Culture At Large

Does God want you to be thin?

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

A recent Washington post article talks about the prevalence of faith-based weight loss plans. I had no idea this was going on, and I have to say, I’m torn about the whole thing.  I was more skeptical when I read the headline than I was after I read this justification from Pastor Steve Reynolds:

"About 40 percent of you need to lose weight," he told his congregation at Capital Baptist Church. "When you love potluck more than God, it's serious."

You know, I think that’s true, and I think gluttony is an issue that we don’t face enough in the Christian church.  But I think the risks run both ways. It’s easy to let your appetite become a god to you, but it’s also easy to let weight loss or self improvement to become an idol. My friend Stephanie wrote a challenging post about this issue in her own life.  When I was talking about this post with her recently, she mentioned that constantly monitoring your food intake can be an easy a way to push God out of your mind too.

Along those same lines, I don’t think a cooking demonstration in a worship service is appropriate. My concern is that worship is a time that is set aside for worshiping God, and interrupting that with a cooking lesson, to me, cheapens the worship service. Let’s cut into TV time, not worship time, to improve our bodies.

My other concern is that I think our culture already ties thinness to moral righteousness (“I’ll be good and have a salad” “this brownie is sinful” etc). As I’m sure many of you know, weight is a life-long struggle for some and not a problem for others. Genetics, culture and economics play an important role. In fact, weight and health (or fitness) are not always as linked as we think they are.  I would hate for this trend to imply that thin people are better Christians than fat people.  In my experience, body fat and love for Jesus do not correlate.

On the other hand, I do think that we should seek God’s council and put God first in anything we do, including cooking, eating and working out.  I think exercise is a great way to glorify God, who gave us amazing bodies that can lift heavy weights, run marathons, and hold yoga poses. I think eating well is a great way to glorify God for the amazing variety of plants and animals he has given us to eat.  I believe Pastor Reynolds when he says that God called him to change his habits.

So perhaps you understand my fundamental ambivalence about this whole trend. We live in a very strange culture that has an unhealthy obsession with thinness, in addition to an unhealthy trend toward obesity.  I’m not sure that trading one extreme for the other is more Godly.  How might we seek God’s guidance to give us a healthy, balanced relationship with our bodies, while still honoring God above potlucks OR sculpted abs?

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