Sometimes when the Spirit of God convicts us about something, we become experts at defending our current position to prevent having to face the need for change.
In the health world, there are a few main defenses commonly used against healthy living and eating. Some of them have good points; others are straight-up excuses. So I’d like to take a few minutes to sort through them together!
Defense #1: Eating natural foods can become a “god”
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
Oof, did you catch that middle phrase? That was a punch in the gut for me when I first read it! How many times have I rejected something healthy, something my body clearly could have gotten nutrition from, and chosen something without any nutrients whatsoever?! For so many years, I let my stomach be my god, deciding to eat what I craved instead of what my body needed.
So is it possible that the verse above can be used on the flip side, to say that healthy eating can become its own “god?”
Yes, I think so. And I think this is a good point. However, there are also faults in this argument. And it’s not likely that the verse was meant in this context. But before we get to the faults in this argument, I would like to discuss the truth in this point. Sometimes, people seek to eat healthy foods for the wrong reason–they do it to prevent any and all forms of disease and sickness, essentially in an effort to control their future. A small percentage of people have an extreme, unhealthy fear of sickness which dictates their life. This is called orthorexia and while often portrayed in the media as anyone who cares about what they eat, this disorder is rare and does not deserve to be put into the same category as everyone who puts care into what they eat.
Why not? Because most people have a bigger reason for choosing to eat whole, natural foods: To become a more effective servant for God and His purpose for our life. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Koop said, “At least 2 out of every 3 deaths in the U.S. result from dietary-inflicted diseases/illnesses.”
Anyone who has made drastic dietary changes are astonished with the difference in how they feel–physically, mentally, and spiritually. This is exactly why Daniel in the Old Testament chose to restrict his and his men’s diet.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
Daniel’s choice to reject the king’s foods and eat only “whole” foods resulted in a major testimony to God and His people. And as an added bonus, it made His people more fit for battle!
We may not be able to prevent ALL sickness and disease, but we sure can utilize the foods that GOD GAVE US to strengthen us for battle!
Take my word on this one. While so many families around us constantly struggle with flu viruses, strep throat, constant runny noses, constant headaches, fatigue, etc., this almost NEVER happens to us. We are barely ever weighed down with illnesses like these and kept from fulfilling God’s purpose for us to reach out to others in various ways! I remember the days when I had to sit in my van in the church parking lot with a severe migraine while the rest of my family was inside for Sunday worship services. (Of course, I drank Diet Coke back then and no one told me the connection between the two.) I remember the days when I missed Bible study for doctor’s appointments for problems that I know now were related to eating refined, processed foods. And on it goes.
Defense #2: It’s Obsessive To Think of Food All The Time
Can it be obsessive to think about what we eat all the time? Yes, especially when those thoughts are driven by an addiction to sugar and fast food! Lysa TerKeurst says in Made to Crave:
I was just eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods and felt trapped in a cycle of hunger. I felt hungry all the time.”
This is what the current American diet full of sugar and refined carbs does to us! Refined sugars stimulate hunger constantly. And other things in our food like MSG turn off the signaling hormone that tells us when our stomach is full, so we overeat!
Ironically, the same people who use this particular defense are stuck in a cycle of addiction to foods like these. The good news is that Jesus came to set us free from these things!
There’s an additional point that deems mentioning here. Would you look at indigenous tribes whose whole lives revolve around raising/growing food and call them obsessive? How about Ma & Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie–all that time spent milking the cow, making cheese, growing and harvesting wheat, etc. I address these points and more in my article, “Isn’t It Obsessive To Think About Food All The Time?”
Defense #3: All Things In Moderation
All food is clean, but not all things people think are food are actually food! Can you have moderation of anti-freeze in your diet? That is what propylene glycol is, used in almost all store-bought ice cream. How about moderation of wood pulp? Or human hair? Or animal hair? Yes, those things are commonly found in foods, too. Of course, you wouldn’t see them listed as such on food packaging labels.
We do not tell a smoker that they can have cigarettes in moderation, or an alcoholic to have alcohol in moderation. By physical, scientific standards (not societal standards however), refined sugar is a Class A drug. Like cocaine and heroine, it starts out as a perfectly natural, God-created plant. Through chemical refinement, it becomes a white powdery substance that wreaks havoc on our health. In laboratory studies, sugar was found to be three times more addictive than cocaine. In fact, test subjects who were addicted to cocaine chose sugar over cocaine when given the choice. For more information on the topic of sugar as a Class A drug, read my post From All-Natural To Class A Drug: How Refinement Makes Cocaine, Heroine, & Sugar.
