This post is written for Christians.
It appeals to absolute, objective moral standards that we are accountable to.
If you’re not Christian, this post isn’t written for you.
The bad news is that someday you’ll be held to those standards, too. The Good News is that you can freely choose be part of them. It’s worth it. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
For the Christians reading, as a dear friend said to me when I announced this post:
“Truth sets us free, but sometimes it has to wound us first.”
I’m in this with you. These subjects have weighed heavy on my heart, so to speak. And I see, feel, and have experienced firsthand the suffering they cause.
But the sin of ignorance can’t be the excuse.
A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
Proverbs 13:4 (NIV)
As of 2022:
At least 1 in 3 Americans are obese. (CDC)
At least 1 in 3 more are simply overweight. (NIH)
Women are affected by obesity more than men.
More men are simply overweight than women.
We rank 12th in the world in obesity, the highest of all industrialized nations—and it’s not even close.
In other words, we’re fat.
It’s obvious. All of us see it every day.
And yet, we’re not allowed to talk about it.
WE have become the literal elephants in the room.
WE have become the “sacred cows” unable to be questioned.
Bringing up the issue of weight in America is a sure way to lose friendships, relationships, even jobs.
But the silence is serving no one. Our collective illness begs for medicine.
This begging silence doesn’t exist in other countries.
Anyone who has Asian relatives has probably heard their grandmother say:
“Good to see you, dear. Oh, it looks like you’re gaining weight!” like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
I remember the first time a Thai friend’s mother said it to me. I almost fell over.
Because she was right.
So, this prohibition against speaking about weight is arbitrary.
Which means I’m not bound by moral law to not speak on it.
It’s a matter of national preference, not conscience. That means I am free to choose another preference, even if it hurts feelings.
Preferences are not moral law. Moral law is moral law.
So I’d like to put a few ideas on the table for us to consider, from a position of struggle from my life and from my family lineage too.
Speaking of moral law, Christians are bound by covenant to adhere to a set of absolute moral laws, as fundamental and immutable as gravity and electromagnetism.
As an article of faith, we agree that the Universe and everything in it was designed with intention, and called, “Very good,” by the Creator upon His completion.
This includes our bodies, and our roles as men and women in relation to each other.
The Bible doesn’t include specific guidance on physical fitness. It talks about moral fitness and spiritual fitness, but apparently not physical fitness.
For this reason, many Christians have “fallen into the gap” with fitness, because they and their pastors can’t identify a specific moral law to follow.
This is sadly a cope. Because gluttony.
But for some reason that doesn’t hit close enough to home. It should, but it doesn’t.
That poses a problem for those of us who care about these things.
We know in our bones that fitness is moral. We also know in our bones that fatness is immoral.
After consideration and prayer, I submit to you that the answer lies not in the relationship of individual men and women with their God, but in men and women’s relationship to each other.
Obesity and being overweight are deeply sinful because of what they represent:
Not just of ourselves but of each other.
Our sin is not in what we are doing (gluttony) but in what we AREN’T doing: cultivating our bodies for maximum capacity of service for each other.
This sin of abandonment shows up in different ways for men and women.
Men, we are called by God to be protector, provider, and priest to our families.
Our ability to serve in these three roles determines our suitability for marriage.
But how can we protect a family if we can’t run 50 yards at a sprint? Or if we can’t sleep without a machine strapped to our faces for sleep apnea? Or if we take medication for our chronic conditions, and then medication to offset the side effects of our medication?
And don’t tell me the gun under your gut is the answer.
How can we provide for our families if we’re lugging extra pounds around, taxing our body’s ability to provide for itself?
And how in the name of heaven can we be a proper spiritual head to our wife and kids, imaging God, if we can’t exemplify the discipline of law to manage our own body?
This is abandonment.
Men, the degree to which we are overweight is the degree to which we have abandoned our wife and family today, or the one we’re yet to have. That is sin.
Women, you are called to produce souls for the Kingdom, to bring forth offspring and to play a central role in the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate.
How can you do that if your body is not sexually appealing to a good man?
By this I mean, a man who subjects himself to the discipline required to be protector, provider, and priest to you and your children.
I know that statement hurts. But I don’t spare men in this post. To leave you out is unfair to them and to you.
No one ever benefits from being unaccountable.
Moreover, how can you bear the physical strain of pregnancy and childbirth, and the demands of infancy, if your body is taxed with the burden of added pounds before the child is conceived?
How can you model loving self-restraint and discipline to children who’ll need it, if you can’t exemplify it yourself?
This is abandonment.
Women, the degree to which you are overweight is the degree to which you have abandoned your husband and family, or the one you’re yet to have. That is sin.
I can hear some objections now:
Husbands: “I’m so busy with work and life, you don’t understand…” That is the biblical curse speaking. Toil is our punishment. Take it up with our father, Adam.
Wives: “Women have been oppressed, and who are you to tell me…” That is the biblical curse speaking. You are not victims of history, submission is your punishment. Take it up with your mother, Eve.
My mentor says: “Don’t tell the truth, point out the lie.”
The lie is, “What I do with my body is my business.”
Husbands, what we do with our body is God’s business.
Wives, what you do with your body is your husband’s business.
Parents, what we do with our bodies is our children’s business.
What all of us do with our bodies is Christ’s business.
Could it be that Americans wantonly destroy bodies in the womb because we can’t even care for our own?
To the proof-texters who say: “Show me the verse…” The biblical authors walked everywhere, worked with their hands, ate single-ingredient foods, had no sugar, and got plenty of sun and fresh water. They likely had enviable levels of fitness. There’s your hermeneutic.
Besides, gluttony and sloth are sins. So is pride.
When a man gains weight, our woman sees us abandoning our godly duties. She’s correct, and therefore loses respect for us.
When a woman gains weight, her man sees her abandoning HIM. He’s correct, and therefore he loses love for her.
When a mother and father gain weight, so do their kids. This teaches the kids to abandon themselves. because the parents have abandoned them. To children this teaches abandonment by God.
This is all sin. Ugly sin.
We are failing in our accountability to each other and to God. No one wants to be convicted of what we’re doing: Abandonment.
The good news is, Christ died for all this too. May we all run to the Father who does not abandon!
So in Part 2, we’ll talk about repentance.