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Sugar in its various forms: the drug of choice among Christians

According to the November/December 2010 issue of the magazine Diabetes Self-Management, “Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States, and the number of new cases continues to increase here, as well as around the world. Of the approximately 7.8% of Americans who currently have diabetes, 9 out of 10 have Type 2 diabetes. In the past, the onset of Type 2 diabetes typically occurred in middle age. But today, Type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed in young adults and even in children at alarming rates. Experts estimate that 1 of 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime. While Type 2 diabetes is largely influenced by environmental factors…”

What environmental factors are these?

Headline story

On December 1, 2010 the headlines of Houston’s major newspaper the Houston Chronicle blared:

REPORT SOUNDS DIABETES ALARM

‘SHOCKING’ PROJECTIONS: The number of Texans with diabetes will nearly quadruple from 2.2 million to 8 million in the next 30 years, threatening the solvency of the state’s medical system, according to a state report released Tuesday…

About 1 in 12 Texans have diabetes today…

The growing numbers of diabetics could threaten the solvency of Texas hospitals and health clinics, the report warns.

Although there is no known cure, early screening, diagnosis and treatment can prevent or reduce serious consequences of diabetes, including heart attack, stroke, blindness, amputations and kidney failure.

More nutritional meals and exercise can help prevent diabetes. But the tendency to eat more fast food has resulted in a growing epidemic of obesity among Texas children, according to the report, which notes that more than 20 percent of Texas children between the ages of 10 and 17 are considered obese.

Children also don’t get enough physical exercise.

“You put those two factors together, and it’s a disaster,” said Dr. Victor Gonzalez, chairman of the Texas Diabetes Council.

Type 2 diabetes, then, is caused primarily by the two factors of bad eating habits and lack of exercise.

Are God’s people exempt?

Although we know of no scientific study on the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in the Church, it’s obvious simply from observation that we are not exempt. Even among pastors and servants of God not a few are overweight or obese and suffer from the disease. 

How can we explain such a disturbing development in God’s temple?

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 

Our physical body is a temple of God’s Spirit, and it belongs to God. We are commanded to honor God with our body. This includes not only abstaining from sexual sin, but also the proper maintenance of our bodies. We are stewards of our bodies which God purchased with the blood of Christ. It is through our physical bodies that we move in the world and serve the Lord. If we in some way mistreat our bodies and diminish the health He gives us, we are essentially sinning against His temple.

For this very reason the Church rails against the sin of smoking. For the same reason (and other reasons as well) we condemn the sin of excessive drinking and drunkenness. But—perhaps hypocritically—no one dares to speak out against the sin of doing harm to God’s temple by eating poorly and overeating. In fact, few would even dare to call it a “sin.”

Fox News also reported in December 2010 that over 74 million Americans now have high blood pressure. According to WebMD, some of the factors which may play a role in the development of this condition are being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, and too much salt in the diet. It sounds all too familiar.

Smoking and drinking are taboo, but not overeating

If a preacher dared to speak out against the poor eating habits of many Christians resulting in the Type 2 diabetes epidemic in the Church, there would be howls of protest followed by a painful exodus of members from his church. (That’s partly why it’s not taught.) He would be accused of bringing us back under the yoke of the Law and “ministering condemnation.” After all, Christ died to set us free from such rules. We are no longer under Law, but now under “grace.” After all, Christ declared all foods to be clean (Mark 7:19). We may eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (1 Corinthians 10:25-26).

Those who raise such objections, however, fail to understand that when Jesus declared all foods to be clean, he meant that we could eat anything sold in the meat market without directly defiling ourselves spiritually. Jesus was not at all releasing us from the potential physical effects on our bodies by eating certain unhealthy foods.

Indeed, “‘everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’—but God will destroy them both.” (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)

Yes, because I am under grace everything is permissible for me, and I can eat anything I want. But not everything is beneficial for me. And I should not be mastered by anything, including food and especially unhealthy foods.

Of course, the context of 1 Corinthians 6 is focused on sexuality immorality and not on food. But it is not a stretch to include food in Paul’s warning for today’s sugar-addicted culture. Just as sexual immorality is bad for the body, so is a poor and unhealthy diet.

 

Self-control

And that is the problem for not a few Christians. They are addicted to and mastered by food—by overeating, and by eating those foods which contribute to Type 2 diabetes. They lack self-control in this area.

Self-control is one of the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit which Christians should produce. If we lack this fruit of the Spirit, there is some possibility that we will become nearsighted and blind and forget that we have been cleansed from our past sins. In contrast, if we have self-control we are taking a necessary step in making our calling and election sure.

2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 

8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

It is moreover possible that lack of self-control in the area of eating can affect self-control in other areas of a believer’s life, leading to more serious sins directly affecting our relationship with God.

Changing the grace of God into a license for immorality

By citing the “grace of God” as a rationalization or even an excuse for our poor eating habits, we are heading in a direction of which Jude warned us to beware.

Jude 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 

The Church has been moving in this direction for a generation, and now the Type 2 diabetes epidemic—among other consequences as well—is clearly a result of the misapplication of God’s grace. We have turned it into a license for overeating and eating poorly.

According to one expert, the intake of sugar into the body puts its defenses to “sleep” and thus can allow disease to enter unchallenged. Eating foods produced from sugar gives us a pleasant feeling of well-being—a deceptive, sugar-induced nirvana. In a similar way, God’s “grace” has put the Church to sleep and allowed the enemy to come into our midst practically unchallenged. The sugar-coated, feel-good, God-bless-me gospel we are fed today is turning us into the lukewarm, self-deceived Church of Laodicea. We say, ‘We are rich; we have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But we do not realize that we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17)

The grace of God when properly understood and applied can result in healthy believers—both spiritually and physically.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…

The true grace of God, among other even more important things, enables us to say “No” to overeating and eating poorly. The grace of God enables us to exercise self-control and deny ourselves the “pleasure” of overeating and overindulging in unhealthy foods. The true grace of God frees us from slavery to all forms of sin and puts us in a position of authority over the works of our flesh.

 

What about physical exercise? 

1 Timothy 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

According to Paul, physical exercise is of some value. Although godliness is of course far more important, physical exercise can hold some promise for this present life. 

If we take care of our physical body with exercise and proper diet, we can glorify God with it in this life. We can serve Him actively and bear more fruit for Him in His harvest field. If we suffer from poor health, our time, energy, and resources for serving the kingdom of God will obviously be limited or even curtailed. And experts now tell us that poor health due primarily to unwise eating habits has become a national epidemic in the United States. And it is spreading to developing countries as they become westernized.

The Church must repent from this sin. There are of course worse sins, but it is high time to address this sin. We must exercise authority and self-control over our eating habits; we must be good stewards over the Lord’s temple. And we may reap spiritual benefits as well. God’s wonderful promise from Psalm 92 can be fulfilled in us.

Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…

For additional reading: Study shows sugar is toxic — blamed for ‘diabetic epidemic’


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