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Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part III

27 Dec

Last week in “Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part II”, we discussed the importance of recognizing that gluttony isn’t just about how much we eat, but also about what we eat. We explored why moderation (not eating more than you need) is important not just as it pertains to our caloric intake, but also as it pertains to where we get those calories. This week, we’ll be reflecting on the more philosophical side as we discuss the role that the heart plays in the sin of gluttony – and why our thoughts about our food matter as much as the food, itself.

If you’re anything like me, you probably really enjoy a good buffet. With generous portions of everything from salads and desserts to ethnic delicacies, the options tantalize our taste buds. As a kid, I’d eagerly load up my plate with just a little bit of everything – often far more than I could actually eat. My eyes were, as my mother put it, “bigger than my stomach.” It is here, in the buffet line as we wait for our shot at the BBQ chicken wings and pasta salad, that we encounter the crux of gluttony: greed.

In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus tells His followers to, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jesus goes on to explain that greed isn’t just about our wanting more. In fact, ultimately, it isn’t about our wanting “cool stuff” or seeking our neighbors’ approval or fitting in at all. Greed is about our failure to trust God to provide us with the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that we seek through owning (or eating) too much. (Luke 12:22-34) The things we value (or overvalue), show the world Who or what owns our heart. And while we may tend to think of treasure in the sense of material goods like money, fashionable clothing, or fast cars, those aren’t the only things which can capture our minds and control our actions.

In Colossians 3:5, the Apostle Paul warns believers to, “consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Indeed, we are to view Christ as our all-in-all (v.11). When we do, we avoid the sin of gluttony and show honor to the One who gave us food both for our sustenance and our enjoyment!

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Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part II

20 Dec

Last week in “Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony”, we discussed importance of moderation in what we eat. We explored the value of monitoring our caloric intake to ensure that our bodies are actually using what we put into them. We also considered how that intake varies for different people at different times in their lives. But is balancing your calories enough to help you steer clear of the sin of gluttony?

If you played along and tracked what you ate this last week, you probably noticed a few patterns in the what, when, and how much you eat. You may have noticed that you have a weakness for doughnuts, coffee, or a really good steak. Perhaps you even noticed that you do demonstrate moderation in what you eat and don’t eat more (in a caloric sense) than you actually need to maintain a healthy body.

If, however, you were tracking the nutritional value of what you ate and not just the calorie count, you likely noticed that there is far more involved in a balanced diet than simply subtracting the calories you expend from the calories you take in. If you’re a bit like me, you eat more sugar than is strictly healthy (at least according to the current views of the American Heart Association) and could use just a bit more protein and fiber.

And this leads us to our second point about gluttony: the concept of moderation applies not just to the overall energy we take in, but also to the way we take in that energy. Does this mean that if we don’t want to be gluttons, we need to avoid doughnuts? Hardly! It doesn’t even mean that we can’t splurge a bit and have two. What it does mean is that we need to ensure that our bodies aren’t getting too much of one thing and too little of others. If maintaining a healthy weight means that we can only take in so many calories each day, but we take in most of those in the forms of sugars or carbs, we end up short-changing ourselves on other things like protein and fiber. Balance and moderation, therefore, require us to pay attention to not just how much we eat, but to what we eat.

Gluttony, however, isn’t just about how much we eat or even what we eat – it’s also about why we eat. Like most sins, dishonoring our bodies through excessive eating or eating the wrong types of things begins not with the head, but with the heart. Next week, we’ll take a look at the role that our thoughts about food play in whether we do or don’t become gluttons. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

 

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part I

13 Dec

While the Bible doesn’t share many universal dietary commands, there are two which do deserve our notice. Proverbs 23:20,21 advises, “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.” Proverbs 24:7 goes on to emphasize that, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.” The advice? Just because a little is good doesn’t mean that a lot is better. Anything we do (including eating and drinking) can cause damage if it isn’t done in moderation.

So what exactly is moderation? Simply put, it’s not taking more than you need. This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy what we eat or drink (the professional chefs amongst us need not worry), but it does mean that we aren’t stuffing our bodies full of calories that we aren’t going to burn.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we starve ourselves either. While there are some aesthetics who believe that a constant sense of hunger can be used to remind us of those who live without enough, this belief goes well beyond the concept of moderation that we find presented in Scripture.

Instead, one might argue that moderation is about balance: ensuring that the calories we take in are roughly equal to the calories we expend. If this is the case, “moderation” is going to look different for everyone and, in fact, it may even look different for the same person at different times. While dieticians warn about varying an individual’s calorie intake too dramatically over a short period of time, it’s reasonable to presume that I’m going to need a bit more energy to hike Mt. Everest than is required for a lazy day curled up with a good book. Keeping this in mind can help make a difference between maintaining a healthy body that allows me to actively engage others with the Good News of God’s Love or finding myself steeped in a constant battle with preventable[1] disabilities.

