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Healthy Habits and the Christian
By Gary F. Zeolla
The following was a post I saw on Facebook a while back:
“I love Doritos. I know they’re not good for me, but I’m eating them anyway. So what if I die younger because of it? That just means I get to go and be with the Lord that much sooner.”
The following is an email exchanged I had with someone recently. The emailer’s comments are enclosed by greater than and lesser than signs:
>Subject: Regarding your website about physical fitness
Hello, I am a born again Christian and I read some material on your website about physical fitness.
The bottom line is this, with all due respect, while it is at times okay to try and practice good health, you make way too big an issue over it. What really sickens me is how you try to use the Bible and the name of Jesus to mask it and defend it.
apostle was referring to SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE and discipling when he said he
disciplines his body, read the context, it has everything to do with Godly
suppression of spiritual temptations and the THOUGHT FIELD. It has nothing to do
with the actual physical structure of the body.
The born again Christian has two natures according to 1 John 3:9 and Romans 7 and other verses. We have a sinless regenerated spirit that is 100 percent unconditionally eternally secure, and we have our body of death which contains the 'flesh' which has the evil Adamic nature in it. The believer is to daily suppress the Adamic flesh and live after the spirit in order to grow and mature in Christ.
to have followed after the pattern and trends of this modern evil Satanic world
system with your website on exercise and dieting and all of this stuff. Notice
how the lost people put so much emphasis on the temporal things of this body and
world and they ignore the eternal spiritual realities.
A consistent reading of the word of God reveals that God is not concerned with what people eat as Christians. God is concerned with our SPIRITUAL GROWTH and our fellowship with Him and how we treat fellow Christians and with soul winning.
God does not care if a Christian eats cheeseburgers and French fries and Twinkies as long as that person is minding the things of God and spreading the Gospel and striving against true sins. Gluttony is worship of food over God; it has nothing to do with the types and kinds of food one eats or the quantity of food one eats.
God would rather a Christian eat pizza and cheeseburgers and root beer than get drunk with alcohol and watch pornography. The latter are true sins as defined clearly by the Bible: Drunkenness and fornication.
By pressuring Christians to follow after the world's patterns and trends of the "fitness craze" all you do is cater to the world system and its Satanic ways. A 400 pound Christian lady who eats cheese puffs and pizza rolls but who has trusted in Jesus Christ as her only eternal Savior is eternally better off than a 120 pound fashion model who mocks the Gospel and believes all people go to Heaven. The Christian will receive a glorified resurrected body in heaven and the lost person will be burning in Hellfire forever. A billion years from now no one will care what they ate and such. What will matter is what did they do with Jesus.
God said through Paul that bodily exercise profits little.
The Lord Jesus Christ said it does not matter what goes into the stomach but that comes out of the heart of man that defiles a person.
I have been thinking for a while I need to write another article on why the attitude you express is unbiblical, while taking care of your physical health is Biblical, and why the two verses you cite are often misinterpreted. Your email will probably inspire me to do so. So if you don’t mind, I will use it as a starting point.
You are correct; I misused 1Corinthians 9:27 in my article Should Christians Be Concerned About Physical Fitness? But that was written a long time ago. In my translation I render the verse as: “But I beat my body black and blue [fig., keep my body under control] and bring [it] into slavery [fig., make it ready to serve], lest, having preached to others, I myself become disqualified” (ALT3).
That translation eliminates the word “disciple” and thus my point. However, the footnote in my translation says, “cp. 1Tim 4:8; 2Tim 2:5; 4:7,8; i.e., Paul used athletic metaphors, showing he was familiar with the original Olympic games.”
If Paul considered athletics wrong, he would not have used such metaphors. And being proficient in athletics requires much dedication and disciple. So my original point still holds, even if I misused that particular verse. But I will avoid such mistakes in my new article on this subject.
>Subject: Re: Regarding your website about physical fitness
Okay thank you for the reply, and I believe that if a believer desires to pursue physical fitness that is fine and I support their goals if that helps them. That could be useful for a ministry, in fact.
I’m glad you backed off of your position and now recognize that fitness can be worthwhile and even useful for a ministry. That will be a point of my article.
Quick Recoveries from Health Setbacks
I received the initial email on Wednesday morning, June 30, 2014. Ironically, early that afternoon I had a significant health setback. An allergic reaction caused me to become very fatigued, stiff, and to just feel plain terrible. As a result, I had to stop working on my translation of the Bible, skip my workout planned for later that day, and spend the rest of the day just lying around watching TV.
I barely slept that night. Then in the morning, I felt like I got hit by a freight train. Every muscle in my body ached, and I was virtually totally paralyzed. I was barely able to drag myself out of bed, make my way slowly down the hallway to my kitchen, and get breakfast ready. I then very slowly made my way down the stairs to my home office. I normally would have turned on my computer and got to work. But instead, I lay down and slept for a couple of hours.
I felt like lying there all day, but it was time for my morning snack, so I forced myself to get up and eat. Then I sat up and watched TV for a couple of hours. As I sat there, I was thinking I would probably be laid up the rest of the week, get little or no work done on my translation, and not be able to work out again until the next week. I say this as when I have felt this bad before, the flare-up has usually lasted at least a couple of days.