Additionally, will we tell someone with a dairy or wheat allergy that they should have these things in moderation? Or a peanut allergy? Just because our bodies do not immediately react with anaphylaxis does not meant that certain foods are not wreaking havoc on our bodies. And sometimes, the effects of certain foods, such as sugar, cannot be seen until that substance is removed from the diet and a person is able to tell the difference in their health and energy when that food is eliminated.
One author poignantly suggests:
Of course the choice to live and choose how to eat is yours and yours alone – do with your life what you will, but please don’t excuse your bad choices and justify by declaring; ‘Everything in moderation.’
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23
Defense #4: Trusting Health Advice from Doctors and the FDA
Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Koop states that “At least 2 out of every 3 deaths in the U.S. result from dietary-inflicted diseases/illnesses.” It wasn’t until at least the 1970’s when doctors began learning that nutrition played a role in our health. Doctors too quickly cite “genetics” for the cause of chronic diseases and even have the audacity to feed cancer patients sugar, the very thing that feeds cancer cells!
Genetics are not the main issue here–there is something else called EPIGENETICS, or the effect of environment on our genes. Environmental things like food pesticides, lawn chemicals, prescription drugs, etc., actually have the power to physically alter our genes, right down to the DNA level. This is why in Vietnam, four generations later, they are still dealing with the effects of the U.S.’s Agent Orange attack on their land.
Would it make any sense to think that the gasoline we put into our car does not affect how our car runs?
The average person uses more care in selecting the grade of gasoline to put into their automobiles than they do the food they put in their mouth. Rev. George Malkmus
Just because the medical field does not recognize the incredible link between what we put in our bodies and disease does not mean it doesn’t exist. It means that the medical field still has a lot to learn about God’s design.
And the most important reason I want to mention this defense against healthy eating is because many people take their doctor’s word for the denial of a link between nutrition and chronic disease. The reason this is important to point out is because this is placing Man (Doctors) in a god-like position, following their information without humbly seeking wisdom from God. This is a big topic, so for more on it, please read my post In Medicine We Trust.
Additionally, it is common for people to naively trust the FDA the same way we can naively trust doctors. We think to ourselves, “the FDA wouldn’t allow bad things in our food, would they?!” Unfortunately, we fail to realize that the FDA has become too corrupt to care more about its citizens’ well-being than it does about money. “For the love of money is the root of all evil”… Who do you trust–God’s infinite design and wisdom in His Creation or the FDA? It just so happens I have an article on this topic as well. Check out my article Would The Government Allow Bad Things In Our Food?
Defense #5: Time, Knowledge, & Money
One of my Facebook posts had the following comment:
Our food supply has been altered and changed so much that it’s near impossible to truly eat the way God intends. And if you are middle class or above, you have to spend a great deal of time educating yourself on what is truly healthy and what people have done to create sickness and disease in the name of the almighty dollar. Also, inner city and suburbanites who are financially below middle class are sorta out of luck because inexpensive food is also unhealthy and loaded with crap! So… you must either live out in the country somewhere and grow your own food, or, have enough time and money to buy healthy food and research and educate yourself… When I look at the big picture and not just my own little world, I don’t believe eating healthy (truly healthy that is) is possible for all people, at least in the U.S….
How many of you can agree to that? This commenter brings up a fair point and a common defense against healthy living/eating.
But this too, has faulty logic. An organic apple costs the same as a candy bar. A bag of baby carrots costs the same as a bag of chips. And a homemade omelet with organic cheddar and organic eggs costs around $1.50 per serving, compared to $4 per person for a fast food meal.
You see, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I find this defense to be especially used in favor of not having to cook!
The point made about it being difficult to obtain knowledge and learning about what’s healthy or bad is fair. To that, I want to quote God’s Word:
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom, your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.
We are rejecting knowledge, and it is cutting years off of our life. We live in an age with unprecedented technology–media, Internet, libraries full of books…It is easier now to learn about our health more than ever. Thus, this defense is busted too.
Finally, what about the defense about how much of our food supply is filled with bad things? Yes, at least 70% of the stuff at grocery stores is full of chemically-refined, processed, dead food.
Ah, but I digress! Never before have we had so much access to healthy foods! Fresh lettuce in the dead of winter? Aisles full of fresh, tropical fruits like bananas and pineapple? Frozen fruits and vegetables year round? Wild salmon available year round, even to those living 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean?! Yes, this defense bites the dust too.