So how do I know whether I’m eating moderately? One of the best ways to start is to keep a food journal like the one provided through http://www.myfitnesspal.com/. I like this particular program, since it helps you track more than just what you eat, but also what’s in what you eat from sugars and fats to protein and calcium. It also allows you to set the program based upon your general activity level and log any exercise efforts outside of the norm, so you’ll get a rough picture of whether your weekly caloric input matches or exceeds your body’s needs. Log everything you eat from the time you get up until the time you go to bed, but don’t try to make any changes just yet. The goal here is to observe.

By the time you reach the end of the week, you’ll likely have picked up on some patterns healthy or otherwise. We’ll share some good advice for addressing those patterns in a Biblical fashion next week. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!


[1] It’s important to recognize that the key word here is “preventable”. While Christians ought to do what they can to maintain the gift God has given them in the form of their physical health, not all efforts to do so will find success. Genetics, hormone production, and other factors often play a role in our ability to prevent disease and burn fat. The question being addressed here is not one of how much an individual Christian weighs, but of whether they are living a life obedient to God’s command for moderation.

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part III

22 Nov

Last week in Part II of our series, we took a look at the New Testament perspective on the Old Testament dietary laws. Unfortunately, Peter’s vision in Acts 11 didn’t entirely clear up the issue of what a Christian should or shouldn’t eat. The Church remained conflicted about which dietary rules did or didn’t apply and even found some new ways to argue about those rules.

The Apostle Paul spent more than his fair share of time trying to clear up these arguments and we find him addressing them in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-11 (among others). While it was clear that Jewish believers and Gentile believers weren’t likely to come to any agreement on the matter (the Gentiles were even divided among themselves regarding meat sacrificed to idols), there were a few ground rules which could be put in place. Pay attention, because these rules still apply to Christians today! Among them are:

  • Don’t judge. (Romans 14:3-8) Not every issue is as clear cut as we like to think. While we may be deeply convicted that we aren’t doing honor to our bodies (God’s temple) or to God’s Name by eating or drinking certain things, other believers may not share our conviction. What may be “obvious” to us isn’t always “obvious” to everyone else. When this is the case, Christians ought to approach each other’s dietary choices with an attitude of grace.
  • Don’t ignore your conscience or encourage anyone else to ignore theirs. (Romans 14:14,23) If you think it’s a sin to eat a certain food or to drink a certain beverage, it is… for you. God often convicts individual believers about what they shouldn’t do in their situation. This means that we have an obligation to support each other in these beliefs. We may discuss the relative merits of certain diets or even spend time examining the Biblical text for support, but in the end, we ought never to do something which violates our conscience or encourages our brothers and sisters to violate theirs.
  • Don’t destroy members of the Body. (Romans 14:20,21; 1 Corinthians 8:9-12) While we aren’t responsible for the choices of other believers, we do need to be sensitive to the ways that our actions may tempt or influence them. Not everyone has a will of iron and plopping down your box of doughnuts right in front of a diabetic may result in an unrestrained binge which does serious physical damage to their body. This doesn’t mean that you should never eat another doughnut or that you shouldn’t eat doughnuts in public, just that you need to use discretion when determining what, where, and when you eat. (Hint: this means that you need to take the time to get to know other believers and understand their strengths and weaknesses.)
  •  Don’t make an issue out of food. (1 Corinthians 8:8) In the big scheme of things, what God does or doesn’t want us to eat is not as important as who He wants us to be: people who demonstrate His love. There is a time and place for discussing the Biblical view of food… but it isn’t when tempers are likely to flare. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with another believer concerning what you should eat, don’t debate them. Let it go. God is working in both of your hearts and the Holy Spirit will bring you to the conclusions He needs to bring you to in His time. Don’t separate other believers from the fellowship of the body over the issue of food or drink.
  • Glorify God always. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) Paul was careful about what he said and did when he sat at someone else’s table. He recognized that sometimes, conveying the message of the Gospel meant saying “yes” to what was offered and that other times it meant saying “no”. He also recognized that the food which received a “yes” at one table might receive a “no” at another. What he ate wasn’t about what he ate it was about the people with whom he was eating. Our decisions to eat, moderate, or abstain should follow the same rule.

Next week, we’ll begin to examine two very clear Scriptural commandments regarding what we take into our body and how they apply to what we will or won’t eat. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part II

15 Nov

Last week in Part I of our series, we took a look at the role that food played in the Old Testament, setting apart those who served God from those who did not. We examined how being set apart in such a seemingly unimportant way can trigger questions in the minds of those around us that open opportunities to talk about God. But is this still what God wants from us today? It’s a question which plagued the early Church and is worth, at the very least, a few minutes of our time.

