy, denoting the “best of something,” such as the “fat of the land” (Gen. 45:18; Numbers 18:12; Psalm 81:16; 147:47). Fat is a blessing of good and productive land that yields plenty of wine, oil and barns full of grain.
When animals were offered to the Lord as sacrifices, the priests and their families were permitted to eat the meat that was not offered in the fire (Leviticus 10:12-15; I Corinthians 9:13). But the visceral fat of the sacrificial sheep and cattle - the fat surrounding the vital organs such as the kidneys and liver - was reserved exclusively to the Lord and was not to be eaten (Numbers 18:17). This restriction did not apply to fat from other parts of the body, like subcutaneous body fat. But the visceral body fat – that lump of energy which the animal had “stored up” thanks to God’s blessing – was to be received by God as a kind of “tithe” of the animal. Eating any of God’s portion of the sacrificial animal fat was considered stealing from God (Malachi 3:8), with the penalty being expulsion from Israel (Leviticus 7:25).
This week we see that at this early stage of development God is already blessing the preborn child with the fat that will protect him later from the cold outside the womb; the fat that will protect his vital organs for a healthy life and a sharp mind; the fat that will make him physically beautiful; and the fat that will provide the energy he will use throughout his life to “tithe” works of service back to God by blessing his neighbors with acts of charity. God never asks us for something he does not provide (Genesis 22:8; Philippians 4:19).