By Contributing Writer, Kim Doebler
I have often struggled with the exercise craze that seems to have overtaken our country. It seems so consuming for many, even like an addiction. Then I look around me at the super market and I see the other side of the coin. There is so much obesity and so many overweight people that it is almost rare to see a “thin” person.
Where does the Bible talk about exercising for an hour, five days a week? What does the Bible say is the healthiest weight?
What do I teach my children about exercise and weight control?
I haven’t found a work-out plan in the Bible, but I am convinced it is because in Biblical times their lives were so physical they didn’t need to go to the gym to break a sweat. More than pointing my children to the perfect workout routine, I am pointing them toward working hard. Hard, physical work will keep them fit, as well as accomplishing a task – unlike walking in place for an hour.
“It is good for a man to work hard in his youth.” Lamentations 3: 27
This was our number one reason for wanting to move to the country. It can be difficult to create physical work for children to do in the city. We wanted our children to learn to work hard, and the country allows us to accomplish that.
Working hard is the heart, but at times we may still need to slip in an exercise video to up our activity. There are seasons when physical work is hard to come by. Pointing our children to activity will push out laziness that leads to all kinds of trouble.
Exercise is good. We are to care for our bodies; they are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is easy to go to the extreme even with good things. As a rule, we want to help our children not have anything have too big of a hold on their lives. Whether it is exercise, book reading, cleaning, cooking, hygiene, add any other good thing, we must not allow them to become addictions that our children cannot live without.
There are two overweight people I remember being mentioned in the Bible. The pounds they weighed are not mentioned, just that they were “fat” and “heavy.”
Judges 3: 17, 19-23 “He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man.” “At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, ‘I have a secret message for you, O king.’ The king said, ‘Quiet!’ And all his attendants left him. Ehud the approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace …..As the king rose from his seat 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 his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.”
King Eglon gave into “a secret message;” he wanted to indulge his senses with a secret especially for him, and it cost him his life. This king was also use to being pampered; he was “sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace.” His summer palace infers there is at least a winter palace, perhaps even a spring and fall palace. Indulgence had become his down fall.
I Samuel 4: 18 “When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off is chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had led Israel forty years.”
Eli did not have enough self-control to control his own sons. They were priests, yet “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord.” (I Samuel 2: 12) He talked to them and asked, “Why do you do such things?” (I Samuel 2: 23) Yet, he lacked enough backbone or discipline to demand change or obedience from his sons. “His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke,” (I Samuel 2: 25)
Their weight was evidence of their self indulgence and lack of self control. Being overweight was only a symptom of not having self-control. Their lack of self-control effected many areas of their lives. Instead of demanding a certain number of pushups or the counting of calories, I am going to point my children to have all-around self-control. Gluttony is self-indulgence, so a life built around self-control will not be marked by eating too much.
“It (the grace of God) teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:12
Self-control does not come naturally. Even the above verse says “teaches us to live self-controlled.” We must teach our children to have self-control when it comes to eating. If left to themselves they will choose what tastes good, which most often means what is unhealthy. In order to control our selves we must know what the “right” choices are.
I will guide our children by informing them of why we serve vegetables at every meal, showing them what is in processed food, and explaining how empty junk food is of nutritional value. This information will give them the wisdom they need to make good food choices.
Balance is a goal. We are teaching them to eat to live while not becoming a food Nazi for other people. Having food knowledge allows freedom to eat a treat without letting treats become a main stay. When my children’s lives are guided by character, the character will keep them from any extremes.
The best exercise plan is hard work, and the best diet plan is self-control.