SBCLife, January 2007, reports 65% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Christians, according the survey, are slightly worse at 76%. Baptists lead the statistics with 30% falling into the obese category. Our weight problems are not just a physical problem, they are also a medical problem. According to Forbes, in 2015, U.S. expenditures per person on health care were estimated to be $10,000 per person and on the rise. But, it may not be just a physical or medical problem – it may also be a spiritual problem!
Two years ago, I found myself taking five different pills a day and suffering from common diseases (commonly called diseases of affluence) including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gout. I even experienced a couple of seizures. I was about 50 pounds overweight and didn’t feel well or excited about life. I imagined what it would be like to play with my grandchildren some day. My outlook didn’t look good. A Christian singer, Kerrie Roberts, led us to a path of healing where I would also discover the following truths.
Christians Should Be Good Stewards of Our Bodies. The Bible says that our bodies are a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). My daughter said, “Hey maybe Baptists just want a bigger temple.” Our body should honor God and not be a monument to our addictions. Our bodies are also a vessel and a vehicle for our ministry. Most Christians believe that God has assigned us a work to do. Unless we are healthy, we cannot fulfill that ministry. Too many people are too sick and/or too immobile to carry out the work they know they should do. The writer of Hebrews also said that our body is a sacrifice (Romans 12:1). It would be impossible to characterize the Standard American Diet as a sacrifice. Our poor diets are really conforming to the “pattern of this world” described in verse 2. 500,000 will have open heart surgery every year and 1/2 of us will die of heart disease just in the U.S. This is tragic, but even sadder is the fact that it is largely preventable by lifestyle changes.
Christians Should Be Good Stewards of Our Resources. Why should a large portion of our money be spent on health care? Is that what God intended for our finances? How much money could be directed toward missions or noble causes if most of our money didn’t go to healthcare and our indulgences? When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health (Sep 17, 2012).
Christians Should Be Good Stewards of Our Willpower. Salt, sugar and dairy invoke the same dopamine response in the brain as cocaine. Most of us have low-level addictions to the foods that are engineered to keep us hooked. It does not honor God for us to be servants to the food we are addicted to. It doesn’t honor God to eat foods that make us unhealthy just because we “like it” so much. That is really a form of Hedonism, which is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.
Christians Should Be Good Stewards of the Planet. In Genesis, we were told to tend to the earth and have dominion over the animals. At that time, we were given an original diet of plants. It was and is everything we need. When Daniel was put to the test, he ate only plants and water and fared better than the other royal subjects. Our current model of managing the earth’s resources is not sustainable. We are running out of everything from rain forests to clean oceans to viable crop land. The way we raise animals is deplorable and certainly not what God intended. There are many different political platforms we could adopt, but the simple doubt in my mind was “This cannot be right!” People are way too unhealthy, the planet is being abused and animals aren’t enjoyed – they are commodities.
What can we do? First of all, there is only one diet that has ever been proven to reverse our most popular diseases. It is a whole-food, plant-based diet (just like they had in the Garden). Oddly enough, if we were to adopt this lifestyle, not only would our health improve, but many of the other issues on planet earth would improve (including our ability to do the ministry God has called us to). It will heal our bodies, conserve our resources, break addictive cycles and preserve the earth.
It is not a matter of what is permissible. Animals were certainly given to us for times of famine (like after the flood) or maybe even for special occasions. This discussion is about the time we find ourselves in – a time when we have access to anything we want. In this time, we should do what we can and that is not just what is permissible, but what is BEST!
Since I have been living a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle with moderate exercise, I have lost approximately 38 pounds. The only medicine I take is a B-12 supplement. I feel better than I did 20 years ago — I have energy — I sleep well. But, additionally, I feel like I can fulfill the purpose God has for me. I won’t be a burden to my family or society and I can actually help others do the same! I feel truly blessed.