Should My Pastor Tell Me to Lose Weight?
By Fin Sheridan
I was chatting with a friend recently and he was talking about a conversation he’d had with his pastor and mentor. My friend was keen to make the most of the new year and so had sought out some time with his pastor to chat about some changes and for some spiritual direction.
Amongst the conventional advice around the importance of a growing relationship with Jesus, being connected into community and pursuing his girlfriend in a godly manner, the pastor also suggested something that took me by surprise: he asked my friend about fitness and encouraged him to lose some weight.
My friend totally agreed with him and is actively changing his diet but it got me thinking: Should a pastor tell someone to lose weight? Is advice about my friend’s physical condition helpful for him spiritually?
“God places people in our lives who are responsible and accountable for us and he’s going to hold them responsible for how they did.”
Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about pastoral advice and how we should respond to it.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Hebrews 13:17
This verse encourages us to listen to those that God has placed over us in spiritual leadership because they “keep watch over us as those who must give an account”. God places people in our lives who are responsible and accountable for us and he’s going to hold them responsible for how they did.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8
Paul, writing to a young man that he mentors called Timothy, encourages him to be fit: both spiritually and physically. Physical health is beneficial for us: it is good stewardship of the body that God has given us. A healthy body makes a clear difference to our energy levels and our ability to work hard, to spread the gospel and build the kingdom. Our minds and our souls benefit from bodies that are well nourished and looked after.
So, whilst it’s unconventional pastoral advice, it’s certainly helpful. For my friend, keen to grow and progress in his faith journey, better eating and disciplined exercise might be the most spiritual thing he can do.