Sin, temptation, and the primal diet part 1: a Biblical view on healthy eating

If you’ve read about the spiritual journey of my diet (click here,) you’ll know my acne experience was more spiritual than physical. Well the cool thing is, my spiritual journey towards better health hasn’t stopped! I’ve been on the paleo/primal diet for over a year now, and God continues to use my diet to become closer to Him. Since I became paleo/primal, God has spiritually taught me the most about sin and temptation. In this article I explain what exactly the Bible says about healthy eating, and if an unhealthy lifestyle is actually sinful. Part 2 of this article (which will be posted later in the week) will explain how God has taught me about temptation through the paleo diet. I’ve had these thoughts since I first became paleo and I am super excited to share with all of you how God continues to use the paleo diet challenge me in my walk with Him.
Healthy eating Bible verses 
So how I originally wanted to start this article, was by addressing the irony of overweight pastors. I know, I know, it was a bit of bold set up. But when I worked in South Carolina this summer, my friend Sarah said she thinks health is an area where the church needs more emphasis. She doesn’t agree with the fact pastors tell people to change their life when it comes to lust, greed, pride, etc. but the pastors themselves are overweight and don’t make an effort to change their life to become healthier. Like, lying to someone is so wrong but gorging on brownies that make yourself prone to heart attacks for the rest of your life isn’t. Anyway, I thought Sarah made a good point because God has blessed us with our body and it only makes sense He wants us to take care of it. 

So in preparation for this article, I wanted to introduce this idea to argue that not eating healthy is, from a Biblical perspective, just as wrong as any other sin. I was even went as far as to ask if it is a sin to eat unhealthy food. However, when I read through scripture to see what exactly it says about diet, eating the right foods, and living a healthy lifestyle, I didn’t find much. To my surprise, the Bible hardly addresses this area of life. The most I was able to find was a few one line verses in Proverbs. 

Judging by these verses, God doesn’t want us to overeat. However, it doesn’t seem like these verses are used in reference to health. Gluttony is looked down upon because it reveals one’s selfish nature, not because it is harming the body. Overeating is more about its representation more than the act itself. So after I found these verses, my next thought was to look at food mentioned in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 14:3-16 God gives the Israelites laws regarding the types of food they were allowed to eat. This is the best passage I could find to support healthy eating from a Biblical perspective. The only problem with this passage is the context in which it is presented. While I support any person who follows those laws for their health (click here,) those laws are technically not applicable to us. The Israelites were required to follow these laws because it was a way for them to maintain their covenant with God before the coming of Jesus.

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves to to God; He bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. 
People have said to eat a healthy diet because our bodies are a temple that God wants us to maintain. While I agree with that statement, these verses are not used in the Bible to command us to eat healthy. These verses are used in reference to sexual immorality. I cannot stress enough how important it is to NOT take scripture out of context to support an argument. When we read scripture, we need to understand what it says in context and live the way it calls us to live; not manipulating information to suit the way WE want to live. 

Our diets are used to reflect God’s glory

After reading through scripture, I realized the Bible doesn’t talk much about eating healthy. No where in the Bible, does it it say it is a sin to have an unhealthy diet. If God commands His people to eat a certain way, or if God’s people choose to eat a certain way, it is to be obedient to Him. And that is when it hit me! 1 Corinthians 10:31 says:

Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory. 

Although a candid Bible verse about diet choices would make my argument of “we need to eat and live healthy” a lot easier, I realized it’s not about the type of food we eat but our motives behind our food choices. Our food choices should be used to glorify God, not for our own comfort and security. I think this is why there are certain situations when it is okay for us to cheat on our diets (click here.) In those situations, it would be more glorifying to God for us to stray off our diets than it would be for us to stick with it.

Now if we are to ask what foods glorify God, this can open an argument that leads in several directions. Since our diet is the base of our health, it is fair to say that majority of health complications stem from unhealthy diets. Some people will argue that a healthy diet (whatever “healthy” even means at this point because it is a relative term) is necessary to glorify God. All that time you spend at the doctor’s office and money you spend on medications to treat your health complications could have been used to minister to people. But on the flip side, if your unhealthy diet causes you to get cancer, God could also use your story to witness to nonbelievers. 

Some of you may think this idea is a bit odd. How exactly can we use food to glorify God? Well, this website is a prime (no pun intended) example!! I’ve stated in many of my articles I am primal because it is the lifestyle God has called me to. My primal diet is how God has wanted me to glorify Him for the past year. That is also why I say the primal diet is not for everyone. God wants me to glorify Him through the primal diet, but who knows! Maybe God wants you to become a vegetarian, or just avoid processed foods that will hurt your body in the long run.

And I’m not saying this means we can gorge on junk food because God doesn’t care if we take care of our bodies. I firmly believe we need to eat the right foods, exercise, and be intentional about taking care of ourselves. But when we encounter gray areas of these practices, we need to ask ourselves “will eating this food glorify the Lord? Am I following these diet choices because of God, or for myself?”

In the mean time, watch out for those idols

If we are going to glorify God through our diet choices, we need to avoid the idolization of food. Some of you may laugh at the thought, but you would be surprised how easy it is for us to idolize our diets (good or bad.) In my last article where I talk about the emotional side of the primal diet (click here), I mentioned Stephen who is an RA for the college dorms where I stayed. Stephen said he’s read research that stated people are more likely to change their spiritual beliefs before they change their eating habits.

That may blow some people’s minds, but it shows how we easily idolize our food and put it in front of God. When I was reading through scripture about gluttony I realized gluttony is not sinful because we’ll get fat. Gluttony is sinful because it reveals our selfish nature and causes us to place our comfort in food instead of God. Our food becomes our idol, which breaks our relationship with God. This could even go the opposite way for people who are on strict healthy diets. It is very common for people to use their diets as a way to have control over their lives and/or their bodies. Instead of relying on God, people become their own God by using their diets to control their life. 

Where we go from here

Instead of asking yourself “is it wrong to eat that bag of Doritos” ask yourself “will eating this bag of Doritos glorify the Lord? While I strongly believe we need to eat as healthy as possible, I realize it is not always about what we eat, but why we are eating certain foods. Do our diet choices stem from the fact we want to glorify the Lord? Or do they stem from an idol of comfort, control, etc. we have in our life? If you are unsure, a good scenario to play in your head is to ask yourself what how you would react if God told you to never eat processed food ever again. If God asked you to never eat pizza, donuts, oreos, candy, etc. again, would you respond obediently or refuse to change your diet? 

Diet is not always about experiencing positive health results. Diet is about being obedient to the Lord. We sin not when we eat poorly, but when we eat poorly after God calls us to eat healthier.