The Thin Idol (Or: The Idolatry of Being Thin)

In our superficial culture where outward appearance is everything, it’s easy for us to become obsessed with our looks.

Because Elyse Fitzpatrick understands these struggles, she wrote Love to Eat, Hate to Eat.  This isn’t a Christian dieting or Christian exercise book.  Instead, it’s a Bible-filled guide on following Christ without being enslaved to diet, exercise, weight, or size.  I’m not quite finished with the book, but so far I really appreciate it because it has reminded me of the biblical perspective on these things.

 

We would be wrong if we thought that eating disorders and obsession with weight and size were things that only teenage girls struggled with.  In fact, many adult women struggle with these things, as do men of various ages.  In our superficial culture where outward appearance is everything, it’s easy for us to become obsessed with our looks.  How many (dangerous) fad diets have come and gone, and come back?  How many fad exercise routines and regiments have come and gone, and come back?  This is even tough on Christians; sometimes our desire to be a certain weight or size is stronger than our desire to follow Christ.  Yes, I’m thinking of idolatry.

Because Elyse Fitzpatrick understands these struggles, she wrote Love to Eat, Hate to EatThis isn’t a Christian dieting or Christian exercise book.  Instead, it’s a Bible-filled guide on following Christ without being enslaved to diet, exercise, weight, or size.  I’m not quite finished with the book, but so far I really appreciate it because it has reminded me of the biblical perspective on these things.  For example, here’s one helpful selection:

“…I’m going to say something that may seem rather surprising.  You know, I’ve read the Bible straight through many times, and I’ve never found any Scripture that commands or even commends thinness!  Think of that.  I don’t believe that there is any verse in either the Old or New Testament that encourages Christians to be thin or states that being thin is a mark of godliness.  Keeping in mind the fact that God’s Word, the Bible, is our guide for life, it appears that many of us (including me) have spent much of our lives chasing after something that God doesn’t seem to think is very important.”

“[However,] just because God doesn’t command thinness doesn’t mean that we should ignore our health or our eating habits. …While there are some biblical concerns that can be brought to bear on our health and eating habits – such as learning to desire only Him, thinking about your life the way that He does, and learning to discern whether your eating habits are godly – the whole matter of ‘thinness for thinness’ sake’ isn’t one of them.”

“Seeking after thinness merely for appearance’s sake is not a godly goal.  That’s because it falls into the categories that we have already been discussing – such as the pursuit of outward beauty (which the Bible calls vanity) and all of its attending futility.  The kind of beauty that God desires for you is found in 1 Peter 3:4: ‘…the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.’  It is called the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life) in Galatians 5:22-23…. [It is found in Proverbs 31:] “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), 45-46.

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.