Are American churches too heavy?
Scott Stoll, M.D., has made a strong case. Stoll’s June 3 opinion article on FoxNews.com, “The Obesity Epidemic in America’s Churches,” cites various studies to show that obesity, which is a growing problem in our culture, is particularly widespread in the church. Among the evidence he marshaled: a 2006 Purdue University study that showed that “fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups,” and a 2011 Northwestern University study that found that “young adults who attend church or a bible study once a week are 50% more likely to be obese” than those who don’t. Ouch.
Dr. Stoll, a Christian, links the problem partially to “Platonic dualism,” which treats the human body (and the physical world in general) as effectively irrelevant. One corollary to Platonic dualism is the view that our stewardship of the body is unimportant, because we will one day receive resurrected bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15). This view is impossible to reconcile with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, in which he argues against the Corinthians’ licentious disregard for the body:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (ESV).
You can find related comments in our prior post on why Christians should take care of their bodies.
Stoll is right that gluttony “has become a secret and acceptable vice in the modern church,” one that church teaching often minimizes or ignores. While the Bible does not make gluttony a major theme, it does speak strongly against gluttony (e.g., Proverbs 23:20,21; Titus 1:12,13), and a proper understanding of our role as stewards should militate against eating too much and moving too little. I can say that as a teacher it is tempting to leave the issue untouched, because I am know that many people are not exercising proper stewardship of their bodies and probably don’t want to hear this. Pastors who struggle with this sin (and the numbers say that many do) may also be reticent to uphold the challenge of God’s Word on this subject, recognizing that they fall short themselves.
I have struggled my entire adult life with my heart attitude toward food, and I realize how difficult it can be to rip the tentacles off this idol. Perhaps you know what I am talking about. If this is where you find yourself, men, I encourage you to address the sin at the heart level. Don’t be content with eating regimens and exercise plans, though those can be helpful tools for stewarding the body. Ask the Lord to grant you insight into why you have chosen this idol, and call on Him for the strength to choose Him instead of food, laziness, or any other paltry substitute.