Obesity and the Bible

In my quest to anger as many evangelicals as possible, it seemed this would be a great chance (that was a joke). A couple years ago I challenged myself to running my first Tough Mudder.

I walked it.

In case you don’t know, Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces. They have about 20-25 obstacles per course. In training for this, I dropped about 25 pounds. This was my introduction to the subject of fitness and nutrition. As with everything in my life, I wanted to know, “How does it relate to God and the Bible?”

So, I looked up every source I could find – maybe you can find more? – regarding obesity in the Bible. I found three places where it is mentioned. Notice, first of all, the absolute lack of mention. This should tell us something. Apparently, the writers of the Scriptures so expected that we wouldn’t be obese that they just flat out didn’t even mention it. Let us take a look at the three times it is mentioned:

Judges 3:12-23 (but read the whole chapter)
The Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord, and so God allowed them to be oppressed by Moab. The king of Moab – Eglon – attacks Israel with the help of the Ammonites. Israel cries out for deliverance. A man named Ehud is raised up to deliver Israel from her oppression. In verse 17 we read, “He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man.” First mention. Ehud tells the king that he has something to present to him as tribute, and Eglon sends the people out. Ehud then stabs the king and kills him, but notice the testimony in verse 21-22: “Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out of his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.”

This is like the ultimate fat joke.

This king was soooo fat… that when you punch him in the stomach, his fat sucks your hand in! (In this case, sword…)

What is the next time obesity is mentioned?

1 Samuel 4:12-18
Eli the priest is sitting at the gate of the city Shiloh. There has been a war going on against the Philistines. The report is brought that his two sons have died in battle. The Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant, which is seen as the very throne of God in the eyes of the Israelites. Notice verse 18, Eli’s response to this news: “When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy.” First, note that falling backward in the Scripture is always a sign of judgment. Second, notice that Eli’s obesity is not the main focus, but rather an added detail just to show you the corruption and wickedness of this priest.

So we have a second fat joke.

This priest was sooooo fat… that when he fell off his chair, he broke his neck.

What is the third reference?

Job 15:20-35
Job’s “friend” Eliphaz is giving a discourse on the wicked man. He mentions that the wicked will suffer torment and ruthlessness. He speaks of the despair that is in store for the wicked. He mentions the judgment against the wicked by God. Then we reach verse 27, where the story seems to change. “Though his face is covered with fat and his waist bulges with flesh, he will inhabit ruined towns and houses where no one lives, houses crumbling to rubble.” Notice again that the obesity is not the main focus, but is an added detail just to show how wicked this made-up man is.

What do all three of these passages have in common? The obesity is never the actual issue being addressed. It is always a passing detail that is added to show for the amount of wickedness of the person. This causes me to ask some very sober questions. Is it possible that obesity is so foreign to the mind of the godly that the Bible simply just doesn’t address it directly? Is it possible that obesity is such a sign of lack of discipline that it is only ever associated with the wicked? Is it actually possible that only the wicked are obese?

These are difficult questions, and I don’t think I can give honest answers.

What I can say is this:

It is abundantly clear that obesity and the lack of discipline do go hand in hand. I know of those who are very disciplined in their life before the Lord, but when it comes to their physical body, they are quite undisciplined. How can this be so? My contention isn’t necessarily with the obesity itself, but rather with the heart that would consider it a non-issue.

Some would even say, “Well, I’m going to get a new body anyway!”

Whether that is true or not can be debated. What is more important is to note the attitude in that statement. From where is that statement drawn? Is it drawn from a heart that desires to please God, whatever that might mean? Or is it drawn from the heart that desires to please self?

I’m not sure how many of you have had the same experience as I, but I’m going to assume that you also have seen the evangelists, prophets, apostles, etc that claim to be doing big things for God, but their testimony is completely questionable simply because they obviously weigh at least 250 pounds. How many speakers have you seen and heard where as soon as you look at them, you start calling into question their discipline before the Lord?

Partially, this is valid. Partially, this is not valid. There is indeed the connection between the two. How can you say that you are devoted to the Lord, and at the same time be devoted to junk food, candy, and all sort of other unhealthy habits that lead to obesity? It isn’t a matter of having a “healthy diet”, and the people who are obese know exactly what I’m talking about.

It is true, I haven’t ever been obese.

And yet, even being at the place where I was beginning to turn toward 200 pounds I felt quite convicted of my weight and lack of physical ability. So, I want to challenge anyone who struggles with their weight. I want to give you a few resources to search this out. From what I’ve learned, it is 70% diet and 30% exercise (a round number guestimate, obviously). When I first started dieting, I told myself that I could have dessert, but if I ate it, I needed to do extra exercises. For cakes and pastry sweets, I had to do extra arm workouts. For oils and fried goodies, I had to do extra abdominal workouts. For chocolate and candies, I had to add extra distance to my walks or jogs. It was enough to cause me to question how badly I really wanted it.

So here is the biggest resource that I found to inspire me:


and to start a workout plan, I suggest using his video:


For information on nutrition, check out this website:


Also, I’ve found a lot of beneficial information here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/strengthcamp (be forewarned, there is obscene language)

Those sources should be enough to get you started. What is more important than learning the information is doing it. Okay, so I need to lose weight. How? Now that I know how, let’s do it. The biggest hinderance is not the lack of time or the lack of discipline. The biggest hinderance attitude. When I feel that this is necessary, I will make time for it. If I think it is something that “just needs to happen”… someday… then it’ll never happen. The choice is yours. First, how much do you truly believe the Scriptures and do you truly desire to please God with your life? Second, what are you going to do about?


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