I am at war. With food. This battle has raged for most of my adult life but has taken on extra intensity as I have approached middle age. TVs, movies, magazines, and websites are filled with gorgeous, shapely women who are without an extra pound of fat anywhere on their bodies. We are bombarded by articles and commercials on how to lose weight. There is an unspoken rule in our culture that to be beautiful you must be thin. This time of year we are bombarded with a variety of mixed message because food plays such an important role in our holiday celebrations. We see tons of TV shows and articles with recipes and directions for making delicious, high calorie food and then are told how not to eat it.
In the recent years, there has been much more of an emphasis on healthy living versus dieting, and I think that is a great trend. Because, after all, isn’t that so much more important? Can we truly live our best if we are out of breath when we climb the stairs? Or if we have to spend our money on medications that treat diseases we could avoid by being at a healthy weight?
So what does the scripture say about food? Are cookies and cake evil? Are we commanded to spend an inordinate amount of time on working out and eating right? What is the balance? I found a few verses and I want to be very careful not to take them out of context. But I think there are a few basic principles we can glean from these verses:
1.) Overeating is sinful. To eat more than we need is not only unhealthy but it is sinful. When we eat more than our bodies require, we are gluttons. I only give one example below, but God uses drunkards and gluttons in the same sentence more than once in Proverbs. I don’t know about you, but I find this very convicting. Often is the time I have reached for that extra cookie or snack when I wasn’t the least bit hungry. That is a sin?? I believe the Bible says it is.
Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)
2) There are not “good” foods or “bad” foods. I know this will be a huge source of contention with some of you who read this. But, I think there are several scripture passages that confirm this. It is not so much about what we eat, as it is about how much we eat of it. Now, to clarify, there is an over-consumption of highly processed, high-sugar, refined products in our culture that render little, if any, nutritional benefits. Perhaps if there are any foods that could be labeled “bad”, it would be these. Partaking of these occasionally is not going to ruin your health. Partaking of these on a daily basis will. We are required to be good stewards of our body. We need to take responsibility and not live in default mode. We need to eat a variety of all kinds of food. And, yes, contrary to what may be popular belief, God did create sugar cane. And He knew that a woman somewhere in history would create a pie…cookies…cake. These things aren’t wrong in and of themselves. It is in the over-consumption of them that we move into the realm of sin.
But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (I Corinthians 8:8)
3) The battle I wage with food distracts me from my spiritual walk. When I focus too much on food–which is shown when I am gluttonous and spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I will eat OR when I count every single calorie and obsess about everything I put in my mouth and spend hours working out– I am not able to focus on the things that really matter. The bottom line is that God put food on this earth to sustain us and for us to enjoy in the proper balance. When that balance is tipped one way or the other, I move into an area where it distracts me from my true purpose on this earth.
Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. (Luke 12:22-23)
This battle has raged on inside my head for many years. Most women (and men, too) naturally gain some weight around their middles during middle age. Is this sinful? Or is this how God created our bodies to be? I don’t really know the answer to this. I do know, however, that I have a responsibility to keep my body in tip-top shape to the best of my ability…not so I can meet worldly standards, but so I can maximize the amount of time I have on the earth to glorify God and spread the Gospel. But I have to admit…I look forward to not having to worry about it in Heaven! While here on earth, I know I will always find food a source of temptation. But I also know that in this weakness, God can show HIS strength.