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April 24, 2008

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Q/A Topics:
  • Obesity

Obesity

READER QUESTION:
Many Americans, including myself, are overweight at varying degrees. Without looking up verses, I know the bible mentions gluttony at least two times. One in the old and another where the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being a glutton. I know there is nothing in the library regarding this and don't recall having read anything you sent. It seems to me, though our food in America can be really fattening, that it is wrong to be obese. I won't use the term overweight because I don't think a couple of pounds is anything to get exicted about. Anyway was just curious as to your thoughts on that.

VW ANSWER:
Here's a couple of links to past writings dealing with physical fitness, exercise, and life issues. [link] - [link] - (this second one is primarily about another topic, but includes a bit about 'exercise' in the middle of it)

While the question is asked about 'obesity', as this topic has been churning around in my mind, thinking how to respond, it also seems appropriate to address the entire topic of Fitness, Image and Health; because the problem (where problems exist) is not -just- "obesity".

In the past we have addressed women's attire. In addressing the Godly wife we have seen Peter's words about her Godliness not necessarily being the wearing of cloths and fixing up the hair, but of the "meek and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1Pet3:4b)

There is also the argument commonly given, that our bodies are the "temple of the Holy Spirit"; and as such, that is one of the reasons why a Believer does not cavort with a prostitute, because prostitution is a sin, not only in disobedience against God's Law, but against one's own body, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And so, we are to "glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1Co6:15-20)

And so, this basic argument also fits many other things (not specified in the Bible) like drunkenness, tobacco and drug abuse. Some also apply it to reasons why they do not engage in (so-called) "dangerous" activities like sky-diving, motorcycle riding and other such things. And yet, many of these same people will see nothing wrong with football or boxing...where injury is almost certain to be expected, thus doing damage to the "temple". (I've been safely riding motorcycles for over 40 years; but certainly would NOT voluntarily enter a boxing ring!)

In this regard there are also Jesus' words, in a different context, but I think some truth that can apply here:

    "And do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who has power to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." (Mt10:28)
Where our daily lives are concerned, if it doesn't involve immorality or direct disobedience to God's Law, man has been given wide latitude regarding life. God created the earth and gave man "dominion" over it. (Gen1:26) That means, other than the areas where God gave specific rules, on this earth man is "in charge"; and where the Believer is concerned we "live by faith". (Hab2:4, Rom1:17) And as for what might be right or wrong regarding life, God has also given us conscience; thus the conscience is mixed with faith; and if the two do not conflict, it is not sin. (Rom2:15, 14:23)

But also notice in that 'faith' verse the context:

    "Behold, the soul of him who is PUFFED UP is not upright; but the just shall live by his faith." (Hab2:4)
And herein we finally get to -how- I would like to address the question.

The question was asked about "obesity". Being OVER-weight. Fat. Heavy-set. As people get older, depending on family genetics, some develop that elderly "bubble/bulge". Like the joke (that I can tell on myself): How do you know when a person is on-the-level? Because the bubble is in the middle. (For you who know what a carpenter's 'level' is.) And some of the 'reality' shows, and tabloids that specialize on the 'sensational', will show pictures of the 800 pound individual, their body sprawled out, draped and flabbing out each side of their bed that they cannot get out of to do even the most basic of tasks. Some of these appear on Dr. Phil: I saw a promo spot for one once where the mother was asked "why" she keeps feeding her monster son? Because he "wants" it. So Dr. Phil -yells- at her, "Well, SOOO WHAT???" And goes on to give her a tongue lashing for 'abusing' her son by feeding his obesity.

There is the other extreme, those also sensationalized by the tabloids, of those emaciated down to skin and bone, looking for everything like the pictures of those the Allied troops found in the Nazi starvation camps at the end of WW2.

BOTH of these are equally deadly extremes. The main problems with obesity being all the crud collected in the arteries, and the extreme burden upon the overworked heart, and heart failure. And for the emaciated, the fact that without nutrients, bodily organs begin to fail; quit working. Both extremes, if not checked, end in death.