But by late morning I was starting to feel better. I got up and walked around my small office and was moving almost normally. So while it was barely still morning, I went for my normal morning walk; and that went almost as well as normal. I came home, ate lunch, rested for a short while, then got some work done on my translation. Later I put in a very good workout (see "Week 10" at Full Workout Logs: Starting 7/6/2014 - In-Season: Weeks 7-12 of 12).
I tell this story as it is very instructive. I thank the LORD for the quick recovery. But on a human level, I believe the reason this flare-up did not last as long as ones in the past was because of the meticulous attention I had been paying to my eating and exercise plan over the previous nine months (see Regaining Muscular Bodyweight and Strength). As a result, I did not have to depend on my dad to take care of me, as he has had to do on many occasions before when I had such a flare-up and it lasted longer.
This is a phenomenon I have been conscious of ever since my bicycle accident, the fifteenth anniversary of which also ironically occurred two days before this. I recovered much quicker than the doctors thought I would from the various injuries sustained in that accident, and thus was able to take care of myself rather quickly. I believed then and even more so now that was because I was in very good condition at that time, being very determined to overcome my then chronic low back pain by getting in as good as shape as possible (see my eBooklet Overcoming Back Pain: A Mind-Body Solution).
Since then I have been noticing a similar trend among loved ones and friends. Those who are in good physical condition are able to recovery and to regain their self-sufficiency rather quickly after accidents, acute health setbacks, and surgeries, while those who are not in good shape tend to recovery rather slowly, if at all, and thus remain dependent on others. I have even seen some die after events that others in better physical condition would have been able to recover from.
The preceding section is about accidents, acute health setbacks, and surgeries, but now that I am 53 years old, I am old enough to see the long-term deleterious effects unhealthy habits can have on people, and the long-term benefits healthy habits have on people. And these effects are not just on the people themselves but on their loved ones.
I have seen people’s health destroyed by unhealthy habits, so much so that they are no longer able to take care of themselves. As a result, they become burdens to their loved ones, very often their spouses. Their care-givers’ lives become completely wrapped up in taking care of them.
And if the ailing person is overweight, it makes caring for them that much more difficult. The often elder care-givers must really struggle to help move the overweight ailing person, possibly hurting themselves in the process. Thus through their unhealthy habits the ailing person has ruined not only their own health and lives, but that of the one closest to them.
And with both lives wrapped up in the ailing person’s care, neither is able to accomplish anything for others or for the LORD. They also are often absent from family get-togethers, so their children and grandchild miss out on their companionship.
Then when the ailing spouse dies prematurely, the surviving spouse is left heartbroken and having to spend the remaining several years of his or her life alone, missing the departed. Their children dearly miss their departed parent, and their grandchildren grow up never really knowing their grandparent. And after they are departed, the surviving spouse is often left with a whole stack of bills that need to be paid, and that can lead to financial ruin for the survivor.
In cases where both spouses are unhealthy, or one dies and the other is also unhealthy due to a lifetime of bad habits, the care of the parent(s) often falls to their children. Thus rather than focusing on their own lives, taking care of their own children, and serving the LORD, their whole lives become wrapped in taking care of their ailing parents.
And if the sickly person has no spouse or children, or they are unable or unwilling to take care of them, then the ailing person will end up in a nursing home, where they become a burden to perfect strangers and a major financial liability to society at large. And their ability to serve the LORD becomes minimal or nil.
This whole sad state of affairs could have been avoid if the sickly person has just taken better care of himself or herself throughout their lives.
Conversely, if people take care of themselves, when they get older, they are not only able to enjoy spending time with their grown children, but even to help them out, like helping them to move or to paint their new homes. And they can enjoy time with their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, and those children in turn will have the pleasure and benefits of knowing their grandparents and great-grandparents.
The healthy married couple can enjoy each other’s company well into old age, with the energy to still do fun things together and even to engage in acts of charity. Of course, one of them will die first eventually, but it won’t be for the survivor with the memories of many years of struggles dealing with the departed spouse’s health problems but of the joys of time spent together.
In addition, if you do take care of yourself, rather than ending up as the person who is a burden to others and who needs to be taken care of, you can be the one taking care of others. Or to put it another way, you can be the care-giver rather than care-givee. And such care-givers are to be greatly commended for their acts of love and fortitude in taking care of a sickly spouse or parent. It is a very difficult but rewarding job, knowing you are providing much needed care to a loved one, or if a health care worker, to someone who otherwise would not be cared for.
Of course, everyone will die eventually, and when they do, there is usually a time of disability to one degree or another before death. But that time-period is much shorter and less severe for people who have taken care of themselves throughout life, along the lines of a few weeks to months, rather than the many years or decades of disability for those who do not take care of themselves.
The point is, attitudes like the ones expressed in the Facebook post and email are very selfish. They are only thinking of themselves, not the effect their lack of attention to their health will have on those around them and how it will decrease or completely eliminate their ability to help others and to serve the LORD.
