Which is more Biblical?

I want to start off with a question for all of my readers. Which of these three statements is most clearly taught in the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament?:

1. Delay of Marriage is a sin.
2. Deliberate Childlessness is a sin.
3. Harming or not taking care of your body is a sin.

The first two are very easily challenged. They are ideas that are completely foreign to scripture, and, I would argue that any methodology that you use to try to prove the first two will logically lead to exegetical chaos. However, we all heard the third one growing up from the time we were in Sunday school, and attending third grade in grammar school. Indeed, one need not even know Hebrew or Greek to know that these ideas are clearly expressed in scripture. Genesis 9:6 tells us that we are created in the image of God. Do we take the image of God and mutilate it through obesity, dangerous health risks, and all sorts of things that could be potentially damaging to your body? Such would appear to be blasphemy. What about 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which specifically says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we are not our own, and thus, we must honor God with our body? Do we seriously think that it is honoring to God that we tear down our bodies that he has created with obesity?

Such would appear to be blatantly obvious. In fact, there are other dangers of this kind of a lifestyle. If a woman wants to serve God in a marriage relationship, she is going to be far less likely to attract a man if she is obese, than if she is of normal weight. Now, we do need to add one caveat. There are diseases which can cause women to be naturally overweight. My sister, for example, has something called endometriosis, which is a disease where the feminine hormones in a woman’s body are highly concentrated around the ovaries, and they produce cists, some very large, which are incredibly painful. My sister will be extremely bloated for several days in a row, and them, magically, one day she will be normal size. I remember when the worst of this was going on she would look like she was pregnant one day, and normal the next. I pray for my sister, and I pray that one day she will meet someone who will love her any marry her. However, it is clear to anyone that a person who becomes obese because they do not take care of their body will, inevitably, not only have health problems as a result, but, if they desire to serve God in marriage, it will be far less likely that they will be able to attract a spouse.

This would seem obvious. Not only that, but I would also point out that it is true for both sexes. Men and women are called to take care of their bodies, since God has created them and made them good. We dare not trash the good gift that he has given us. That is the consistent message of both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. Hence, while it may have been somewhat harsh [that is the only even possible criticism I can come up with], Ted Slater of boundlessline.org wrote a piece about this challenging women in this vein. For some reason, it was deleted from the Boundless blog, and replaced with this post by Candice Watters, which, while it appears to feel the force of what Ted wrote, the message is so grossly watered down that it is almost useless.

Now, could Ted have been more sensitive in the way he put it? It is possible. Female weight issues are very personal, and it is not something where you can have a guy who is a stranger out on the street go up to a woman, and tell her that she is fat [unless, of course, he likes getting slapped in the face]. I mean, the title of Ted’s post is Maybe It’s Because Your Fat?. As I said, that is the only even possible criticism I can think of. However, the central message of Ted’s post is something that I think is very important to emphasize, not just to women, but to both sexes. I think the reason why Ted wrote it specifically to women is because women need to here this than men. However, obesity is enough of a problem that *both* sexes need to hear it. Hence, Ted’s post is still available online, and thus, I will repost it here, and then comment:

