By Sheila Alewine, Crosswalk.com
A quick internet search tells me that in the United States, Americans spent more than $75 billion dollars on weight loss and diet control last year. This includes everything from diet soft drinks and artificial sweeteners to health clubs, meal replacements, diet supplements, prescription drugs and even weight-loss surgeries. That’s a lot of money, not to mention the time and attention our culture puts on what the scale says about us. It also doesn’t include the additional medical costs incurred because we’re such an unhealthy, overweight nation.
I don’t know how women in other cultures feel, but I’d say many – if not most – women in this country have spent at least some of their life trying to lose weight! Something is wrong when the CDC statistics tell us 41% of America qualifies as “obese.”
What does God think about this? Does the Bible give us any guidance on whether or not our weight matters to Him? Are we spending our lives worrying about something that is irrelevant from an eternal perspective, or is it worth the attention it gets?
I believe there are two issues related to weight: appearance and health. Let’s see if the Bible can help us sift the truth from the lies, and come away with a proper, biblical perspective on such a distracting problem.
The Issue of Our Appearance
The Bible does acknowledge that some people are more beautiful or attractive than others from a physical perspective. It doesn’t elevate or value a beautiful person above a less attractive person, but simply acknowledges the fact that differences exist.
“Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face” (Genesis 29:16-17).
“And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the children?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is he’” (1 Samuel 16:11-12).
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23).
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A walk through a museum full of Renaissance paintings proves that weight is a matter of preference! But physical appearance is not the determining factor for God’s favor. We just read that David, God’s choice for Israel’s second king, was a handsome young man, but his older brother Eliab was even more appealing. What did God say about him?
“When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:6-7, emphasis added).
God is concerned about our hearts far more than our appearance. We can be the most beautiful person in the world and work diligently to have a slim, strong body, but if our hearts are far from God, we have fallen short of what He desires.
“Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
“Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Ultimately, the physical bodies we possess today will be done away with, and replaced with new, glorified bodies that can exist in both the physical and spiritual world of immortality for eternity. The frailties of our “earth suits” will not go with us when we are changed to be like Jesus!
“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
The Issue of Our Health
Appearance is an earthly, physical issue defined by culture, but health is the other side of the coin. Should we be concerned about our weight for health reasons, or does it matter at all, since these bodies will die and be replaced with a glorified, eternal one?
According to Scripture, we are to care for our bodies. This is not for appearance’s sake, but in gratitude to God for the gift of the body He created for His glory, and so that we can accomplish the purpose and work in life that He calls us to do.
God created our body with His own hands. He spoke the rest of the created world into existence, but when it came to the man and woman, He formed us personally!
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. … Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 1:27; 2:7).
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:18, 21-22).
This was not just the case for Adam and Eve. God knit you and me together in our mother’s wombs!
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).
We are created by God and for God. God made our physical bodies for a reason – to be used in this life to bring honor and glory to Him.
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
Not only did God create our physical bodies with amazing detail – millions of tiny cells that work together to walk and move and see and hear and taste, but even to heal itself. These bodies aren’t just an empty, physical shell. They are home for the soul (our mind, emotions, will, intellect) and spirit (the inner man that connects with God). We are brought to spiritual life as God Himself through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, through our faith in Jesus.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit – the place where God dwells with us – we are cautioned not to destroy this temple. We are to care for it as a gift – a precious treasure to steward on His behalf, for His purposes, to be His representative in this world.
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Paul understood that his body was simply the vessel that God wanted to use to preach the gospel. He struggled with health issues; his body suffered greatly through persecution and the trials of life, but he stewarded his physical body to be used by God for as long as God allowed Him to live. His goal was to finish the course God laid out for him, and to finish it well and faithfully.
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
I believe we have a responsibility, according to Scripture, to care for our bodies to the best of our ability. Weight is not the goal, but weight can be a symptom of a greater issue – that of our hearts. Do we really understand we are here just for a short time, with a singular purpose of glorifying God?
Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to exercise self-control in us? Are we choosing good nutrition to fuel this amazing body, so it works properly and stays healthy? Are we staying active so our muscles and bones stay strong, so that we can go where God calls us to go, and do the work He’s asked us to do? Or are we listening to the enemy, who wants to destroy our lives and keep us away from all that God has for us?
Do you struggle with your weight? You’re not alone. But don’t buy into the $75 billion industry that tells you it’s all about what you look like. The truth is that God has a purpose for your life and wants you to faithfully fulfill your calling. Ask God to help you be healthy so that you can enjoy the abundant life and Christ-centered mission He has planned for you.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Kseniya Ovchinnikova
Author Sheila Alewine is a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother of five. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play. She has written seven devotionals including Just Pray: God’s Not Done With You Yet, Grace & Glory: 50 Days in the Purpose & Plan of God, and her newest one, Give Me A Faith Like That, as well as Going Around The Corner, a Bible study for small groups who desire to reach their communities for Christ. Their ministry also offers disciple-making resources like One-To-One Disciple-Making in partnership with Multiplication Ministries. Sheila has a passion for God’s Word and shares what God is teaching her on her blog, The Way of The Word. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.