For too long, churches across America remain reticent when it comes to issues regarding food. Yet pews are full of congregants who battle with disordered/dysfunctional eating or struggle with body image. Mounting prayer requests pour in from those who suffer from chronic illnesses brought on by lifestyle choices. I believe the faith-based community yearns for a biblical framework for healthy eating and living.
Since, for the most part, the church doesn’t offer a biblical framework for healthy eating, and living Christians look elsewhere for guidance. The diet culture and weight reduction industry steps in with the promise of quick, flashy fixes with a hefty price tag attached.
In my thirty-plus years of church attendance, I have never heard a sermon address gluttony, theology of food, or faith-food topics.
After all, we are creatures designed to eat, so it’s a relevant topic.
As people become increasingly aware of their need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, they become more receptive to information and help. The current pandemic galvanized the urgency and value of personal changes in health habits.
Instilling the truth about the necessity to cultivate and maintain healthy habits can be done with love and compassion from the pulpit, podium, podcasts, faith-based books, or blogs.
When I battled Lyme Disease more than a decade ago, there were limited health and wellness resources available. I hunted down the pittance of resources and information while the disease continued to ravage my body.
Fighting the disease required drastic changes in my eating life. Again, the scarcity of information and an eating protocol proved both frustrating and discouraging.
At that time, a trip to the International Space Station would have been more likely than finding faith-based health and wellness support. There was a ton of secular services and care.
As a faith-based health and wellness writer and health coach, I decided to build a biblical framework for healthy eating.
Look Inward, not Outward.
Selfish desires often rule us. Is your quest for weight loss motivated by vanity or the desire to establish healthy eating habits? Your road to recovery from seeking comfort in food, craving physical perfection, or neglecting your body is only through the power of the gospel.
Not a powder, pill, or weight-loss program.
By merely changing your outward eating habits and lifestyle choices is like placing a bandaid on a gaping wound. You are not defined by the numbers on a scale or the size of your jeans.
Lasting, life-altering change only comes through the glory of God. Healthy eating and living will only make sense when you establish new eating and health patterns in adjunct with the principles of Scripture.
Aime Patrick, writer and one who struggled with body image, says, “trying to achieve this goal by focusing solely on changing outward habits doesn’t work for those living from a belief system that opposes the transforming truth of Scripture.”
Examine the Concept of Responsible Stewardship and Eating
Our image-bearing body is a gift, so we wisely take active steps to protect the gift from defilement or neglect. Nurturing and caring for your body requires foods that nourish and strengthen.
God assigned a tall task for us while on earth. Paul David Tripp sums up this idea, “Each of us has been gifted, called, and positioned to do our part in God’s kingdom work.”
Caring for our body so that it functions optimally allows us to serve Him well.
View Food as a Gift
Eating is a life-sustaining act. Leslie Leyland Fields writes, “without recognition of the God who has made the earth, our dependence on water and food may move us elsewhere—toward communion with the earth, even communion with food itself.
We count calories instead of counting our food blessings. As Christians, we developed spiritual blindness when it comes to food. For the most part, we forget to connect food with the Giver, the Creator.
Eating should always point us to God, who wants us to savor and enjoy his gift of food.
A biblical worldview of food helps us avoid following the latest food trend or culture. Bread, for example, served as a staple food in many cultures, now is known to be the cause of health issues.
Industrial agriculture, long shelf-life, loaf uniformity, and economy corrupted the quality of bread and the tradition of bread baking. In ancient times, grain represented food security and prosperity.
Now we are a culture against “grain,” and for a good reason, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. Today convenience outweighs nutrition.
Rather than refusing to conform to the culture’s exploitation of bread, we adopted the standards as our own. We make ourselves sick with mechanically and industrially manufactured bread.
Jesus would not refer to himself as the Bread of Life if bread were not a valuable, nutrient-dense food. The better option might be to replace industrialized, chemically enhanced loaves with bread made from real ingredients.
Exercising more responsibility and increasing awareness of how we fill our plate, we can eat with joy rather than with fear and anxiety.
Avoid Placing Your Hope in Products and Programs
In our quest for Instagram-worthy body perfection, we reduce food to eating fads and diet programs.
We place hope and dollars in multi-level marketing companies to help us transform our bodies. The research shows that “successful change means a change that is sustained over time—not months, but years, decades, a lifetime.
God generously provides the perfect food for our body in which he masterfully designed.
Refrain From Making a Joke Out of Something Sacred
Food and eating are sacred practices. As Christians, the posture of our eating life should reflect gratitude for the provision of food. Theologian Norman Wirzba asserts that
“the purpose of people who gather around the table to eat is not simply to shovel nutrients into their bodies…with the help of each other we can practice the skills of conversation, reflection, and gratitude that contribute to a more completely human life.”
Eating as a spiritual practice cultivates an awareness of creation and God’s gift of food.
C.S. Lewis writes in The Screwtape Letters, “Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.”
If we make humor out of something that should be serious, then we can casually chuckle then ignore the real issue.
Jokes about healthy foods litter conversations in the line at church potlucks. Among churchgoers, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that you like the roasted butternut squash better than the boxed mac-n-cheese.
Wirzba reminds us that, “Food is God’s love made nutritious.” Why would we make wisecracks about that?
Final Thoughts on a Biblical Framework for Healthy Eating
To consider the theology of food removes the outward focus of healthy eating and living and looks inward. The way to overcome battles with body image and a healthy diet or wellness is to know and love God.
Knowing God transforms our eating practices in ways that help us maintain our bodies and keep him at our tables. Reform your eating habits by reading and digesting the words of the Savior.
Sustainable and responsible eating practices honor the gift of food from God. It removes the confusion of what and how much to eat. “The goal of eating is not to worship food or ourselves” but to nurture and nourish our bodies so that we can live and serve Him from a place of spiritual and physical wholeness.
You Want to Start But Not Sure How
Here are some options:
If you need help getting started with soulful healthy eating, use my free healthy meal plan for busy women.