When Being Healthy Becomes Your Idol
Striving for health is not a bad thing. Putting health before God is.
When you make health your idol, you are turning it into something your heart desires before God. An idol is anything you put before God.
There are plenty of amoral things that become idols in our lives. Amoral = neutral (Not Bad or Good). Amoral things that can turn into idols could be your kids, your hobbies, your spouse, your status, your job, or even how you use your spare time and money.
Mark Driscoll states that “Idolatry is often a good thing that becomes a god thing and one of the surest ways to find your idol is to follow your money. Jesus, a master of word play, irony, and satire, uses humor to speak truth to the rich ruler by showing him two ways to find idols: follow the money and figure out what’s not funny to you.”
If you get really upset about the idea that someone views health or diet differently than you… It may be an idol.
If you can’t laugh about your exercise program or diet plan… It may be an idol.
Idols Don’t Start out as Bad Things
Deciding to make changes in your life for the goal of better health is a good decision. However, when that goal consumes your attention, your peace of mind, your fiances, or your available time – it becomes an idol.
Focus isn’t a bad thing either, it is how great things are achieved. To lose weight, you will require more focus and shifting of priorities for a season to reach your weight loss goals. However, when your life becomes consumed by your goals… you may need to re-evaluate your decisions.
If you are scared to eat something because you think you will get sick or develop cancer immediately from it… If you stay awake at night because you feel guilty about not being as healthy as you would like to be… If you argue with people who eat or live differently than you…. If you feel superior to someone else based on your healthy life style vs theirs… These are not good signs.
The Bad Part about Putting Health before God
The definition of a healthy lifestyle or diet changes as fast as the wind. If you put all your ideals and life into striving for a healthy lifestyle, a new study will come out tomorrow and debunk all the facts you were holding onto as true.
In the 80’s, butter was bad… now we know that Butter is great for you! Especially butter from pastured cows. All those people that were clinging to a low fat diet for health… their foundation was ripped from underneath them.
If you build your foundation on anything other than God, you are going to crumble. If you build a foundation on beauty or wealth…. those things will pass.
After working in a nursing home for several years, I also know that as we age our health will pass as well. Many of my patients kept telling me just to not get old. Our bodies are broken from the fall of man and continue to break down as we age – it is unavoidable. Everyone dies some day no matter how much they exercised or how many green smoothies they drank. We obviously want the journey to be filled with more healthy days and I believe a whole foods diet will benefit everyone… just don’t think eating a certain way will prevent you from hurting or death (Hebrews 9:27).
How to Stay Balanced
I believe that God wants you to be healthy.
I believe that what you put in your body does affect your health.
But…. this should not stop you from putting God first.
If God asked you to change your healthy lifestyle for some reason, are you prepared to follow that command? You may be asked over to dinner and they are serving pizza. You can always eat before. In our culture community is built around sharing a meal, you may need to eat with them and enjoy it. If health is your idol, it could prevent you from making allowances when dealing with other people.
You have a friend who made a special dinner for you and you know she cooked it with canned cream of chicken soup (Gasp!). Know that God is bigger than MSG and he can protect your body. You can eat it and detox on your own time. Know that I’m not advocating eating MSG… I’m just saying don’t lose sleep over it.
There may be periods in your life where something needs to take priority over your ideal eating and health pursuits. My sister has had to stay with her kids in the hospital several weeks at a time, and unable to be at home to cook. She was able to do the best she can, but understood when priorities need to be altered. Maybe financially, God may call you to give more, and to save money you may need to buy less organic produce than you prefer.
I think about Paul, when asked the question about eating meat that was offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8), answered don’t do anything that will cause a brother to stumble. He basically said that sometimes, you need to put other’s first and your own beliefs aside for the benefit of others. (Paul knew that eating the meat wasn’t immoral, but weaker Christians saw this as a problem. Paul decided it was best to avoid the meat offered to idols as to not offend the weaker believers.) You also need to offer grace to others and accept them where they are in their journey. You can turn off many friends quickly by trying to convert people who are not ready to hear about your health decisions.
I used to have a much harder time with striving for health being my god. When I first starting eating whole foods, I used to think that eating things that were not “natural” would tarnish my body… like make me dirty some how. I had elevated “natural” foods to a “holy” statue. This was a god.
I now realize that healthy foods are a good thing and just that. My body works better when I eat healthy foods that nourish it. They can help me fight off infections, keep my body stronger and get sick less, but they are not going to save me from sickness or even cancer.
My point is that God should be first. His commands should be followed without our hesitation.
More on the Discussion: Food is Not Your God by Stacy Makes Cents
What are your thoughts? Have you been guilty of putting health before God? How do you keep your healthy focus balanced?