Should a Christian diet?

“Looks like you put on some weight, Mike.”

That’s how the conversation started with my wife’s uncle during last summer’s tailgate. It was the first time anyone had suggested that I looked less than scrawny and, unfortunately, the brat in my hand didn’t defend me against his accusation.

As I get closer to 40 and my jackrabbit metabolism grinds down to a few gears, I’m realizing that my relationship with food needs to change. Fading away are the consequence-free 10 PM pizzas and pints of ice cream. Coming soon are the days of meal planning and portion control.

But should I be that concerned about this temporary body? Should you? Should we think all that much about diet and exercise when there are eternal matters to attend to?

Recently, I found some answers to those questions. Check out these classic words from Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”

Here are three things I learned from that passage about faith and food:

You were made—You didn’t make yourself. God made you (“let us make mankind”). While you can pick your hair color, your outfit, or your latest tattoo, you cannot pick how your body works. 

What does that have to do with food? Simply that you are bound by design. You cannot eat 10,000 calories a day and sleep 0 hours and still function as God intended. You can’t skip breakfast, chug a carafe of caffeine, binge on fruit snacks, and still expect to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Do you believe that? Do you recognize that God created you a certain way under certain rules?

A Christian view of food starts with the humble admission that God is the Creator and we are his creation. We are wise not to jump on the latest fad diet but rather to read the instruction manual God wired into our bodies.

You were made to rule—In the beginning, God made man to rule (“so that they may rule”), a word that means “to lead with authority.” Adam ruled over the animal kingdom, keeping order and giving orders so things didn’t go wild.

What does that have to do with food? God has given you the authority to rule over the creation that is under your control, namely, your own body. In order that your weight doesn’t go wild, you have to rule over the plants and animals that pass under your nose. You have to govern your weekly menu, direct your portion sizes, and lead your feet to dishes that will not sabotage your future desire to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

A Christian view of food continues with taking ownership of what you put into the body God gave you. You are not the servant of Lord Sugar and Queen Cupcakes. You wear the crown. You hold the scepter. You were made to rule. So start telling your food who God left to run the show—you.

You were made in God’s image to rule—Like Adam, when God made you a Christian, he gave you his very own image. That means you have many things in common with God. Like God, you are holy by the blood of Jesus. Like God, you are never alone but live in the presence of the Son and the Spirit.

What does that have to do with food? This might seem like a stretch, but I believe the image of God frees us from shame and loneliness and fear, emotions that so often drive us to self-medicate with the short-term pleasure of unhealthy food. When you truly believe who you are in Christ (saved, loved, befriended, blameless, forgiven, secure, adopted, etc.), you are pulled out of the pit of self-pity that leads you to give up pursuing God’s goals for your life. Instead, inspired by his persistent love, you can fight the good fight to honor God with your body.

As a new year begins and our world considers the bodies we spend our entire lives inhabiting, think deeply about the beginning.

Then you’ll know how your faith affects your food.

Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 in Madison and, most recently, at The CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. He will also serve as the new lead speaker for Time of Grace after Easter 2019, where he will share the good news about Jesus through television, print, and online platforms. Mike loves seeing people grasp the depth of God’s amazing grace and unstoppable mercy. His wife continues to love him (despite plenty of reasons not to), and his two daughters open his eyes to the love of God for every Christian. When not talking about Jesus or dating his wife/girls, Mike loves playing soccer, running, and reading.

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