Maybe It’s Because You’re Fat- Ted Slater
So, I was spending time on a singles forum this morning, and came across a comment from a young lady who complained that she had never been on a date in her life. Next to her comment was her profile photo.
My first thought: Maybe it’s because you’re fat.
She wasn’t large-boned. She wasn’t full-figured. She wasn’t a bit pudgy. She was morbidly obese, an unhealthy beach ball of a woman.
The truth (and I’m navigating dangerously offensive territory here — out of a desire to lay out the plain truth) is that most men do not want to date women whose bodies betray a lifestyle of laziness and over-consumption. Any chemistry that might spark from such a woman’s bubbly personality simply fizzles like bacon grease splattering in a griddle.
Some women have medical problems that facilitate being overweight. Maybe a doctor can help you treat that, or maybe it’s just something that you’ve got to live with, with a clean conscience. (Truth to balance out my overall thesis: There are some guys that find chubbiness to be endearing.)
But other women simply pack in the calories while lounging in front of the tube, and then grumble that guys are so shallow that they’ll never give them a second chance. No, maybe they’re not shallow; maybe you’re just fat.
My wife enjoys watching “The Biggest Loser” (while running on her treadmill). That show is evidence that overweight gluttons can change their lifestyles, become healthy, and lose weight. They can come to steward their bodies in a responsible, disciplined way.
If you’re obese, you can do something about it. Maybe start by exchanging that second helping of lasagna for a salad, or that bag of chips for some celery and unbuttered popcorn, or that milkshake for a peach, or that cherry Coke for a glass of ice water. Then get a membership at the local gym, and get in shape. You’re not necessarily looking to become a twig; just try to get physically fit. People do this all the time; you can do it, too.
Don’t let your weight become a reason to feel sorry for yourself or feel condemned; see it as a wake-up call to take action in becoming a healthier person.
And who knows? Maybe after a few months and a dozen dropped pounds you’ll meet a formerly fat guy there who’ll ask you out on your first date.
(OK, I’m feeling a bit convicted to return to the gym myself. I’ve got my swim trunks in the car; maybe I’ll head out of work around 4 this afternoon.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but there is more in this post that is clearly Biblical than all of the arguments I have ever heard about delay of marriage and deliberate childlessness. Both sexes *need* to hear this. In fact, as a linguist who is trying to keep up with nine languages, continue to learn my cuneiform signs, study generative syntax, binding theory, x-bar theory, and all kinds of complicated syntactical and linguistic theory, as well as write articles which I hope to get published in journals, the reality is that you rarely ever take time for exercise, and I realize that I have gotten out of shape. This is *not good.* I used to be involved in archery when I was a child, and I am considering taking that up again [yes, I am one of those people who could only shoot at targets, so, if you love Bambi, you have no reason to hate me]. You have to find time to get away from just reading the Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Inscriptions, studying cuneiform and hieroglyphic texts, and reading books on linguistics in order to keep up with other things that are important, like the physical fitness of your own body.

It is simply hard to believe that things like “delay of marriage is a sin” and pejorative terms like “kidults” are thrown around by folks like Albert Mohler, and people are told that it is a sin to refuse to have children, but then, when there is a post challenging specifically women to take care of their bodies, something *completely* Biblical, it gets replaced with a post that is utterly useless. I guess that describes the state of singles ministry today. Contrary to what many of these folks think, I don’t mind being challenged. I found Ted’s post challenging to both men and women. I found it completely useful, and completely timely. However, I have found these ideas about delay of marriage and deliberate childlessness to be grossly unbiblical, and entirely driven by cultural problems. Yet, the unbiblical, pragmatic posts are allowed to stand, while the clearly Biblical post gets removed. I think that this says a whole lot about our priorities. We need to get back to The Bible as the foundation of our challenges to one another.

I think it also says a whole lot about Ted, namely, that he is willing to say things that are unpopular with the status quo in ministries to single adults. I would love to see more of this from Ted, challenging men and women on the basis of things that are clearly and unquestionably Biblical. I applaud him for stepping up to the plate, and saying something that needed to be said.

That being said, I also appreciated the caution of Jasmine Baucham. Yes, you read that right, Jasmine Baucham. Her and I would be absolutely on opposite sides of the page on so many issues. I don’t believe deliberate childlessness is a sin; I think that it is a gross misuse of Titus 2:5 to make that text have something to do with gender roles, etc. etc. etc. Her and I would be at odds with one another on *many* issues. However, even amongst people with whom you strongly disagree, you must admit when they have a good point, and Jasmine certainly does here:

We need to beware of obesity, for instance, not because we want to find a man… but because we want to keep healthy. We need to learn the difference between a fruitful dissatisfaction that leads to positive change… and a discontentment that leads to bitterness and covetousness.

Men are visible creatures, it’s true. But our brothers in Christ should be striving to look at young women through the eyes of the God we serve. As we strive to glorify the Lord through our clothing, appearance, and physique, we ought to trust that, when the right man comes along, he’ll notice more than a trim figure or amazing hair or mystifying eyes… he’ll notice a shared love for the King we serve. And it won’t matter that there are prettier, thinner, or blonder girls out there… because you’ll be one for him -and, if you focus on pleasing Christ before pleasing man, you’ll be beautiful in all the ways that truly matter.

