Thursday, January 31, 2013

Does God Care About Your Body Fat Percentage?

Humans tend to extremes. If we're not eating double burgers with donuts for buns, we're eating grain-free, dairy-free, meat-free burgers. I tend to extremes. I like to do something all the way, or not at all. But being married to Medium Man Mike - who likes to be down the middle in all things - I have come to an appreciation for moderation.

And one of those areas is food. While much of our country is ensconced in ridiculous excess, I live in a community in which people run to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain and drink wheat grass for fun. 

It's good to be healthy, but I often wonder, are we as Christians - at least my subculture of Coloradoan skinny-jean Christians - far too concerned about our bodies, our health and our diet? 

The verse always espoused at times like this is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?...Therefore honor God with your bodies."

The logic goes something like this: "How could you put donuts in the same container as the Holy Spirit?" 

But if we read the verse in context, it is talking about sexual immorality - specifically uniting our bodies with that of a prostitute. That doesn't mean that the principle of this verse can't be applied to other areas of our lives, but it's good to remember that the verse wasn't talking about saturated fats. 

The intent of the verse was to encourage us to lead holy lives. And what I must ask is this: Does an over-attention to health and diet lead to holiness? 

We know that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and that physical training has "some value" (1 Timothy 4:8). But in my observation, the over-arching pursuit of good health can ultimately distract us from God, our family and life in general, rather than drawing us closer to God. 

When so many of our everyday thoughts and energy and actions are spent on our bodies, there is simply less left for other aspects of life. Our thoughts are preoccupied by shopping for and preparing our very specific niche diets. Our energy is spent on ensuring that we have no excess belly fat. In short, our bodies become our gods - the thing to which we give the majority of our time and attention.

I would like to argue that God does not care if my body fat percentage is below 23 percent. I don't think God cares in particular if I eat a grain-free diet. There are a lot of things God does care about. I think he may ask me how I loved my neighbor as myself. I don't think he'll ask me about my sugar intake. 

I'm not saying we should do whatever we feel like because God doesn't care. I believe in living a healthy life. I eat in moderation. I try to stay within a particular weight range. I try to walk or hike several times a week (I have to - I own an ice cream store). But these things should never become the focus of my life.  They should never become my god.

They have in the past, and perhaps that's why I'm so sensitive to the spiritualization or moralization of diet and exercise among Christians. When the Bible does speak about food, it doesn't teach us to be ascetics. Jesus endorsed bread and used it as a metaphor for himself. (Score!) We are told that God created all food for us to receive with thanksgiving. Chew on this challenging little tidbit: 

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly." 1 Timothy 4:1-8
Eating food sacrificed to idols was a hot topic in new testament times. While we don't have this particular dilemma in our time, there are still some principles we can glean: 

"Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do." 1 Corinthians 8:8

"Why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."1 Corinthians 29-31. 

When it comes down to it, we shouldn't judge one another for our food choices: 

"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand." Romans 14:1-4

I shouldn't judge those whose conscience has led them to eat dairy-free, but they also shouldn't judge me for owning an ice cream store. 

In conclusion: Live a holy life, don't let your body become your god, don't spiritualize food, receive what God has given you with thanksgiving, and don't judge one another. 


Anonymous said...

AMEN, sister! NV

Elizabeth M. said...

Good thoughts, however I was very distracted by the picture of ice cream at the beginning. Was this just a clever ploy to get me to drive to Colorado Springs and buy some Gelato? It may work. By the way, I like you : ) You are a Godly smarty-pants and I appreciate your down-to-earthness...and I miss you.

Sharlet Christina said...

Great points and thoughts!!! :)

Diane said...

So nice to read some common sense and good Biblical interpretation. Thanks.

annie said...

Yes! Yes, yes, yes!
Thank you!