Spiritual Obesity

A year or so ago, I remember reading an article about a lawsuit filed against McDonald’s. This was not your typical hot-coffee-spilled-in-the-lap lawsuit. This one alleged that those Big Macs and delicious golden brown fries made people fat. These people were actually blaming McDonald’s for their obesity. My first reaction was something like, “Well duh, of course eating at McDonald’s everyday is going to make you fat.” The absurdity of it all was rather humorous actually.

Then a few months later, a follow-up article appeared. The judge had apparently thrown out the case, restoring some of my faith in our legal system. It was good to know that at least one person involved had a few ounces of common sense.

This whole shenanigan stuck with me for a while, and I began to reflect on it in search of some deeper meaning or truth. (Yes, you’d be right in saying I have too much free time.) But something occurred to me. Perhaps, I too could take advantage of the overly litigious society in which we live, and make a statement. Exception being, I wouldn’t bring a lawsuit against another fast food giant, but against the Church. Yes, I would file legal action against the Church for creating an obese Body of Christ. Now hear me out on this one. I am alleging that the Church today is spiritually overweight, and someone ought to be held accountable.

Okay, for those not catching on yet, I am being facetious. I’m not actually saying we should file a class-action suit against our pastors and elder boards. This condition that I am describing is no more their responsibility, than McDonald’s management to be held responsible for the physical fitness of their patrons. But I do believe that we have a problem. Many who fill the pews on Sunday morning are facing a condition of spiritual obesity, which if left untreated, may cause harm to their spiritual well being.

In the Bible, James wrote, “Faith without works is dead.” Without sounding to heretical, I’d like to suggest a minor modification to that passage. I would suggest that faith without works leads to lethargy and apathy, which leads to obesity, which in turn leads to death. Here’s what I mean: Every one of us red-blooded, born again Christians, fill our lives and schedules with spiritual intake. We have church on Sunday, mid-week Bible study, family devotions, personal devotions, and a plethora of Christian living books to read. If this amount of spiritual intake were transformed into actual meat and potatoes, we could end hunger in Africa.

We take in an inordinate amount of spiritual “calories,” but many of us do little to “burn them off,” so to speak. We have faith, but not the actions to accompany it. Sure we do our part by being nice to our neighbors and co-workers. We volunteer for the church rummage sale, or even spend a week as a camp counselor. But for the most part, these spiritual calories just sit, turn to fat, and turn us into overweight, lethargic Christians.

So what do we do? How do we get back in shape? Unfortunately, as with physical fitness, there are no quick and easy solutions. No pills or diet shakes. Dr. Phil and Dr. Atkins are left out of this one. Just like physical weight loss, spiritual weight loss requires a balanced diet and exercise, which unfortunately requires a lot of hard work and discipline.

The first thing we need to do is watch what we eat, or what we take in spiritually. Now, am I suggesting that we cut back on going to church or on personal devotions? Not exactly, but perhaps we do over-indulge ourselves with spiritual food. I think our spiritual metabolism works very similarly to our physical metabolism. Our intake needs to equal our output. If we’re taking in more than we are working out, then there is a problem. We become overweight. So we should either decrease our intake, or increase our output. But I’ll get to that in a second.

In addition to monitoring our amount of spiritual intake, we also need to be mindful of its quality.. There is a lot of spiritual “junk food” out there vying for our attention and our appetites. This junk food is all the books and sermons and devotions that make us feel really good, but lack real substance. Our diet needs to have depth and weight to it; think real meat and potatoes, not ice cream and Twinkies. What we hear and read should “spur us on toward love and good deeds.”

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Along with a good, balanced diet, we need to exercise our faith. We need to regularly put our faith into action, real action that makes a difference. Just like a physical workout, a spiritual workout should hurt a little. It should tire us out to some extent. It needs to involve real activity. We need to get up off our backsides and serve the needy, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. We need to turn our knowledge of God’s love for us, into an active display of love to the dying world around us.

There is certainly no lack of needs to be met. Whether the jungles of Africa a world away, or right next-door, our world is full of people in need. A people in need of food, shelter and love. It’s our job to get out there and help in any and every way we can.

But it’s not just a matter of meeting needs or helping the less fortunate. This is a matter of our own spiritual health. We need to be out there helping and serving just as much as those people need to be helped and served. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.

Think about it, and then do something about it.

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