If you’ve spent much time reading the New Testament, you’re probably familiar with the story found in Acts 11:1-10. Having gone up to the roof to pray, the Apostle Peter was given a vision of a sheet descending from heaven with all manner of beasts inside. A voice spoke to him telling him to eat, but being a good Israelite, he quickly objected. After all, some of the beasts in the vision were “unclean” and, as a careful follower of God, he could not in good conscience disobey a very clear command. Three times the vision appeared and each time, the voice responded to his objections with the words, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” (Acts 11:9)

The message, of course, had as much to do with accepting uncircumcised Gentiles into the newborn Church as it did with food, but still, this lifting of an ancient command left the young Christians to sort out what must have felt like a muddled mess. Did Peter’s vision mean that Jewish believers ought not to obey the dietary laws? Were pork and shellfish to be a part of regular church meetings? What about food which had been previously sacrificed to idols? And how were conflicts to be resolved when two parties disagreed about what should or shouldn’t be eaten?

In the end, a church council was called (you can read the account in Acts 15) and the Apostle James suggested that in regard to Gentiles entering the Church that they need only obey three of the dietary laws: “abstain from things contaminated by idols… and from what is strangled and from blood.” (Acts 15:20) But this still didn’t answer questions regarding whether Jewish believers ought to simply ditch the old dietary laws or what ought to be done when Jewish believers and Gentile believers ate together or with others who didn’t share their faith.

Resolving these conflicts fell largely to the Apostle Paul who seems to have spent nearly as much time sorting out the Church’s dining arrangements as he did actually preaching the Gospel. But then again, when what you ate could have a real impact upon how receptive others were to your message, it was worth the time necessary to make sure that everyone was “eating from the same menu”. The solutions he provided are important to our study, largely because Paul’s words concerning the diet of a faithful Christian continue to have as much an influence upon modern believers as they did upon those living in ancient Rome.

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few of the key principles set forth by Paul, but in the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part I

8 Nov

Food. You’ll find it at the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and at the very top of God’s list of concerns. Today, nearly 1 in 8 people suffer from chronic malnutrition (resulting either from necessity or choice) and, while they fight the pangs of hunger, many more toss the scraps from their evening meal straight into the garbage can. From anorexia to obesity, it’s evident that both too little food and too much can have a damaging effect upon our bodies. But can our choice of what to eat and how much also impact our ability to effectively share the Gospel message?

That’s exactly the question that we’ll be exploring over the course of the next few weeks. As we do, we’ll examine the Biblical perspective on food, the role that food played in ancient cultures and how our decisions regarding what we will or won’t eat can influence the way people see our God. We’ll also take a look at some practical issues as we examine resources for determining whether what we’re eating is really good for us, share some tips for forming healthy habits, and present a few ways that we can play a role in providing food for those in need.

In order to fully understand these topics, however, we need to start at the beginning. The very beginning. Before He placed man upon the earth, God created food in the form of the vegetation that turned our dusty brown globe into a lush paradise. Whether that food was there to prevent the death of mortal humans (who may have lived like immortal humans in the presence of such abundance) or to provide enjoyment for immortal ones is an argument for theologians. For us, it’s enough to note that immediately after commanding Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply”, God issued a second command, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) From the very start, what men chose to eat (or not to eat) was what set those who followed God apart from those who didn’t.

We see this “set apart” pattern continued in the dietary commands given to the ancient Israelites. (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:2-21) While some argue that the foods mentioned in these passages were forbidden due to unsanitary methods of storage and preparation, it’s worth noting that many of the surrounding nations from the Egyptians to the Canaanites, regularly partook of them and (at least as far as we know) didn’t experience higher rates of death or sickness than did the Israelites. The difference, however, was a readily visible one and those who came into contact with the Hebrews would have known fairly quickly that, “these people aren’t like us.”

While not all Israelites took these dietary commands seriously or obeyed them for the right reason, there were always those who did and the prophet Daniel is a fine example. In Daniel 1, we read how he and three of his friends, upon finding themselves in the court of the Babylonian king, made the request that they not be fed the less-than-kosher foods being offered to the other Hebrew captives. While their attendant was hesitant, he finally agreed to let them eat only vegetables and drink only water for a period of ten days. At the end of the period, the attendant would have the right to put them on the standard diet if they didn’t meet muster.

You can bet that these four men stood out at the dining table, their plates stacked with salad rather than steak. Doubtless, many of their fellow Hebrews saw their meal choice as a judgment upon anyone who didn’t stand firm according to the laws of Jehovah. The pressure must have been enormous, yet at the end of the trial period, then men who stood out because of their culinary selections also stood out for their strength and brains. They were different… and it was that difference that caused others to begin asking questions about just who they were and, more importantly, the God they served. (To be continued…)

 

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