Defense #6: All Food Is “Clean”
I take issue with this defense because it is so commonly taken out of context and always used as an excuse. Yes, all food is “clean.” We will not lose our salvation based on something we do or don’t eat. But we don’t eat healthy based on the fear of losing our salvation. I struggle to fathom the reason why this point even needs to be made.
And please don’t cite Peter’s vision on the rooftop where God declared all animals “clean.” This verse is too commonly taken out of context as an excuse to eat pork and shellfish. This was clearly and most obviously a situation where God was calling the Good News of salvation to be brought to ALL people, not just the Jews. Such an awesome story of God reaching out to everyone, and yet people use it to excuse their eating habits.
Besides–if you say all food is “clean,” make sure you mean FOOD. As mentioned above, most processed, packaged foods today contain things that are not “food” and were never meant to be consumed as such.
Defense #7: Social Graces
If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake.
1 Corinthians 10:27
Ah, we finally come to the one defense with merit! Yes, this verse brings up a good point. It would be disrespectful in some situations to come into someone’s home upon their kind invitation and reject the food they present before you.
However, I do want to make a few points on this verse:
1. Not everything we “eat” is actually food, as mentioned above. This deems consideration in all defenses.
2. If everyone around us eats unhealthy “foods,” we will find ourselves suffering ill effects as a result. Here’s an example: A close friend of mine had a baby this year. Out of generosity and care for this special woman, many people brought her meals. For an exhausted mom with a new babe, this is such a blessing! Ah, but in this case, it turned out not to be. Within a few days, mom began swelling up with symptoms of edema. Why? Because all of this unhealthy processed food that she was not used to was wreaking havoc on her body! Too often, we bring new moms and ill brothers and sisters JUNK. This has to change. And the only way it is going to change is if we can lovingly educate and encourage others to provide foods for each other that NOURISH!
3. Be the light! Along the same line of the points made above, I have personally seen the difference it makes to encourage others to change their eating habits. Whenever we go to an extended family get-together, I bring food for my own small family and to share with my extended family. After doing this for 7 years, every single person in my extended family has made amazing changes to the foods they eat! Just think of how much sicker and unhealthy they would be right now if I had just eaten junk food with them and not cared enough about them to show them a better way!! Additionally, I have found that when I offer to bring at least some of the food to these gatherings, it relieves the host of at least some work, which is very much appreciated!
We do have a problem, Church. A BIG one. (Pun intended.)
“America is becoming known as a nation of gluttony and obesity, and churches are a feeding ground for this problem. If religious leaders and organizations neglect this issue, they will contribute to an epidemic that will cost the health-care system millions of dollars and reduce the quality of life for many parishioners.”
~Ken Ferraro, professor of sociology at Purdue University who has studied religion and body weight since the early 1990s.
This is what the world sees when they look at the Church. The Body of Christ is obese, and everyone else sees it.
I would like to summarize this article with a comment I received on my Facebook page:
We don’t eat healthfully because the Bible demands it or for religious reasons of any kind. We eat healthfully because we believe that since God is the designer, he made people to eat the food he created as close to the way he created it as possible. When we add in extra man-made ingredients even in an attempt to do good, our bodies aren’t designed to handle those things as well as the things God created. His ways are always better. For instance, we attempted to create an antibiotic to kill germs but it is not complex enough to keep the germs from adapting to it. Germs don’t adapt to garlic and other natural antibiotics because they are so complex.
I do not in any way believe it is sin to eat junk food. But I do believe that there are natural consequences for eating junk. As long as I have my 2 year old on a sugar-free, junk free diet full of good stuff that God made, I have every confidence that we can use things God made to fight any illness. When we’re eating food that our bodies have to fight and filter along with fighting the germs, they don’t always do so well.
So, we eat well because we trust God. We trust his design.
Do you trust God? Do you trust the way He designed foods in their original state? Do you ever stop to think about how intricately He designed these foods, and how He designed them specifically for our bodies? Or are you looking for an excuse to continue walking in the flesh?
I’ll close with a verse that proves this is an area that God cares about:
“They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.” Psalm 78:18
The Israelites wanted food more than they wanted God. And what became of them? They never reached the Promised Land. They wandered in the desert for forty years and no one but Joshua and Caleb was allowed to enter the land flowing with milk and honey. Too many of God’s people today are wandering in the desert, unable to enter into the abundant life God has for them because we willfully put Him to the test over food.