Thursday, Apr 9, 2020

Church and Obesity: The Unspoken Deadly Sin

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Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD
Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD
Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD is a nutrition communications dietitian whose joy and passion is to empower women to live healthy, balanced lives that are fulfilling and free of guilt and shame. She loves sharing real-life strategies to choosing nourishing foods, fitting in fitness and looking beyond the mirror. Jennifer enjoys encouraging women on her blog, Healthy Inspiration, taking walks with her daughter, cooking with her husband and trying out different kinds of physical activity.

What’s Eating the Church?

Growing up, the ongoing pulpit joke was about “beating the Baptists to the buffet.”  The church wooed newcomers with special guest banquets filled with an elaborate spread of food and an entire table of desserts.  

Teenagers were lured to youth events with the promise of all-you-can-eat pizza, ice cream, and soda.  Kids were rewarded for scripture memory with candy and children’s church parties which included cookies, chips, and more soda.  

Doughnuts were the breakfast of champions at the church-wide work days to keep the masses ‘energized.’ Of course, the church picnics and community events included a bountiful spread of fried chicken, potato salad, sweet tea, bread, cakes, and pies.

Does this sound familiar or bring back any memories?

Food and Church Culture

soul food
Photo by Stu Spivack

Hospitality and love were demonstrated through food.  It became a means of communication.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with blessing people with a meal.  In fact, the early church in Acts regularly ate a communal meal together to fellowship and encourage each other (Acts 2:42).  It was an act of celebration and worship.

But in today’s culture, the messages the church sends are a bit confusing, if not hypocritical.

Buffets may have lost some of their allure, but drive around any American city between 12PM – 2PM on Sunday and you will see churchgoers filing into restaurants like a herd of cattle to the feeding trough.  Churches now have “cafes” where you can buy high-octane, sugar-loaded coffee beverages, faux coffee beverages that sound sophisticated but don’t actually contain a drop of coffee, and high-sugar, high-fat pastries that ‘feel’ fancy.  Pulpit jokes have moved to afternoon football games and couch time enjoying pizza, wings, chips and dip and a cold beverage.  

Recently, I was shocked to find that in my 2-year old’s church class, they are given Skittles for learning the weekly memory verse.  Like 2-year-olds need any additional energy from sugar (or artificial colors)!  

We Are What We Teach or What We Do?

The Church has done a poor job of teaching and training the Body of Christ to care for their physical body – God’s temple.  Our actions preach indulgence.  And, even if there is an occasional sermon message at the beginning of the year on the Daniel Fast, or a class offered to help people break free from addictions, the Church’s walk does not always match its talk.  

Jesus calls Believers the salt of the earth:

But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

He then calls us “the light of the world” urging us to:

let [our] light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-15 

Sadly, health is one area the church doesn’t look different.  Instead of being leaders, we are enslaved to the same health struggles as the world.  Instead of directing the gaze of unbelievers to Christ, we are entrapped in our own sin.  Some research suggests that individuals with religious affiliations have a higher weight and BMIs than those who do not consider themselves religious.  The only exception within this study was the Seventh Day Adventists, a denomination that is well known for promoting a plant-based diet, avoidance of all alcohol and tobacco products, and includes regular physical activity.  

Why Healthy Eating is so Important for Team Jesus

How can you be an effective, powerful leader in the Kingdom if you lack energy?

How can you live out your calling and purpose with endurance if you die early?

How can you change the culture if you don’t model health to the next generation – YOUR KIDS?

And so, we have a choice…

As Paul reminds us of our freedom in Christ, he warns us that the power of choice determines the richness of our future.

All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. 1 Corinthians 10:23 

What type of future are you shaping for yourself, your family?  What type of legacy are you leaving to the generations after?  How are you modeling a life lived well, to the glory of God?


God didn’t make a mistake when He created you – spirit, soul & body.  It was purposeful. It was intentional. It was deliberate.  

We attend church every Sunday to feed our spirit. The Church offers classes and community groups to nourish our souls and breathe life and healing into those empty, broken places.  But, to neglect the body is unacceptable.  AND, it’s negligent to overlook the fact that all 3 parts are interconnected.

You are called to steward that which God has given you.  How are you stewarding your body?  Are you acting responsibly?  Are you caring for yourself in a way that honors YOUR CREATOR?

True to His Word, God is faithful and just to forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  He longs for an intimate connection with us.  He is eager to teach us and train us as one Body so that we can live with power and authority.  

So, what’s the play call?

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell

If we want to lead people to the abundant life in Christ, we have to begin by modeling it first.  The “thief” would love to steal your energy, motivation, ambition, and health.  You have a choice – with every bite, every step, every thought.

How will you choose?


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