Notice, again, you can find Bible verses that clearly support everything Jasmine is saying here. As I have always said, there needs to be a balance. Yes, God has made us to be very visual creatures, and to desire girls who look attractive. However, that needs to be united with a desire to find a woman who is Godly in how she lives her life. *Both* are important. Just as the Song of Songs extols a woman of great beauty, Proverbs 31 extols a woman of great wisdom. Just as the wisdom literature extols the goodness of sexual relations, it also says that it is more important that a person is wise.

Thus, I would argue that we need to be careful to remember that sometimes it is just simply living your life for Christ that God will use to bring two people together. Boaz didn’t have any romantic interest in Ruth until she came to him by night. Boaz and Ruth were two people being obedient to God, and doing what was right, and God used this to bring them together. Sometimes it is just a matter of doing what needs to be done, such as staying physically fit. Certainly, if you are interested in someone, let them know, and, certainly, there is nothing wrong with preparing for marriage if that is where you believe God is calling you. However, we need to always remember that our ultimate goal is to please God above all things.

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6 Responses to “Which is more Biblical?”

  1. barefootnmarried Says:

    This is an interesting post. I came over from Amir Larjani’s page, and I’m also glad Ted chose to post on that. I think he certainly could have done it in a kinder way (perhaps omitting “beach ball” would have been a start), but overall he made a great point.

  2. Anakin Niceguy Says:

    I agree the marriage mandaters have gone too far. Can a person be faithful without marriage? I think so, and you and I would be agreed against anyone who says otherwise. You know me well enough to know my take on that, PC.

    On the other hand, Eccl. 9:9 is in our Bibles for a reason. We were created to become “one flesh” with the opposite sex. We didn’t have any choice about the sudden rush of hormones at age 12. We don’t have any choice about the optimal time to bear children either. Modern society with its feminism, careeerism, “gift of singleness” theology, etc. is forcing human beings to do very unnatural things.

    It’s like expecting truck drivers to keep demanding schedules with little or no sleep. Sooner or later, there are going to be terrible highway accidents. Then all of a sudden people realize that truck drivers should only clock so many miles a day. We ignore the natural order of things at our peril. “All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient.” So it is with protracted singleness. In theory, I should be able to enter a Hooters restaurant and not lust. But the Bible tells me to be realistic about my human nature (Matthew 5:30). In theory, people should be unfazed by going without sex for a long time, but there is a realistic, pastoral advice in the Bible arguing against this (1 Cor. 7:1-5,9). In theory, I should be able to be a faithful Christian even if I grew up in a single parent household. However, I would not wish single parenthood or unwanted celibacy on any believer.

    Another way of putting this? We chastize the Vatican for enforcing celibacy on its priests. We decry it as being unnatural and a violation of 1 Timothy 4:1-3. And yet, our prevailing social structure enforces celibacy on young people for lesser reasons – “”Don’t rush marriage!” “Stop thinking so much about marriage!” “You need time to grow and get established.”

    Somehow we think we can ignore how men and women have related to each other for several millennia and push a new-fangled notion of “single and lovin’ it.” It’s nonsense. It’s like walking around with your pants around your ankles, and claiming your just as mobile as the next person. It’s like trying to drink a premium milkshake at Steak ‘n Shake with a coffee stirrer. It’s like praising the acoustics of two plastic cups tied together with kite string and thinking Verizon will be interested. Okay, I’ll stop now with the silly analogies.

  3. Jason Says:

    @ Anakin. 1 Timothy 5:8 however states this, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” So I feel therefore that it is important to be at least reasonabley able to provide a suitable, and stable livelihood for one’s family. And as the Apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians, singleness can be used in order to better serve God. Lastly there are supposedly some people whom are asexual that do not have sexual desire for either sex. I’ve heard that autists are statisticly more likely to be like this. @ Adam. My sister, Amy, has been complaining about men not showing interest in her. I might show her your post, if I’m not afraid of her possibly being upset at us both. 🙂 Nah, I need to remember to watch what I eat, and keep active too. Though I’m not particularly interested in attracting a mate.

