Why do Christians condemn other Christians for smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer but not for overeating at Taco Bell or Subway or for loading up on sugar at Starbucks?
It’s no question that excessive smoking and drinking contribute to various diseases and can often lead to premature death. However, for some reason, the church in America seems to be ignoring the number one cause of death in our country: our diets. In fact, six out of the top ten causes of death in America are health-related reasons including high body mass index and physical inactivity among others. With unhealthy dietary choices and lack of exercise being the main cause of death and disease in America, it’s a mystery why the church seems to elevate the alleged sin of smoking and drinking over other, more prominent unhealthy life choices.
Drinking? Bad. Smoking? Horrible! Eating poorly and neglecting fitness? Eh…
How can you call a Christian to put down the cigarette while you’re holding onto a Big Mac (or two)?
Similar to how the American church is currently elevating the sin of practicing homosexuality over other sexual sins (premarital sex, watching porn, adultery, lust, etc), the sin of unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are not only being diminished but often completely ignored.
What’s the Big Deal?
The big deal is that as a nation, “big” is an understatement for our belt sizes. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, 35% of adults and 17% of youth in America are obese (not simply overweight but obese). In summary of our nation’s unhealthy lifestyles, Dr. Scott Stolls writes:
Over the past 100 years we have increased our sugar consumption by 195 pounds per person per year from an average of 5 pounds per person in 1890 to more than 200 pounds of sweeteners in 2000, increased the consumption of processed grains such as chips and crackers by 62 pounds per year, meats by 60 pounds per year, increased cheese intake by 28 pounds per year, added 53 gallons of soft drinks per person per year, reduced our fruit and vegetable intake, added 500 calories per day to our diets, and become more inactive, watching on average more than four hours of TV per day.
The big deal is that as a nation, we are bigger than “big” and the church is no different.
Why Should the Church Care?
Ever since the garden, God has called His people to take care of or steward what He has temporarily given to us. As Christians, we profess that our entire lives and everything in them belongs to God and is to be used for His glory. Our bodies are no exception.
We wave the flag of 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 20 in the face of sexual immorality, smoking and alcohol abuse, proclaiming that our bodies as Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit. “So glorify God in your body,” we urge in affirmation of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth. For some reason, we don’t allow this thinking to influence our dietary and fitness habits.
When I was younger, my dad would give me things from his childhood to hold on to and to take care of for him. Everything he gave me that was his, I cherished. I would joyfully take better care of his things than my own toys simply because they were my dad’s possessions. When God created us, He gave us physical bodies as well as many other things to take care of for Him and to help them flourish. In doing these things for God’s glory, He intended for us to find joy.
Do It All for the Glory of God
“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory” (1 Cor 10:31). Here are a few helpful tips to move towards a physically healthy lifestyle to the glory of God:
- Assess your priorities. American households spend far less money on food per household than many other countries even though our households tend to have less mouths to feed. We also, in turn, spend far more on healthcare than many other countries as well. Perhaps, these two are linked? Assess your entire budget and try to make room to increase your grocery budget. Five months ago, my wife and I cut meat completely from our diets (due to health reasons, too). As a result of this choice, we have been able to spend more of our budget on groceries, freeing us to buy a largely organic diet now.
- Plan your meals. Before you go grocery shopping, think through and plan what you’ll make and eat throughout the week. This helps prevent waste throughout the week.
- Find a fun fitness. Not everyone has to go to the gym. Personally, I enjoy going on walks with my wife, riding my bike while listening to a leadership podcast and lifting weights at home. Also, if the opportunity arises, I love competing in recreational sports. Find a physical activity that you most enjoy and start doing it.
- Schedule your workout. Aside from my wife, my calendar is my best friend. Sadly, I often believe the lie that I don’t have enough time to exercise. My antidote for this lie is scheduling in multiple times a week to exercise.
- Take baby steps. When my wife and I decided not to eat meat, we didn’t post on Facebook that we had become vegetarians. Similarly, when I sought to stop drinking cream in my coffee, I didn’t completely cut off cream at one moment. Currently, I am slowly cutting back my Coca Cola intake and hope to be Coke-free in the next couple of months. If I were to cut it off all at once, I would crumble by day two. Instead, each week I am able to cut back a little bit more. By taking baby steps, the pressure to “succeed” at being healthy has decreased tremendously.
- Don’t do this alone. Let’s be real: it can be a little weird to get sweaty and smelly around your buddies. However, if you’re like me and aren’t disciplined enough to work out on your own, find a couple friends to exercise with that will keep you accountable. God created us to be in community not just on Sunday mornings but every single day of the week.
- Pray. For some, this is a financial issue. However, for others (myself included), this is a heart issue. Ask God to give you a greater desire to honor Him with your body.