So what does God's Word say on the topic of health and nutrition?
While it doesn't give many specifics on diet or health, it does give principles to guide us in our decision making. Let's look at it together.
- Physical death is not an option. “It is appointed unto man once to die.” (Hebrew 9:27) The typical life span is given as “threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (Psalm 90:10), but whatever the length of our days, we will all come to the end of our earthly life.
- We are not to follow the example of Asa who “in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12) God's command to Christians is to “call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14) Of course, most Christians would consider it wise to seek the counsel of a health practitioner at appropriate times, but prayer and trust in God should always be our first reaction to illness. Not doctors, not books, not a new diet, not a health supplement, but our Maker Himself.
- We can take a hint from Luke, a physician, who recorded no health advice. Instead, his two books of the Bible (Luke and Acts) focus on Jesus Christ as the answer to man's soul needs.
- We are to eat in moderation, not as one “whose God is their belly” (Philippians 3:19) Many doctors agree that Americans would be healthier if they simply ate less, following the advice of Solomon: “And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” (Proverbs 23:2) I have known those who have lost weight and improved their health simply by decreasing the amount they ate. In a wealthy society such as we live in where abundant food is readily available, choosing to eat less will take much self-discipline, but moderation is a Biblical command.
- The Old Testament records God's specific guidelines on diet for His people, the Israelites. In the New Testament, conflict arose in the early church over whether or not to follow the Old Testament laws. After deliberation, it was decided that the Gentile believers did not need to keep the law. “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.” (Acts 21:25) God created food and it should not “be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” (1 Titus 4:3-4)
- As servants of God, our bodies are not our own and should not be abused. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19) To be a good steward of my body I will choose not to abuse it. I often think of smoking or alcohol in the context of abusing my physical body, but I need to also remember the affect of my diet on my health. There is medical evidence that heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases are influenced by the food I eat. Wise choices in what I eat today could possibly minimize my chance of disease in the future and allow me to more effectively serve the Lord and my family.
- The Scripture speaks about judging others because of what they eat or do not eat. “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth...He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:2-4, 6)
- If God allows healing through prayer, diet, doctors, or supplements, I need to be quick to give God the glory. “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8) My children have been blessed with generally good health, but usually once or twice a winter we catch a cold or illness. After hearing friends talk about the value in various supplements such as elderberry, I decided one winter to give my children something to help avoid sickness. Somehow, I never got around to ordering anything, possibly because of the overwhelming number of choices. But that winter we never got sick. At the end of the season, a friend asked what we did to stay so healthy. If we had been taking a nutritional supplement, I would have given it the credit. Since we had made no dietary changes, I could credit nothing but the blessing of the Lord. I am not against taking vitamins, but I hope I remember the lesson: All the glory for my health goes to the Lord.
- Nothing I do will thwart the hold of sin's curse on my physical body here on earth. In times of pain and trial, a believer's trust in God will bring Him glory. “Whoso putteth His trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). Not safe from all illness, cavities, or disease, but safe from the wages of sin which bring spiritual death. While I don't like to think of losing my health some day, in Jesus Christ I can find joy that defeats fear.We will look at another aspect of the health topic in the next post.How have you applied God's Word to the topic of health?