But for each side of this question, there are those who both condemn and justify. Years ago on TV I once heard John Hagee from behind the pulpit of his church go off into a tongue lashing at overweight-obese women; but last time I saw him, even -as- he was thusly-engaged on that occasion, observing his own rather over-sized large pot-belly, I had to wonder if he had looked at himself in the mirror that morning before he left home, and as he was preparing that tyrade. The pot calling the kettle "black". Or to borrow from Paul's reasonings: You who condemn others for being fat, are you fat? (Romans ch2)

On the other hand there are those like Ann Coulter. Men go all-ape over her because she often dresses half-naked, and sells some of her books with alluring poses of herself on the covers; so they consider her to be "hot". (I've read the news-site commentaries of some men about her, expressing their own personal lusts in the matter. I read those things before knowing 'who' she is; and then saw her on Jay Leno, and suddenly realized what they had been saying.) But do they not consider how grossly underweight and 'sickly' she looks?? (And I've never seen anybody's commentary on 'that' matter!) Totally aside from her politics and accompanying quick-witted barbed tongue: They only care about her as a sex object, but don't care that she has an obvious health 'problem'? (I've never heard/read what her deal is in that regard.)

For the most part, the real question in the world's eyes is about "image". As I've said in the past, I'm a people watcher. I've been noticing that there is a certain female look of the long straight black hair (either natural or dyed), the black outfit and pants suit, and the shoe with just the right sized heel to where the slacks cuff hangs just below the heel. All those with this look, look the same. They typically drive a black car like a Dodge Charger, that Cadillac sports car, or Chevy 4-door mini Blazer SUV. These will typically be single. Then there is the similarly 'slim' blond or brunette, who wears the more tan or brown colors, drives a tan, silver, gold or such muted colored mini-van, typically Chrysler product. Where the 'black' gal might often drive like a maniac, the 'tan' one dutifully sticks to the speed limit, and probably slows down for every squirrel scooting across the road. She's probably got a "Baby on Board" sticker in her window. Then there's the slightly plump one driving an older (not so shiny) vehicle (of whatever brand), who drives like a jack rabbit; and boy oh boy! You better get out of her way, or she will gesture and honk her horn at you, and if you happen to be in front, she will be tailgating. She probably doesn't engage in Yoga like the other two do; that's 'why' she's so jumpy and quick-tempered. And then, there's the (let's come right out and say the word) "fat" one. She might be a good driver, or not. But she probably laughs a lot, is relaxed, and appears to 'enjoy' life. Like the old expression: Fat-n-happy.

OK....so, I've just stereotypically picked on the female gender; but if your eyes have been open, you know what I've just described is true. And for the four categories mentioned, there's more that could be added. And if we were to address the male gender, that is a whole 'nuther topic. But it's the female gender that seems to be more 'image' conscious in these things, so we'll 'pick' on them.

Who of these different categories is likely most healthy? The 'slim' ones who do their yoga and likely also go work out at the gym? Perhaps. But if they are all tied up in knots inside regarding their (perfect) 'image' of that slim black/tan look, along with the pressures involved in the career that supports their lifestyle, how much at 'ease' are they in their spirit?

So, the experts tell us that too fat is bad for a lot of reasons: heart, diabetes, cancer, etc. But if the heavier person is of a 'happy' countenance, how does that counter the effects of the up-tight person's uptightness, even though they appear to be physically fit? After all...

    "A merry heart does good like medicine..." (Pr17:22)
Question: Are Japanese Sumo Wrestlers considered to be in ill-health? For their sport/discipline, are they not considered "fit" athletes? I wouldn't personally want to be that big... just making the observation
    "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips," (Ps63:5)

    "And on this mountain Jehovah of Hosts will make a feast of fatness for all the people, a feast of the dregs of wine, of fat things full of marrow, of the dregs of refined wine." (Is25:6)

Gluttony seems to be equivalent to the sluggard:
    "The sluggard hides his hand in the dish; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth." (Pr26:15)
It is easy to see that OVER-eating is wrong.
    "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and who glory in their shame; who set their mind on earthly things." (Php3:19)
But if a person vainly does not eat enough for fear of bulging their trim figure; some even self-induce vomiting to get rid of the food just eaten; what is their -purpose- in that? Pride, perhaps? The desire to appear "sexy"? If that is their desire for their own husband, that is one thing (not purging, but staying in healthy shape). But how many are content with pleasing -just- their own husband? Do not a majority of them also not crave the adoration of other males, so they will be lusted after? Not only are they unhealthy due to the internal stress/tension, but in their hearts they are being immoral. It is every bit as sinful for a female to make herself 'just-so', along with the accompanying 'attitude' to be admired sexually, desiring the admiration (flirting), as it is for the man to look at her lustfully.

