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. #fatshaming #christian #love #lose #weightloss #fallingoff

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.

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. #fatshaming #christian #love #lose #weightloss #fallingoff

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.

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. #fatshaming #christian #love #lose #weightloss #fallingoff

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.

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you Anita for tackling a difficult topic. I love these two statements –

    “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.”

    Honestly, I had never thought of weight gain as a symptom to a deeper problem which could be caused by many things.

    Blessings, Maree
    Maree Dee recently posted…When You Are Unprepared for the Challenge – Link-UpMy Profile

  2. Anita,
    Thanks for these reminders. I have ALWAYS struggled with my weight. Not having anything left that resembles a thyroid doesn’t help. I’ve seen the looks and have been told by a couple naturally thin people that my weight was sinful. Those words cut deep. Yes, I want to have a body that is fit to be God’s temple. I desire a healthy weight for my joints and my over all well being vs. what my dress size is. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will never be a size 6, but I can be a healthy size 12 ( I’m almost there). Excellent post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx
    Bev @ Walking Well With God recently posted…Blessed Are The “Hot Messes” – The Forgotten BeatitudeMy Profile

  3. I’ve lived in the South all my life and never heard of losing weight as falling off. I wonder if that was particular to that person’s community.

    I looked up “glutton” in the KJV, thinking that particular word might be in that older version more. But it was only there 4 times, and 7 times in the ESV. “Gluttony” appeared in neither version.

    However, the lust of the flesh (desires of the flesh in the ESV, a craving for physical pleasure in the NLT) appears alongside the pride of life and the lust of the eyes in 1 John 2:16 as something that is not of the Father, but of the world, which verse 15 tells us not to love. Verse 15 goes on to say that if we love these things of the world, the love of the Father is not in us. As someone who is obese and not judging others, as someone who wrestles with these lusts, I don’t know that I’d say that across the board gluttony is not a sin. I know from my own overindulgences, which I went against my conscience to engage in, that it can be a sin.

    But no food is a sin, even dessert. And body shaming and judging others is certainly sin. Not all obesity is due to gluttony, so it’s sinful to assume an overweight person is a glutton.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…End-of-September MusingsMy Profile

  4. Great post Anita and spot on. The important point isn’t our weight but our ‘self’ nature. That is the spiritual root of pride and one thing we absolutely need to be rid of. You are so right that the spiritual roots are far more dangerous than we realize. The root of ‘self’ drives us to such bad behavior. When we are more concerned about losing ‘self’ over losing weight we will be much farther ahead, and more encouraging, humble, empathetic and selfless towards others.

    Thank you for this.
    Homer Les recently posted…Paper ChristiansMy Profile

  5. Falling off is something some people say here in the south but it is more like wasting away or illness to me. I try to avoid these discussions, I could tell you stories, but I won’t. What I usually hear though is a Proverb. put a knife to your throat. I think they are missing the appetite metaphor for false doctrine, you have to read Proverbs 23:1,2,3 and 23:20.

  6. I think you may have hit the nail on the d here. We don’t like to hear it, but pride and deceit are definitely serious and no one really wants to deal with those. And like others have said here, overweight does not necessarily mean a glutton. There are so many reasons a person could be overweight and we need to be so much more understanding and not judgmental in this area.

  7. You tackled a difficult subject with grace. I just completed a sugar fast with an organization called Revelation Wellness. It wasn’t about what I could eat or couldn’t eat. It was about drawing closer to God and learning how much He loves me. It was also seeking freedom in Christ and not in food. I’m not sure why I told you all this except extra weight is usually the sign of a deeper problem. You pointed us back to the love of Jesus which is where it all originates.

  8. Wow, Anita! I love surprises! I read your article because I have been praying how God wants me to go about losing a few more pounds. I thought our boy He has led me to the answer already. Instead I have found a beautiful truth shared in an incredibly beautiful way. I am definitely inspired and encouraged! I’m still expecting my answer, but it won’t hurt if I stop judging myself and others along the way!
    Sharon recently posted…Wake Up, Happiness!My Profile

  9. Great post and thoughtfully handled. I hope Miss Thin does come back because there is something really big and ugly living inside of her making her feel and say those things. And, please save us some cheesecake. xo

  10. All I can say is AMEN! and Thank you! God has really opened my eyes to the judging of others that I was doing through this new process of Healthy at Every Size that I am embracing. Everything you said is truth. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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