  4. Jason Says:

    Oh, boy. I sent Amy a link to this blogpost; and this was what she responded back with. “Amy Michelle Stumpner June 30 at 9:38am Beauty is as beauty does.Sure you can date/marry someone who is fit/skinny,but she may also turn out to be a terrible person,or you can date/marry someone who is overweight/physically unfit and they turn out to be the sweetest Christian you ever met.
    Some people have really terrible metabolisms,like myself.They have a hard time losing weight no matter how hard they try.It also doesn’t help matters any when you have a sweet tooth and are a really good cook.Needless to say I haven’t learned the concept of cooking for others and not for myself.Yeah,I know I’m unhealthy and overweight,but still no one likes to be judged by how much they weigh.They want to be loved and accepted for who they are.Our society puts a lot of emphasis on being thin and looking good.Some people have a hard time looking like that or they simply can’t.Some are hurting and have deep emotional issues.Do you think they are going to feel better when you make an issue about their weight? .
    Amy Michelle Stumpner June 30 at 10:01am Likely they’ll be so hurt they’ll eat more,exercise even less,and put on even more weight.Or yeah,Adam’s and that other guy’s post could motivate them to lose weight so much that they become anorexic or bulimic.
    And what is that guy going to do if or when they do marry,his wife gets pregnant and afterwards can’t lose the baby fat she put on during the pregnancy.Any woman can tell you that it’s extremely hard to lose the extra weight a woman puts on during a pregnancy.Will he drop her because she is no longer his beautiful “fit” wife?It’s like that post is saying,I’m only interested,will only love and want you if you are skinny/fit.Well,I have news for you there is a good chance your wife won’t stay skinny/fit forever.Men have to fall in love with their girlfriends/wives for who they are not for what they look like.That must be the reason they marry her.Scripture even says,”Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,but a woman who fears the Lord,she shall be praised.” I think men and even some Christian men are promting the world’s mentality by only dating fit/skinny girls .
    Amy Michelle Stumpner June 30 at 10:20am (that word is to be promoting)
    Do you really think I don’t notice that it’s mainly the thin/fit girls that get asked out,even in the church? Yeah,I see it and to be honest it hurts ALOT.I tell myself that if someone doesn’t want to date me just because I’m overweight then they’re obviously not the one God has chosen for me and I’m really not interested.My life would be miserable,if I was married to them.Some guys can be really cruel and immature.Maybe that’s why I’ve had men old enough to be my father seem interested in me.These guys have grown up and realize it’s who a woman is that truly matters.
    What gets me is that Adam would post something like that and support that guy he quoted.He and I haven’t seen eye to eye on various theological issues,but I’ve always thought him to be a sweet guy.He of all people should know how it hurts to be judged by their outward appearance.Girls did it to him and had the audacity to tell him to his face that he was ugly.Which of course isn’t true. .
    Amy Michelle Stumpner June 30 at 10:30am Yes,I agree we’re suppose to take care of ourselves,but some people are having issues that affect their eating habits or cause them to be overweight.Wouldn’t it be better to befriend them and try to help them instead of making things worse by judging them? What would Jesus do?Would he have wrote an article like that,telling people they’re fat,lazy,and as a result disobeying Him.You want change then you have to get at the core of the problem not criticize the symptom.
    Man looks at the outward appearance,but God looks at the heart.
    I guess I have another cousin who says I’m fat.At least this cousin has the decency not to say it to my face.He’ll just write an article criticizing fat people in general,which in turn includes me.”

