The Gospel and Eating Disorders
Introduction: The Bible does not address such eating disorders as anorexia and gluttony by name. However, there are biblical principles that do relate to such abnormalities. Anorexia is defined as, "Lack of appetite and ability to eat, often based on abnormal psychological attitudes" (RHCD). A simple definition of gluttony is, "Excessive eating and drinking" (Ibid.). Eating problems can be more than a root physical problem, if you will, especially in the case of Anorexia Nervosa. We read, "Emotional difficulties are the root of many cases of anorexia" (Encyclopedia of Psychological Problems, by Clyde M. Narramore, pg. 38). Some believe that the way Americans eat and the perceived weight problem that characterizes so many today constitute a serious health concern.
I. The gospel is to control our thinking.
A. Many have such a limited understanding of the gospel that they have not come to realize the scope of the gospel. Some erroneously believe the gospel only consists of facts to be believed. While the gospel does involve "facts to be believe," there is so much more embraced by the term "gospel" (see addendum).
B. The scriptures teach: " bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10: 5).
a. Certain thoughts can be sinful, even though they are not executed (cp. Matt. 5: 28). The scriptures tell us what is to fill our minds and thoughts (Phili. 4: 8 cp. Prov. 4: 23).
II. The gospel is to control our conduct.
A. Again, so many have been taught the false gospel of grace only. However, man is under obligation to God (2 Cor. 5: 15,).
B. In fact, grace teaches us how to and how not to live (Tit. 2: 11-14). The "word of grace" is God's instrument to teach us (Acts 20: 32, see addendum).
a. Peter's racial conduct was condemned "according to the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2: 14). Hence, the gospel is the standard and criterion that determines right and wrong conduct in general cp. Jn. 12: 48).
III. God provides daily food.
A. The scriptures teach we are to be thankful for our daily food (Matt. 6: 11, Acts 27: 35).
B. Our bodies are to be maintained and used in God's service (Rom. 12: 1). Hence, the serious and harmful deprivation of food from our bodies in the case of anorexia is not good and normal (cp. Lk. 15: 14 ff.).
C. The other extreme is gluttony. Gluttony and anorexia have one thing in common, lack of control (I Cor. 9: 25-27, 2 Pet. 2: 19). Anorexia and gluttony can be serious and life threatening. As a rule, such problems are symptomatic of more serious problems.
IV. Some root problems that prompt eating disorders.
A. The gospel provides the means of being mentally healthy and avoiding psychological problems.
a. Freedom of excessive guilt (cp. Acts 2: 37-41, I Jn. 1: 7-9).
b. An understanding of our origin, purpose, and destiny (Gen. 1, 2; Eccl. 12: 13; Matt. 25: 46).
B. By living the life of a Christian, one enjoys to a large extend, the avoidance of the terrible consequences of sin (cp. I Pet. 3: 10-12, Prov. 13: 15).
C. There are three common problems that are especially sited as being behind many eating problems. The gospel addresses these matters (in addition to lack of control) and provides the necessary remedy:
a. Excessive worry (cp. Phili. 4: 5; Lk. 8: 14; Matt. 6: 25-34).
b. Fearfulness (cp. Phili. 4: 13, 2 Tim. 1: 7).
c. Insecurity (Jn. 10: 27-29, Jude 24, cp. vs. 21, and Rom. 8: 35-39).
Conclusion: I concur that we must be careful in addressing specific cases of what we view to be eating disorders. Some eating challenges can stem from physical abnormalities which require medical attention. Also, some may not be in a compromise situation because of perceived overweight. However, there are many cases in which there are eating disorders that need to be admitted and improved. The gospel can, in these cases, provide much help.
Addendum: If you would like to read more about "The Gospel" and "God's Grace," click on each hyperlink, respectively.