But to be clear, I do not want any of my comments to make the person who suffers from health problems that are not the result of unhealthy habits to feel guilty about being a burden to others. Health problems often happen to people that they have no control over. I know, as I suffer from several such problems. And there have been many times when I have been a burden to others, especially my parents, and it does not feel good. That is why I am so meticulous about trying to take the best care of myself as I can, so as not to be such a burden any more than is absolutely necessary, and it is why I am especially sensitive to people who put themselves in the position of needing to be cared for as result of their own unhealthy habits.
But if you are unhealthy due to unhealthy habits, again the point is not to make you feel guilty but to encourage you to change your ways. No matter how old you are, it is never too late you to start eating right, and it will make a difference in your health to at least some degree. And no matter what your health situation is you can exercise in at least some capacity, which will improve your ability to take care of yourself.
Witness For and Serving the LORD
In Gramps’ Shoes is an excellent Christian movie I watched recently. It combined two things I love: faith in Christ and athletics. The athletics was long-distance running, not exactly my favorite sport. But the perseverance and determination needed to be successful in running as portrayed in the movie are necessary to be successful in my sport powerlifting or any athletic endeavor, or any life endeavor for that matter.
It was especially satisfying seeing an older man showing up a bunch of teenagers in an athletic endeavor. It enabled him to get respect from his estranged daughter, grandson, and granddaughter, which gave him the opportunity to advise them on more important matters, like faith in Christ. The movie shows how being adept in a sport can lead to more important opportunities. For details on this movie, see Parables.TV.
I relate about this movie as it is a perfect example of how being in good physical condition can lead to opportunities to be a witness for the LORD. Many might think of famous athletes who use their success in sports to talk publically about the LORD. And that is true and good, but one does not have to be a great athlete. Just being in decent condition can open doors.
In addition, being healthy will give one the energy to serve the LORD. While conversely, being unhealthy will severely limit what one can do for the LORD. I know this firsthand. I do what I can through my writing and translating as service to the LORD, but there is much more I could be doing if my health wasn’t holding me back. But again, that is why I do as much as I can to take care of myself, so that I am able to continue what I am doing. If I were to abandon my healthy habits, my health would quickly deteriorate to the point of not being able to accomplish anything for the LORD.
I do have the confidence that when I die I will be with the LORD, but I desire to remain here as long as possible so as to be of service to the LORD and to others. To eat yourself to an early grave limits the amount of time you have to finish the works the LORD has ordained for you to do.
When I first started attending Christian functions when I graduated from college in the early 1980s, I was very pleased that no one ever smoked. I say that as one thing I always hated in my partying days before that was being around people smoking. I remember coming home from bars at Penn State so reeking with cigarette smoke that I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough, which went straight into the wash.
As far back as junior high school I always considered smoking just plain dumb. I could never understand why people would purposely subject their bodies to such abuse. And it was such a waste, literally burning up money. So it was a good witness to me that Christians did not smoke. However, I found it hypocritical that people who were so stanchly opposed to smoking thought nothing of eating junk food and being overweight.
I say this as at most Bible studies back then and throughout the entire time I was able to attend Bible studies I was often the only person in the room who was not significantly overweight. And after every Bible study some kind of junk food (like cake, cookies, or pie), would be served. And everyone, except me, would gorge themselves on it. This was a terrible witness to me. I could not and still do not understand what the connection is between being a Christian and being overweight, or studying the Bible and eating junk food. And it is just plain hypocrisy for people to look down their noses at people who smoke while they gorge themselves on junk food.
Granted smoking might be worse for the body than eating junk food and being overweight, but it is only a difference of degree not of kind. All three are an abuse of the body and deleterious to one’s health. And overeating is just as much a waste of money as smoking is. Granted, if someone is eating a donut beside me that will not bother me like some smoking a cigarette, but still, both are telling me the person does not care for his or her body. But I thought back then and still do that Christians believe their bodies are created by God, so you would think they would be as staunchly opposed to abusing that body with junk food and overeating as they are to smoking.
My point is: you are potentially ruining your witness by eating junk food and being overweight just as much as if you smoked cigarettes, and you risk being called a hypocrite by condemning smoking while engaging in other unhealthy habits yourself.
For the record, at those times when I was responsible for bringing the after-study snack, I would always bring something healthy (like a fruit tray with a yogurt-based dip, whole grain muffins, or whole grain tortilla chips with a hummus/ salsa dip). And the people seemed to enjoy that just as much as the junk food. So it simply is not necessary to serve junk food after studying the Bible.
This Part One of this two-part article has presented my reasoning as to why the attitudes expressed in the Facebook post and email are wrong. Christians should not use their faith to excuse abusing their bodies through eating junk food, overeating, and a lack of exercise. Conversely, Christians should follow a healthy eating plan and a sound exercise program. As such, it is appropriate for me or anyone else to promote such healthy habits. I do so on my fitness Web site and in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book. These resources will provide much information in how to go about doing both. But what does the Bible say on this subject? Healthy Habits and the Christian: Part Two will focus on that question.
Healthy Habits and the Christian: Part One. Copyright © 2014 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article was first published in the free
Darkness to Light newsletter.
It was posted on this Web site August 30, 2014.
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