  5. Jason Says:

    Oh, boy. Here was what Amy responded back with, after i sent her link to Adam, her cousin’s post. “June 30 at 9:38am Beauty is as beauty does.Sure you can date/marry someone who is fit/skinny,but she may also turn out to be a terrible person,or you can date/marry someone who is overweight/physically unfit and they turn out to be the sweetest Christian you ever met.
    Some people have really terrible metabolisms,like myself.They have a hard time losing weight no matter how hard they try.It also doesn’t help matters any when you have a sweet tooth and are a really good cook.Needless to say I haven’t learned the concept of cooking for others and not for myself.Yeah,I know I’m unhealthy and overweight,but still no one likes to be judged by how much they weigh.They want to be loved and accepted for who they are.Our society puts a lot of emphasis on being thin and looking good.Some people have a hard time looking like that or they simply can’t.Some are hurting and have deep emotional issues.Do you think they are going to feel better when you make an issue about their weight? .
    June 30 at 10:01am Likely they’ll be so hurt they’ll eat more,exercise even less,and put on even more weight.Or yeah,Adam’s and that other guy’s post could motivate them to lose weight so much that they become anorexic or bulimic.
    And what is that guy going to do if or when they do marry,his wife gets pregnant and afterwards can’t lose the baby fat she put on during the pregnancy.Any woman can tell you that it’s extremely hard to lose the extra weight a woman puts on during a pregnancy.Will he drop her because she is no longer his beautiful “fit” wife?It’s like that post is saying,I’m only interested,will only love and want you if you are skinny/fit.Well,I have news for you there is a good chance your wife won’t stay skinny/fit forever.Men have to fall in love with their girlfriends/wives for who they are not for what they look like.That must be the reason they marry her.Scripture even says,”Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,but a woman who fears the Lord,she shall be praised.” I think men and even some Christian men are promting the world’s mentality by only dating fit/skinny girls .
    June 30 at 10:20am (that word is to be promoting)
    Do you really think I don’t notice that it’s mainly the thin/fit girls that get asked out,even in the church? Yeah,I see it and to be honest it hurts ALOT.I tell myself that if someone doesn’t want to date me just because I’m overweight then they’re obviously not the one God has chosen for me and I’m really not interested.My life would be miserable,if I was married to them.Some guys can be really cruel and immature.Maybe that’s why I’ve had men old enough to be my father seem interested in me.These guys have grown up and realize it’s who a woman is that truly matters.
    What gets me is that Adam would post something like that and support that guy he quoted.He and I haven’t seen eye to eye on various theological issues,but I’ve always thought him to be a sweet guy.He of all people should know how it hurts to be judged by their outward appearance.Girls did it to him and had the audacity to tell him to his face that he was ugly.Which of course isn’t true. .
    June 30 at 10:30am Yes,I agree we’re suppose to take care of ourselves,but some people are having issues that affect their eating habits or cause them to be overweight.Wouldn’t it be better to befriend them and try to help them instead of making things worse by judging them? What would Jesus do?Would he have wrote an article like that,telling people they’re fat,lazy,and as a result disobeying Him.You want change then you have to get at the core of the problem not criticize the symptom.
    Man looks at the outward appearance,but God looks at the heart.
    I guess I have another cousin who says I’m fat.At least this cousin has the decency not to say it to my face.He’ll just write an article criticizing fat people in general,which in turn includes me. “

  6. otrmin Says:

    Jason,

    First I don’t think your sister is fat at all.

    Second, we are not talking about people with metabolism problems. As I said in the post itself, we are dealing with people who are fat because they are lazy. In other words, we are talking about a woman who has no health problems, and sits in front of the TV all day eating pizza and potato chips with cookies and cupcakes for dessert until she is really fat, and then says that men are superficial and immature for not asking her out.

    As I said, there are guys who are attracted to heavy women. That balances all of this out. We do have to pray for our sisters in Christ who are heavy, not because of their own choice, but because of medical conditions. There *are* guys out there who will want to marry them, and we need to pray that God would bring them together. However, we also need to acknowledge that neither situation is commonplace, and that is why both women and men should seek [if they are physically able] to keep their weight down, because God commands us to take care of our bodies, and because of the fact that it removes a hinderance in finding a spouse.

    So, your sister can relax, as I don’t think she is heavy, and both the article I cited as well as my own comments make it very clear that we are not dealing with women who have medical problems. We need to pray for women who have medical problems that God would see fit to bring a man to them. However, we also need to criticize the people that are overweight because of their own lazy lifestyle choices. That is sin, pure and simple.

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