When Eating is Obedience
by: Jack Hughes
- Dieting and Eating
This is our last Calvary Review article on eating. But instead of talking about sinful eating, we want to talk about obedient eating. We have surveyed the Scriptures, learned that God’s grace is sufficient so that there is never a time when a believer “has to practice sinful eating habits.” We also looked at worldly methods of dealing with sins related to eating and learned that the world is concerned about appearance and health rather than the glory of God. Worldly solutions to eating problems do not address the spiritual issues of the heart.
Glorifying God in Our Eating
Before we begin to discuss “what to do” we must first do a very quick survey of foundational truths that must be considered when trying to overcome any sin. First, we must have a purpose for eating in a way that glorifies God. The apostle Paul in I Cor. 10:31says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The glory of God should be the primary motivation and goal for everything we do, including our eating.
Secondly, we need to be saved, born again, regenerated, transformed by God’s grace, a child of God. Many people call themselves Christians but are not. They are not saved, they are not born again, they have not been transformed by God’s grace because they are spiritually dead. If you are not saved, you will be a slave to your lusts, passions, and desires. You may give up one sin only to adopt another and you will never be able to give glory to God (Rom. 8:5-8).
If you are not saved, you must understand you are a sinner and that your sin has offended a holy God. You need to realize that you deserve to be judged because of the sins you have committed. You also need to know that God loves you so much He became a man in the person of Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and voluntarily gave himself up to be crucified for your sins. You must also believe that three days after his death, Jesus was raised from the grave conquering death. If you believe these things and are willing to repent of your sin, turn from your evil way, and embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be saved, born again, transformed by God’s grace and adopted into the family of God! If you haven’t done this, your problem is not your eating habits, your problem is that hell awaits you and the wrath of God abides on you. Your first step must be to be reconciled to God (see Isa. 55:6-7; Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:8-9; I Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:1-10; II Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5).
Third, you must understand how the process of sanctification works. When a person repents of his sin and places his faith in Jesus Christ, he is given resources by God so he can grow in holiness. As each individual believer is faithful to use the resources God provides, they grow spiritually. If God’s resources are neglected, then our walk with the Lord suffers.
God gives every believer the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9) and we are commanded to walk by the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18; I Jn. 1:9). Never forget that the Holy Spirit always works in concert with the Word of God. The Word of God is the primary means by which a Christian grows in holiness (I Thess. 2:13). God also gives spiritual gifts to every believer so that they can help others grow in the Lord (Rom. 12:1-8; Heb. 10:24-25; I Pet. 4:10). We have access to God through prayer and are able to boldly approach the throne of grace to find help in a time of need (Rom. 8:26-27;Heb. 4:16). If a Christian is diligent to keep his sins confessed, walk in the Spirit, be involved in the local church, read, study, listen to and meditate on the Word of God, he will grow spiritually. If he does not, he will not grow.
So the question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I doing these things?” Are you keeping your sins confessed and are you walking in the Spirit? Are you regularly studying, thinking about, meditating on, memorizing, listening to, and reading books that teach you the Word of God? Are you praying, not only formally, but all through the day? Do you converse with God asking Him for help, praising Him, confessing your sins? Are you involved in the local body, attending church services, involved in a Bible study, Sunday School class, discipleship group, serving, letting others serve you, singing, praying, giving, and listening to the Word being preached?
I know that everyone needs improvement in all of these areas and no one has reached perfection, but is your life characterized by using the fundamental resources God has provided for you? If not, you will never see yourself grow like God wants you to grow. You will find it difficult or impossible to get control of your sinful eating habits.
Okay! Let’s say your primary desire in life is to give glory to God. You’re saved, and you are striving to appropriate the resources God has given you to grow in holiness and sanctification. Now what? Let’s answer some common questions people have about eating and hopefully this will give you a framework to bring your eating habits under control for the glory of God.
Keep in mind that for every question that might be asked about eating, many scriptural principles need to be considered. For example, is your weight such that it might disqualify you from ministering to others? Is your weight hindering you from doing ministry? Is your weight a stumbling block to others? Does your weight show you are out of control in your eating? Is your weight causing health problems in your life? Are you prematurely destroying your body with food? Are you self-controlled in your eating? Are you disciplined in your eating? Do you have mastery over your eating? Are you violating Scripture in your eating? Questions like these must be asked for every question below. We only have time to survey some of the principles that might apply to each question. Everyone’s situation is different so it is difficult to provide a definite answer.
- Is there a godly weight I should strive to be at?
