Does God want you to lose weight? Should our spiritual self-care include a certain kind of diet? Can Christians fat-shame with impunity? Is thinliness next to godliness? Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Ms. Thin Comes to Bible Study
My new acquaintance sat across from me at our Bible study group and nibbled on a razor-thin slice of cheesecake.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about the cheesecake,” I quipped, “It’s gluten-free, keto-friendly, and almost without guilt!”
Some of the other ladies chuckled. Everyone knew I served inclusive desserts in my house. After all, everyone should have the opportunity to savor something delicious—even desserts.
The corner of the new gal’s mouth twitched down and then back up again as she said brightly, “Do you know what they call losing weight in the South?”
“Do tell,” I answered, glad that she seemed willing to join in the pre-Bible study banter.
“Falling off. They call it falling off.”
“That sounds rather odd,” another lady said, leaning forward to catch more of the conversation.
“But you need to know that to understand the joke,” my new acquaintance said with a smile. “One day, a woman from Georgia said to her husband, ‘Honey, do you notice I’ve been losing weight?’ ‘Why, yes, I have noticed you’ve been falling off,’ the husband replied. Excited, the woman almost squealed with excitement, ‘Really? You’ve noticed?’ ‘Absolutely,’ he replied, ‘I’ve seen you falling off both sides of your chair!’”
Fortunately, two new arrivals breezed in at that moment, breaking the awkward silence. I shifted uneasily in my armchair. While no one in the room weighed enough to ‘fall off’ both sides of their chairs, I knew that at one point in my life, I had.
Joke? Or Fat Shaming?
For years I’d labored under the guilt of not having my body look like a perfect ‘temple’ for the Holy Spirit to reside in. I tried everything to not gain weight—even followed the food pyramid to perfection, but nothing seemed to work.
Going on a low-carb diet had finally done the trick. But in order to maintain my healthy weight, I had to change my thinking about eating carbs with impunity.
“God abhors gluttony,” the new gal said under her breath as she pulled out her Bible and set of highlighters, clearly ready to get on with the study now that she’d made the rest of us feel like sinners for indulging in a little dessert.
The woman’s assertion that God abhors gluttony stuck in my craw. It didn’t sound like something the Bible actually said.
After the Bible study ladies left (I hoped Ms. Thin decided to find a Bible study with a different group), I pulled out my phone to fact check.
Despite popular belief about gluttony ranking high in the Bible as a sin, only two verses in the New Living Translation mention it. Pride shows up 64 times. I decided to expand the search and look for the word ‘glutton.’ Only five more verses popped up. Pride outweighs gluttony 64:7.Pride outweighs gluttony 64:7. #fatshaming #pride #gluttony Click To Tweet
Jesus talks about how people claimed he was a glutton (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34) because he ate with sinners and tax collectors. But nowhere does it say Jesus had alcohol or weight problems.
Why does everyone assume that overweight people suffer from gluttony? Or that gluttony is a grievous sin?
Does God Want You to Lose Weight?
God created us in his image, but because of sin his perfect pattern has broken down over the millennia. We don’t live as long as Old Testament people. Diseases seem to multiply faster than researchers can find cures.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are a “holy temple” and he exhorts us to honor God with our bodies. The bigger context of the verse has nothing to do with food, though. Paul uses the concept to warn the Corinthians to avoid sexual immorality.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shalt maintain thy body thin as a rail.” Even Paul’s injunction to the Ephesians about making their ‘stomach their god’ (Ephesians 3:19) can have several meanings. The stomach can be a metaphor for all of our appetites—not just the ones that involve food.
Thinliness is NOT a sign of godliness (nor is cleanliness, for that matter). And although gluttony ended up on some theologian’s list of seven deadly sins, the Bible doesn’t even have a list of ‘deadly sins.’
Pride (haughtiness), on the other hand, tops the list of things God hates.
“There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.Proverbs 6:16-19
Why, then, do people judge each other so harshly based on outward appearances (which we would need our ‘haughty eyes’ to notice in the first place)?
How to Make Satan Laugh with Glee
Satan laughs with glee when we believe his lies. Gluttony is not a sin; pride is. We can keep our pride of sin pretty private, though. Drunkenness is not a sin; lying is. We can keep our lies to ourselves most of the time.
What lies do we tell ourselves (and others)? We lie when we point out the shortcomings of others to cover up our own shortcomings. Fat shaming says, “Hey, look at me. I don’t struggle with my appetite like you do.”
Chances are, Ms. Thin just wants to draw attention away from something she does struggle with that she doesn’t want anyone to know about.
God doesn’t want us to lose fifty pounds. He wants us to build each other up in love (Jude 1:20-21). God does want us to lose our practice of picking on overweight people and their ‘sin’ of gluttony.
Saying that overweight people have an eating problem is like saying that depressed people have a spiritual problem.
Maybe, maybe not. Both depression and weight gain act as symptoms to deeper problems. The problems could have mental, physical, or spiritual roots.
Since we’re not doctors (or God), we don’t get to judge. Satan loves it when we judge each other—especially when we do it vocally. It saves him the bother of whispering lies into the heart of a troubled soul.
And Don’t Come Back!
Just like Ms. Thin had no idea that at one time I ‘fell off’ my chair on both sides, I have no idea what her inner struggle might look like.
Come to think of it, I hope she DOES come back next week. I want to come alongside her, get to know her better, and do what I can to build her up.
Jesus doesn’t want ME to judge either. He just wants me to love. Jesus wants us to be perfect, just like his Father (Matthew 5:48) And that perfection has nothing to do with how much we weigh or how often we indulge in Hot Cheetos, Twinkies, or cheesecake. It has to do with how well we love our enemies (and the difficult people) in our lives.
We have a good, good Father who wants us to experience the best life has to offer. He wants to see us whole—mentally, artistically, academically, physically, and spiritually. We need to start with him and let him lead us to the answers.