Spiritual Obesity

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself.  Do what it says.”  James 1:22 (NIV)

Obesity continues to be a growing epidemic in the US. That’s no news flash. But for clarity’s sake, here are a few recent statistics: the US’s obesity rate continues to rise with a recent study finding 35% of adults obese (& another 34% overweight) and 17% of children obese (& another 15% overweight). And childhood obesity is a devastating phenomenon. Not only are we raising an overweight/obese generation, but we are also raising a “physically illiterate” generation. This means that the upcoming generation is beginning to lack the fundamental movement skills, confidence & desire necessary for physical activity … & this leads to a chain of inactivity that has life-long consequences. (E.g., if a child does not learn fundamental movement skills in the first 5 years of life, this child will have poor motor skills and coordination in elementary school, less movement confidence in the tween years, etc.). Add to that the amount of sedentary time our kids have (a 2010 study found that the typical American kid spends 7 hours per day in front of a screen), and we have a growing problem. The reality of he movie “Wall-e” is not far behind.

We are already experiencing the monetary drain that obesity and poor health has on our country. And we are just beginning to discover the many social and psychological distresses that obesity causes (depression, anxiety, decreased productivity, etc.). I am certain, too, that obesity also has spiritual side effects. God created us as integrated beings, and the decline of one aspect of our beings inevitably effects the others.

That being said, we are arguably a “spiritually obese” people too. As consumers focused more on consumption than production or distribution, we list this way in our spiritual lives as well.

If obesity occurs (in otherwise healthy & balanced people) primarily by consuming more calories/energy than one expends, spiritual obesity occurs by consuming more spiritual information than one puts into practice.  In both instances, it is more input than output.  Does God want us to read the Bible, go to church, consume Christian literature and participate in Christian activities? Sure. But He wants us to do those things SO THAT they change us. He wants us to take the input SO THAT it produces output. We are intended to be His hands and feet. Just as He made food for our physical bodies to consume and use for energy, movement and output … He gives us spiritual food for us to consume and use … not just for consumption purposes … but to change us so that He can use us to change the world. The amount of spiritual consumption that I and the others around me have consumed is to the proportion that world-wide revival should have happened years ago. But it hasn’t. Instead, many of us have consumed for consumption sake, and we are spiritually obese.

So my prayers are changing. For myself and for others. Obesity, in general, means there has been more consumption than necessary. It doesn’t matter whether it is food consumption, spiritual consumption or whatever. Perhaps we should focus on consuming only consume what is profitable for us. More isn’t always better. I only need more input once I’ve used the input I have already received.

For me, I’m fairly trained in eating what my body needs and in using what food energy I consume each day … But I cannot say that my spiritual consumption has the same exchange rate. So my prayers are changing. Prayers that I become increasingly effective at using all the spiritual input in my life. May I begin to see spiritual input as something that is meant for me to use, not just consume. May I grow in the self-control to first use what He has revealed to me before I keep asking for more and more revelations. May we not just be hearers of the Word, but doers also. May we curb the obesity epidemic in our lives, Lord, in all areas.

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Counter-Cultural

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2014 states (in reference to women’s clothing): “The measurements for a size 0 today were the measurements assigned to a size 8 in 1978.”

Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2014 states: “2.1 billion people, or about 29% of the world’s population, were either overweight or obese in 2013.”

And the May 30th article continued: “The increases in overweight and obese people ‘have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time,’ said the study.” The USA, of course, tops the list with 86.9 million people categorized as obese in 2013.

It’s a sad statistic.  And it’s had a toll on people’s health, longevity, lifestyle and pocketbook.  Health care costs have risen substantially.  But the truth is that our culture has endorsed it, if not encouraged it.

The link between the above two articles is obvious, isn’t it? Our culture has given everyone permission to gain weight, by calling what was a size 8 now a size 0.  Heck, you can gain weight and wear the same size!  Such “reframing” of sizes only furthers the epidemic.  What are those of us who, under the old system, were a 4 or a 6 supposed to do?  Ask the salesperson for sub-zero sizes? I can just imagine the evil glares!

I’m not saying that everyone needs to be skinny.  God made people in all shapes and sizes.  What I am saying is that we need to take care of the bodies God has given us.  But our culture has given us permission not to.  God loves everyone and wants us to be all that He created us to be … in this life and the next.  He gave us beautiful, capable, strong, complex, intricate bodies (see June 3, 2014 post). He gave them to us to steward. Let’s not let the world dictate our behavior, let’s let God renew our minds. Let’s steward everything that He has given us well.  Let’s reclaim these bodies to glorify the One who gave them to us!