Body Image or Body Idolatry?

I thought losing weight was going to fix all my problems for me. But it didn’t. Really, it only created more problems. #notworthit

As humans in general, I think we’re always on the lookout for the next easy fix. We want to find that one secret solution that will make our lives easier so that we don’t have to face annoyance, discomfort, or suffering. I don’t disagree that it would be really nice for life to flow 100% smoothly, 100% of the time. But the fact that nobody has discovered how to make that happen yet is pretty good proof to me that it’s impossible. I mean, the bible tells us that things aren’t going to get easier in life, so it’s probably reasonable to stop hoping for an easy fix and instead pray for peace, patience and contentment.

[This is one million percent NOT an endorsement for ephedrine. Rather, I’m posting this to illustrate the point that the diet industry can sell you a weight loss pill for $14.99! Quick, easy, convenient, and will probably either kill you or at the very least cause a heart attack. #notworthit]

The diet industry tries to capitalize on this sense of unsettledness in our hearts. It sells us weight loss as the quick fix to a life of happiness and prosperity, and each individual diet company has its own unique elixir for how to accomplish that weight loss. It’s like selling a quick fix for weight loss, when weight loss is supposed to be the quick fix for making our lives perfect. When you really think about it, it doesn’t make any sense, because why would cutting carbs suddenly guarantee a life of love and prosperity? It doesn’t, yet we all sort of hope for ridiculously simple solutions like that. As someone who openly admits I struggle in this area, I also openly admit that turning to anything other than the cross in hopes of finding satisfaction and fulfillment in life is idolatry…which is a sin.

[A selfie from a time in my life when pretty much all I ever did was take selfies because I couldn’t bring myself to think about much of anything besides food or my body. Nowadays, I’m still far from perfect. But I’m so grateful that I’m not constantly stuck in a cycle of body checking and obsessing over my appearance. I promise you, it really does get better. Recovery is #worthit.]

Money is probably the most frequently cited example of a modern-day idol. Though we’re no longer worshipping golden calves like the Israelites, the pursuit of earthly treasure still distracts us. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus warns us not to focus on hoarding worldly wealth, but instead to commit to building ourselves spiritually:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19

The same principle can be applied to the pursuit of perfect health and the treasure it supposedly offers us: do not store up for yourselves health in the present age, where disease and degeneration destroy, where injury breaks and impairs. But work toward spiritual health, because we will have perfect, immortal bodies when Christ returns. Just as God always provides for the needs of those who honor him with their wealth instead of pursuing it as ultimate, God heals and provides everything we need to fulfill his purposes for us on earth regardless of our physical state. That means we don’t have to dedicate the entirety of our waking consciousness to getting and staying healthy. God will provide that, in as much as his grace and mercy allow, so that we can direct our focus toward him. God created the human body with an incredible ability to self-regulate, survive, and heal itself, which means we don’t need to attempt to micromanage every little aspect of physical wellness. Ultimately, good health is blessing – which means it’s received, not earned.

This concept is fundamental – slaving away to gain health (or thinness, or whatever else) on earth is entirely futile if it’s at the expense of our spiritual well-being. What’s more dangerous than total neglect of physical health is neglect of our relationship with God. Nothing is promised to us, and nothing is forever – except Christ. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus teaches us very clearly what is to be our utmost priority:

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Work, wealth, and other pursuits are not inherently wrong, but they can easily distract us from what’s most important in life. Health is the same way and is arguably even more tempting because we hail it as such a virtue on earth. But God clearly tells us in his word that there is only one thing worth being concerned about. Only one.


5 thoughts on “Body Image or Body Idolatry?

  1. Pingback: Unhealthy Judgment

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