Does the Bible mention healthy eating habits? Are believers supposed to watch their weight? Should Christians be careful what they eat? What does the Bible say about a Christian’s health and their diet?
Clean Versus Unclean Foods
God gave Israel dietary laws and these laws were strictly enforced. Jews could not eat what God deemed unclean but only those prescribed or allowed by God. One important point is that these laws were given to the Jews and not to other nations. These laws were part of the Mosaic Laws which was done away with when Christ brought in the new and better covenant. Certainly there are health advantages to not eating some seafood and pork because pork generally has a higher salt content and some seafood have risks, but God was trying to set this nation apart from the rest of the nations. He was trying to create in them a heart of obedience. There are some churches that still adhere to the dietary laws of the Old Testament and they sometimes look down on others who do not follow these dietary restrictions. With this being said, we can certainly understand Peter’s hesitation when he had this vision sent from God in Acts 10:11-15 where Peter “fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’” While this vision was given to indicate that the gospel was now to go out to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-35), the thought can not be lost that restricting certain foods are not what concerns the Lord but what is in the heart.
Jesus said that “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). This offended and angered the Pharisees who believed that they were more righteous than other Jews and Gentiles by following the laws…including dietary laws. Jesus clarified this to the disciples by saying “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matthew 10:17-20). Most certainly we see Jesus’ intent. It is not what we eat or that we wash our hands or any other external law or tradition that makes us righteous. What pollutes the heart are the evil thoughts, intents, and sins which proceed out of the mouth. What comes out of the mouth then is what reveals is in our heart. Jesus is not concerned with what we eat or what goes into our mouth but what comes out of it.
Does Food Defile?
Jesus again reaffirms that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person and not what we eat. The religious leaders were so caught up in external tradition that they missed the internal heart issues. What is in the heart is revealed by what comes out of the mouth (Matthew 15:18). Jesus went a step further in Mark 7:18b-20 saying “Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him.’” What stands out here is that “he declared all foods clean.” How clear can that be? Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 8:8, saying “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” It is not about dietary laws and what we put into our mouth but what we say that comes out of our mouth that pollutes us. Jesus said “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).
Even though we are free to eat whatever we want, we are not to put stumbling blocks in front of others. Even if it is not sin for us to eat particular foods, it is sin if we cause offense to others. I have some Jewish friends that I would never invite to dinner and have a pork roast. Even though pork roast is fine and is not sin to eat, I would instead have roast beef for dinner because I don’t want to unnecessarily offend them. What if they could not, in all conscience, eat what I had for dinner? Why would I risk embarrassing them if they felt they couldn’t eat it? What else could they do but refuse? Paul was sensitive to this because the early church was composed primarily of Jews but Gentiles were being added to the church and so this is why he said “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13).
So we are not to cause unnecessary stumbling blocks of offense to others but the opposite is equally true that we are not to become offended when others may mistakenly have something that you do not eat. In Romans 14:13-15 Paul addresses this issue writing, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” So if we might cause offense, don’t go there. This could apply to alcohol too…as well as many other things where we may differ in belief and conscience from our brother or sister in Christ. Paul was “persuaded…that nothing is unclean in itself” but it is “unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” We are to be considerate and sensitive to the beliefs and conscience of others…even if we think there is nothing wrong with it.
Is Gluttony or Obesity Sin?
There are actually some sins that concern food but these also may include alcohol or too much of anything. This is called overindulgence or gluttony. For some “their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). We are commanded to “not be among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (Proverbs 23:20-21). Why is over consumption or gluttony sin? Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Paul is actually talking about sexual sins which are against the body. And Paul is not talking about a person losing their salvation because of gluttony but if they fail to take care of their bodies, God reserves the right and may indeed take them home early. Your “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If a person eats too much they will be overweight and overweight people face higher health risks but many people just have a different metabolism. We should never judge or condemn someone who is overweight. We don’t know the whole story. It might be a thyroid problem or it might be some other medical condition. Unless you’re their doctor, you have no right to condemn them or look down on them.
We have read that a person’s heart is revealed by what comes out of their mouth. It is not what goes into the mouth that pollutes the heart but what comes out in our words. We should take care of our body and eat a good diet and exercise because we have the Holy Spirit in this temple (body) but we should not cause offense by what we do eat or be offended by what others eat. We should be sensitive to others and not be judgmental because each one of us will stand before and give an account to our Lord. If you are not presently saved, then you will have to give an account for every idle word ever spoken and every idle deed ever done and the result will be worse than you can imagine (Revelation 20:12-15). Decide today whether you will stand before Christ and be judged for your works on earth and what rewards He will give you for the Kingdom of Heaven…or have Him be your Judge Who will condemn you for rejecting Him as your Savior. It’s your choice. Choose today. Life or death?
Take a look at this article to see what else the Bible says about food:
Resources: New International Version Bible THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.