Looking at things this way, it might almost make a person wish to not be -too- "fit", eh.

In today's sex-driven culture Fat is "gross", and Thin is "in". Yes, the government agencies try to promote weight loss because obesity is risky. And yet, a few months ago there was a news item where some agency had concluded from some "new studies" that a "little bit" of extra fat might actually have some beneficial health gains.

Perhaps the answer to the question is really one of "balance"? Also called "moderation"? Along with Self-control?

As Paul writes on a related topic, "propriety and moderation" (1Ti2:9)

For instance: Medicine suggests that a little bit of certain wines can have beneficial effects for heart health. I know, from personal experience when I was going through a rough time emotionally and having problems, following Paul's advice to Timothy, that a "little" wine is beneficial for the stomach and digestive system. (1Tim5:23) After all, if it was a "sin" to drink wine, Jesus would not have been taunted as being a "wino". (Mt11:19) He wouldn't have drunk wine.

But the Bible speaks against being "drunk" with wine. (Eph5:18) And in the same context, is not the same true of eating: being a glutton. (De21:20) In that verse, if you look it up: gluttony and drunkenness are part of the same package. (See also: Pr23:21)

It is not so much what the 'digits' on the scale show, but what is one's heart attitude about their life, and what is their resultant lifestyle? That 800 pound bed-ridden pool of blubber is there because of faulty life choices. The bony skeleton is that way because they were not "content" with their God-given physique, for whatever reason, and spend their time starving themselves and purging. Those two extremes are not "normal". I really doubt that either one of them can be excused with a -medical- diagnosis as being a genetic defect, chemical imbalance or illness?

But otherwise, different people are designed differently. Some, from genetics, 'tend' to be heavier. Others, from genetics, 'tend' to be skinnier. A skinny person should not condemn a fat person, nor should a fat person berate a skinny person.

IF... right life-choices are being made.

Eating healthy and getting exercise...either through work, or if necessary if work consists of being sedentary, to get out and go for walks, or other activities. One doesn't need to work out at a gym and 'bulk up' to be healthy. Just be moderately 'active'.

Is it 'sinful' to be fat or skinny? What is the person's heart? How does that heart manifest itself in lifestyle? And once a person has concluded a healthy lifestyle, leave the results with the Lord.

Another personal example, which I've shared before: A few years ago I self-diagnosed that my blood pressure was slightly elevated; so after doing some research in medical books, made adjustments to diet, aspirin and exercise and brought it down "within spec". But then I noticed something. This ministry brings with it the periodic attacks from the enemy, in various forms, depending on the topic of the moment, or this or that: either through e-mails, the nasty customers at the store, traffic which I know is aimed at me from the enemy, etc. I would notice that on those days the blood pressure would go up again. When the attacks were not there, the blood pressure was down. After all, I am 'human', and the body responds to emotions, which in turn respond to the spiritual.

So...I concluded that I can do only so much for myself, behaving responsibly regarding the stewardship of my body. The rest is in God's hands. If He called me to do this work, He also knows the enemy's anger against my faithfulness, and what it does to the blood pressure. If He promised to preserve me until He comes, my life and health are in His hands. He gives life; and He sustains life, and promised,

    "Behold, I give you authority to tread over serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." (Lk10:19).

    "My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me." (Ps31:15)

And so (back to the 'eating' topic) if a Believer is being faithful to God, and behaving responsibly regarding nutrition and health issues, we don't need to worry; but if we are living as God intended, we leave the results in God's hands.

And as it says in one of the opening links (top): If it's God's time for us to leave this life, no amount of fighting it will make a difference. Life and Death is an 'appointment' with God. We may have stewardship of taking care of these bodies, but God is in charge of Life and Death.

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