Why Christians Need to Be Healthy

{By Taylor Eckel}

health&faith

A friend and I are currently on a diet. I don’t like to call it that, but in the interest of keeping things real… Anyway, because our respective eating habits are subpar, we decided that for the first three days of this week, we’d only eat fruits, veggies, grilled chicken, and plain Greek yogurt.

You see, I graduated from college a hefty 25 pounds heavier than when I left home as a (albeit slightly underweight) sophomore. For three years, I’d be a healthy weight during the competitive soccer and basketball seasons, then gain 10-15 pounds in the offseason. Since graduation, I’ve been learning how to balance my diet and exercise without the help of competitive team sports.

At this point, we could take this discussion in a number of directions. I could share how-to tips for a short-term cleanse or longer-term diet, I could talk about counting calories and eating real foods. But the fact is, that information is widely available across the web, and those discussions are very outward-focused, and here at InsideOut, we want to dig a little deeper.

Let’s look beyond our dinner plates and our pants sizes, and examine our hearts.

In the spirit of Colossians 3:17, our goal should be that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This perspective, found throughout Scripture, automatically makes vanity1 an unacceptable motivation in our pursuit of a healthy weight.

You see, we all bear the image of the Most High God, and we have a non-negotiable obligation to be good stewards of the bodies He has given us as a means of maximizing our ability to serve God and neighbor.

That’s right. A healthy lifestyle is a non-negotiable aspect of serving God. It might come across as a bold or even harsh assertion, but consider this: why would we willingly allow preventable physical maladies to distract us or detract from our service of God? An orthopedic surgeon once told me that every time a person steps down a stair, each of their knees bears the force of seven times their bodyweight. If you’re even ten pounds overweight, that’s an extra seventy pounds of pressure on each knee, every time you go down a single stair!

I’m not saying that everyone is called to serve God in an active way; God certainly uses us regardless of our physical limitations (just look at Joni Eareckson Tada!). However, I do believe that we have a responsibility to care for all the resources He gives us, be they our talents, finances, and of course, our bodies, which means that we should be in the best shape reasonably possible so that we are prepared to serve Him in whatever opportunities He gives us, and that begins with a healthy diet. I want to emphasize the “reasonably possible. God knows that I can’t afford organic produce, free range chicken, or a fancy gym membership. But He also knows that I don’t need bacon and homemade sticky buns for breakfast every morning, or that most of my excuses for not exercising are particularly lame. 2

It is also key to remember that just we do not love God solely with our bodies, the benefits of a exercise and a healthy diet are not purely physical. As we seek to love God with all of our minds, remember that a diet high in refined/processed carbohydrates contributes to inflammation, fatigue, and high levels of stress hormones. It’s time to stop shooting blithely at our own feet.

What do you think— is a healthy lifestyle an essential aspect of your faith?

Endnotes

1 For those of us who are married (or in my case, almost married!), I want to distinguish between the noble aspiration of looking good for your spouse, and vanity. Vanity comes from pride or a selfish desire for affirmation, while the legitimate desire to please your spouse is loving and selfless.

                 

2  This discussion is incomplete without a mention of Christian liberty. I want to recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to living a healthy lifestyle. My family doesn’t eat dairy products, I do. Others I know eschew grains, while others abstain from all caffeine. Do your own research, and see what works best for your body.

 

 

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