This is a leading question because it presupposes that if we weigh a certain amount, we will be godly. This is false. Godliness is something that God does in us, by His grace, through the means described above. Yet, if we are obese and our weight is causing us or others to sin, or hindering us from giving glory to God, then we need to consider losing weight if that will enable us to better give glory to God.
- How much can I eat and not sin?
As we have learned, we all need to eat, and there is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. Feasting on Thanksgiving day doesn’t make you a glutton. But repeated stuffing, gorging, and excessive eating does. Even if you have a high metabolism or do excessive exercise or vomit up your food after committing gluttony, so you can be a glutton but not gain weight, this does not excuse your sinful eating. In certain circumstances we may eat more, but if the pattern of our life is out of control or excessive eating or gluttony, that would be a sin.
Here is something you can do to see if you are practicing self control. Do you regularly eat less than you could or desire to eat? If you truthfully answer “Yes” to that question you are practicing self control. If, on the other hand, you typically eat all you can, and stuff yourself until you’re about ready to pop, you are most likely out of control in your eating. God wants you to be self controlled in your eating — are you?
- Is dieting biblical?
This is also a leading question which presupposes that a diet is something you choose to do. In reality, everyone has a diet. Whatever you eat is “your” diet. You have been on a diet since the day you were born. What most people mean by “going on a diet” is “modifying what I eat.” There is nothing wrong with modifying your diet in order to lose weight, to practice self control, or to keep from gaining weight. But your motive needs to be God’s glory first and foremost. I would stay away from any diet that encourages you to eat as much as you can of anything. Remember that your appearance should not be the primary motive for modifying what you eat. Its okay to want to look good, but your stronger desire should be the glory of God. Health issues are a more biblical motive for changing one’s diet because our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
- Is exercise a proper solution for obesity?
It can be part of the solution for losing weight, but keep in mind, the Bible does not say, “Thou shall not be obese” nor does the Bible tell us where obesity starts or ends. You can lose weight for God glorifying reasons through exercise, but in addition to your exercise you have to also practice self control. If you exercise enough you can be a glutton and not gain weight, but exercise does not address the sins of your heart. If, on the other hand, you address the sins of your heart and you do use self control, you can expedite weight loss by exercising. But if you have self control, you can lose weight by monitoring what you eat and how much you eat. Bodily exercise profits little, but it does profit some. Godliness is profitable in this life and the one to come (I Tim. 4:7-8).
- If someone has practiced indulgence and has become obese, would true repentance require them to lose weight?
Again, with the world, how we look on the outside is everything, but God looks at the heart (I Sam. 16:7). Each situation has to be examined separately but if your weight is a stumbling block to others, hinders you from obeying God, or puts an excessive strain on your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, repentance might require you losing some weight.
- If I have gained weight slowly over many years am I in sin and should I lose weight?
It is common as we grow older for our metabolisms to slow down making it much easier to gain weight. And while we might justify a few pounds, thirty, fifty or a hundred or more pounds puts us at a much higher health risk and hinders our ability to minister to others. Lets say you are fifty pounds overweight. Think of someone you know who is thin and in relatively good shape. Now how would strapping a fifty pound sack of salt on his back hinder his ability to minister? What if you put two fifty pound sacks of salt on his back, how would that hinder his ability to minister to others?
Many Christians carry around large amounts of weight which hinder them from ministering to others. Their knees hurt, their backs hurt, they have trouble going upstairs, they are too tired to do things, too out of shape to help someone move, and why? Because they have not taken care of their outer man and have slowly gained an excessive amount of weight. The consequences of their neglect is affecting their ability to minister to others. This is just one example but a very real one. All the other questions mentioned above should be considered also.
- Can you be skinny and still be a glutton?
Yes! People with high metabolisms need more food to eat than others. I was once one of those people. In my twenties I could eat anything I wanted and if I didn’t eat a lot I would wilt. I was skinny as a rail but ate like a horse. But now that I am older, things have changed. I eat smaller portions and I choose to eat less of those tasty things that pack on the pounds. I do this so I can minister at full throttle, because I want to be a good example for others, because I want to take care of my outer man, and because I want to glorify God by mastering and using self control in my eating. But remember, being skinny doesn’t mean you have godly eating habits. You can be skinny and still be a glutton.
Bottom line, if you are a Christian, God has given you everything you need to have complete mastery over your fleshly desires. By using the resources God has given you, you will grow in godliness. Therefore, the best way to live your life is to practice self control and be disciplined in your eating. Your eating habits and your weight should be an example to all that you have submitted your eating habits to the Word of God so you can give God maximum glory!