You’ve seen the headlines: America is fat and getting fatter. The Institute of Medicine has just released their 478-page report on the obesity epidemic plaguing our country. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese; by 2030, obesity-related health care costs will top $550 billion.
What are we to do? The IOM report tells us to make physical activity a regular part of our lives; create environments which ensure that healthy food and beverage options are available; send positive messages about nutrition and physical activity; expand the roles of health care providers, insurers, and employers; and make schools a national focal point.
The headlines generated by the report caused me to wonder: what if God wrote a diet book? Actually, he did.
Scripture prescribes the diet God knows is best for our bodies. His first instruction: “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29). “Seed-bearing plants” and “fruit with seed in it” includes grains, seeds, legumes, fruits, and nuts–all the foods we know we should eat.
Genesis 3:18 adds “the plants of the field” to our diet, thus including vegetables. Genesis 9:3 later states, “everything that lives and moves will be food for you.” But Leviticus 11 clarifies: we are to eat only an animal “that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud” (v. 3). This omits the pig, coyote, fox, monkey, wolf, lion, tiger, and horse among others. And we are to eat only fish “that have fins and scales” (v. 9). This omits catfish, lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams, crabs, and sharks among other seafood.
Kosher dietary laws are no longer binding for Christians (Acts 15:28-29), but was there nutritional logic behind these instructions? The prohibited seafood are bottom-dwellers where contaminants tend to gather; the “clean” seafood live in fresh-flowing water. The prohibited animals tend to feed on other animals or otherwise carry diseases. Laws prohibiting the eating of fat (Leviticus 7:23-24) were obviously to our good as well.
There is no spiritual-secular divide in Scripture; God’s word contains instructions for every part of our lives. Clearly, he cares about our health: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our health and our physical witness are both important to our Father.
John’s prayer for Gaius is my prayer for you this morning: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2). How could you partner with God in answering this prayer today?