How Should the Church Respond to Obesity?
For obvious reasons, we must tread carefully here, for we are aware that some struggle with obesity because of genetics, disease, medication, or other factors. (It is also possible that women who have been abused might deliberately put on weight, hoping that this will lessen the overtures of lecherous men.) We address this topic not to give a final word on this sensitive issue but with the hope that you might be encouraged and strengthened. We should be accepting of everyone’s appearance and believe that the present emphasis on beauty as seen on television is a curse, especially for young women.
Christians are purchased people. We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When we ponder the term “redeemed,” we realize the unfathomable transfer of our ownership from the powers of sin to the God of Heaven. Founded upon this truth, God can and does speak to our entire being: body, soul and spirit. While spiritual matters often command the forefront of God’s revelation, the Scriptures also make requests which span every facet of our lives (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:31). God’s Word also speaks to the particular motives behind physical activities.
The Scriptures never prohibit obesity as such, but they do speak to the issue of gluttony, laziness, selfishness, and self-gratification, which can (though not always), be a cause of obesity. (See Proverbs 23:2, 20-21, 30:8; Luke 21:34, etc.) As the Church, we ought to encourage our church leaders to delicately address the issue of weight and appearance while taking into account every individual situation. The bottom line issue is one of motive and lifestyle.
Let us be clear. God’s love toward His people is not based upon our appearance. He who examines the heart does not value the things that this world values. May we seek to replicate His holy perspective even as we do all things—including eating—for the glory of God.