How many sermons have you heard about fitness and health? Not many, I bet.
But there’s astounding evidence that issues of physical health are issues in America today:
- 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association.
- Statistics show Christians in America may be more overweight than the general population. A 2006 study at Purdue found Christians by far are the most overweight of all the religious groups. Baptists had a 30 percent obesity rate, compared with Jews at just 1 percent and Buddhists at .07 percent.
- Nearly one-half of the American population will be obese by 2030 according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
We discuss marriage, finances and parenting through our churches, so why not health? Church is where we learn about God, so if the Church isn’t teaching what God says about health and self-care, where is the congregation getting their information?
This article is part of a fall wellness series RELEVANT is producing in partnership with Unite Health Share Ministries.
With media quick to entice us with extreme diet plans, before-and-after pictures and pills that lead our brothers and sisters down a defeating path where weight becomes an idol, it’s time to start the conversation.
Here are three biblical reasons health really does matter to God, and why the Church needs to speak up:
Our Bodies are the Temple of God
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3: 16-17).
Taking care of your health is being a good steward of the temple of God.
This should bring conviction, not condemnation. It’s not about worrying about your weight or beating yourself up over how you look. It’s just being mindful of how you treat your body.
The Bible shares “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthains 10: 31). But it isn’t always easy. Most people don’t go to God to ask for help forming healthy eating and exercise habits—but they can. He gives us the spirit of self-control.
Anyone who has been on a diet or workout plan knows that willpower doesn’t last. A greater power is needed, and He is ready to help.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Identity Should Be Found in the Word not the World
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7).
God in His unimaginable talent created everyone uniquely, and our identity should be rooted in that, not what the media throws at us.
91 percent of women say the way they look makes them unhappy. The Church needs to address that health and body image are often related. Health is really just an outfit everyone wears differently.
Self-esteem is a place where the enemy gains control. Without knowledge of Scripture, there is nothing to fight back with. And yet the Church is quiet. We aren’t learning how to handle the emotional turmoil of not measuring up to the world’s pressure.
The CDC says 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. Health and body image go hand in hand. Ignoring this won’t make it go away. Eating disorders, emotional overeating and body dysmorphic disorders are not vain diseases of the non-churched, they are a cry from even the churched saying, “I’m not enough,” because they’re seeing themselves through the world rather than the Word.
The Church needs to teach health and body confidence through the lens of Scripture and Christ.
Health Will Better Help Us Fulfill the Great Commission
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
An unhealthy lifestyle can affect every aspect of life. From low energy to brain fog, knee and back pain and heart disease; the physical manifestations of not taking good care of our bodies go way beyond mere weight gain. Feeling our best physically, spiritually and emotionally will help us to greater live out God’s calling on our lives.
God can empower his followers to feel good about how He created them, and learn to take care of the unique way their body is made. He is our ultimate answer to everything.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1–2).
The Church may not think they have the tools to teach health, but they do. Pastors owe it to themselves and their members to do better, together. We can choose to glorify God in the body of Christ and start the conversation of doing our health with God today.