Is Dieting Really a False Religion?

What did you think about Wednesday’s post? Is dieting really a false religion? Let’s explore that some more. Here’s how Bible Gateway defines false religion:

The worship of anything that is not God, including any form of religion that fails to do justice to the glory and majesty of God. Scripture criticizes both the practices and the beliefs of false religions.

Does dieting fail to do justice to the glory and majesty of God? It would seem so. Keep in mind that we are talking about sinful behavior. Dieting in and of itself is probably neither good or evil. However, how it is used can be. If I am careful with what I eat in response to a medical condition, then, of course, it’s not a false religion. On the other hand, if it is used as a remedy of sinful behavior, then it probably is.

The question is whether gluttony is your sin. Are you using diets to correct past over indulgences? Then your diet could very easily turn into a false religion. According to the Boston Medical Center, 45 million Americans go on a diet every year and spend $33 billion doing it. That’s $733 per person a year! According a study cited in Outside Magazine, Americans spent $264 billion on physical activity in 2018 alone! Can you guess what their conclusion was? Here’s the title of the article, “The Great Fitness Scam. The United States leads the world in spending for health and fitness but still ranks lowest in measurements of actual health. How do we break the cycle?” 

Judge for yourself whether or not diet and exercise programs are effective. I don’t think they are. I’ve tried a bunch of both and find I’m no better off over the long haul than I was before I started. Every time I start something new, or restart something I tried before, I promise myself this time will be different. It never is.

I promise myself this time will be different. It never is.

I think it’s safe to say that while diets and exercise programs can produce change, they fail because they don’t change the basic condition: gluttony and laziness. As soon as we let up, things quickly revert back to the way they were. On the other hand, we can go overboard and become fanatics about it. That’s simply another underlying sin that becomes exposed.

But does any of this dishonor God? Is dieting a false religion? Maybe we can see by answering a simple question. How do you respond to this question, “You look great! What have you been doing?” I don’t know about you, but I answer with this or that diet and this or that exercise program. I like when people say good things about me and I can encourage them while they do so. It makes me feel special. “I’ve done the impossible! Here, let me help you. You don’t have what it takes, but I can use my strength to help you succeed!”

I’m exaggerating. Or am I? Maybe I’m the only one, but I like praise. I like to think that I’m special. I like to think that I really matter to others. But is this the way to do it? It sounds frighteningly similar to this:

Luke 4:5-7 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

The truth of the matter is that I should respond to, “You look great!” by saying instead, “You know, this is one more effort to prove my vanity. You’ll recognize the real me before long. I’ve failed more times than I care to remember.”

Do you remember yesterday’s lesson in which Paul wrote to the Colossians?

“These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

Colossians 2:23

The truth of the matter is that I want diets and exercise programs to glorify me. If I really want to break the sin of gluttony, I know I can’t do it myself. Heck, I’ve proven that countless numbers of times. It’s impossible for me to break sin. Any effort I spend on that is glory I’m trying to steal from Jesus.

That’s the bottom line, folks. My efforts of dieting and exercise are only going to prove that I am trying to steal Jesus’ glory for myself. Wasn’t it Satan who said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:14) My use of dieting is a false religion.

Gluttony is a problem for me because I have no self-control. I can’t train myself to have self control with food. Ironically, I have a great gifting of self-control — in other areas – but not with food. If I should get any, it will be from God and God alone. It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit, something money can’t buy.

Father, I thank you for opening my eyes to my sin. Keep working it so that it is a lesson that I will never forget. Expose my sin so that I hate it. I desire to repent fully, not just lip-service but in full. Godly repentance. I do desire to honor you with my body. Somehow, you’ll need to change my inner desire to praise myself so that I instead give ALL the praise to you. Amen.

Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers

Photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash

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