The apostle Paul provided this declaration which, I fear, serves as an indictment against many of us who are ministers of Christ’s gospel: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27 [ESV]). While I doubt that Paul had his body mass index in mind, surely one’s weight would come under the need for self-discipline in our increasingly sedentary society.
Being a disciple of Christ, by definition, requires self-discipline. There is much we should do which at times runs counter to our inclinations. Bible reading and meditation, prayer, personal evangelism, and study necessitate our doing what we may not want to do. We must discipline ourselves to do what we need to do, and there is always a struggle in some area.
What about one’s weight? Does it really matter if a minister is obese? I think it does. A minister of the gospel noted for his refusal to deny his appetite for food can hardly impress others when he preaches the need to reign in one’s inclinations in order to practice spiritual disciplines.
When a congregation hears its obese minister waxing eloquent about their need to discipline themselves in the practice of some spiritual discipline (fasting, anyone?), members can be forgiven if they respond with a collective “get real.” Folks may not make it an issue publicly, but you can be sure it’s fodder for many private conversations and snide asides.
I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not saying that a minister has to look like a well-trained athlete. I’m not talking about one’s being a bit overweight. I am calling attention to what few want to point—obesity. Away with excuses; away with “who cares?”
What to do? It’s not rocket science. It’s a matter of taking charge of our lives, making some lifestyle changes, and being an example for others. What must not continue are attitudes of indifference or making excuses.
Paul’s admonition concerning sexual purity doubtlessly is applicable to one’s weight: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV).