Some 29 million British people attempted to lose weight in 2013.1 I, like many Christians, am part of that statistic. So it begs the question: what does God think about how much I weigh?
As a Christian, my self-esteem is pretty healthy. I know I am loved: by God and by family and friends. I know Jesus died in my place and lived the perfect life I could never live, I am freed from striving for perfection in every area of my life. I am particularly thankful about that because I have just officially crossed the line into ‘overweight’.
Just when I’m obsessing about my muffin top, I remind myself it’s clear from the Bible that God is not concerned with the way I look on the outside.
When Jesus walked on the earth, the exact representation of God in human form, he was said to have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus was authoritative; coming to communicate the most important message human ears would ever hear. Yet God did not make him especially attractive. His physical appearance had little bearing on who he was, what he achieved and what he meant to those who were involved with him.
Or, take King David as an example: the youngest and smallest of his brothers. When questioned about his choice of king, God replies: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
In fact, the apostle Peter encourages women to understand that beauty does not come from the way we wear our hair, our jewellery or fashion sense, nor any “outward adornment”. Rather, “it should be that of your inner self” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
From this we understand physical attractiveness is of little importance to God. What we see in the mirror will change. Our bodies will become old and tired and our lives are fleeting.
In this sense God doesn’t ‘care’ about those numbers on the scales that stare back at me in stubborn defiance.
Being honest, my becoming overweight is symptomatic of a deeper heart issue. I lack self-control and regularly over-indulge when it comes to food. I enjoy the pleasure of eating; I struggle to stop when I’m full. I can match my 6ft-gym-going-swimming-running husband, plate for plate, except I do nothing to burn it off.
There are areas of sin lurking in my heart surrounding these character issues. It is these that God is far more concerned with.
His concern for me is motivated by total and utter love. Jesus accepts me unconditionally, just as I am and yet wants the very best for me. He wants me to be healthy, able to balance enjoying food with also treating my body as a temple worthy of his Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He desires for me to learn mature decision-making when it comes to diet and exercise; able to discern when feasting/celebrating or fasting/abstaining are appropriate.
Feasting and fasting are both valid ingredients in a life lived to the full, which Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). It’s true, I’ve been over-doing the ‘feasting’ and a period of ‘fasting’ (practically, for me, that looks like being more disciplined and making wiser decisions regarding food and activity) would do me the world of good.
Since Jesus won the battle against sin, I can choose not to give in to every appetite, especially those that do me no good. Instead of fad dieting manuals, he will be the source of my motivation as I endeavour to redress the balance in both my physical and spiritual life.
So does God care about the numbers on the scales or how I look in my clothes? Not in the slightest!
Does God care about the motives in my heart that lead to me being overweight? Absolutely.
So since I want to please God with every area of my life, excuse me while I dust off my running shoes and squeeze myself into some terribly unattractive leggings.