Last year, Americans spent over ten billion dollars on reducing aids. They bought pills, powders, liquid protein, sweat girdles and every other device human ingenuity could devise — spending more than the national budget of Switzerland! What was your own contribution to this huge sum? Are you, like millions of others, concerned about your weight? If you had the means — and the willpower, of course — how much would you be willing to spend, or to sacrifice, to get rid of your excess poundage? Obesity is something everyone hates. But is obesity physical only? Can it not be spiritual also? It certainly can be — and it often is. Actually, spiritual obesity is much worse than physical obesity. Moreover, there aren't spiritual girdles for sale to deflate expanded egos, swollen pride or vanity. Are you as willing to struggle to reduce your spiritual obesity as you are your physical fat?
Through the Eye of a Needle
What a pity most people are more concerned with their physical condition than they are with their spiritual development! How many of those who faithfully follow the instructions contained in their crash-diet handbooks pay attention to the instructions given in another Manual — a much more important one — which helps us all to get rid of our spiritual fat? We don't seem to realize that excess spiritual calories are more harmful than excess physical calories. To overcome spiritual obesity one must follow a spiritual diet; this is the only way to have peace of mind and to experience spiritual growth. The disciples of Christ were often unable to understand His parables. They were even astounded by a statement Be made about the rich. A young man had approached Jesus to ask what he was supposed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Christ told him to keep the commandments. But the young man wasn't satisfied with that answer. He had done this as a matter of form since childhood. What did he lack? What else was there to do? When Christ told him to sell all that he possessed and give it to the poor, he walked away sorrowful and depressed, because he was very rich. Turning to His disciples, Christ said: "I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matt. 19:23-24). As you see, the young man was too fat with the pride of possession to be able to pass through "the eye of a needle." He was in dire need of a spiritual diet; he had to learn to detach himself from his material wealth — the obstacle which produced in him superfluous spiritual weight. He needed to be rid of it to enter into the Kingdom of God. However, he thought the price was too high to pay. He didn't wish to slim down in this way; he didn't realize that he was much too overweight with selfishness and the love of the world.
The Narrow Door
On another occasion, Christ gave His disciples the following teaching: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13-14). A "strait gate" and "narrow way" are certainly larger than the "eye of a needle." Nevertheless, to negotiate them also requires much spiritual thinning down — a spiritual diet which consists of disciplining ourselves, mastering our nature and deflating our ego. Generally speaking, we are all very tolerant of ourselves. We condone in ourselves what we are not willing to overlook in others. It seems as though — so far as we are concerned — the golden rule is a one-way street: We want to be well treated by everyone regardless of how we treat them. This is tantamount to entering through the wide gate and following the broad way which leads to destruction. Anyone who has ever followed a diet of any kind knows that one has to learn to say "no" to things which are forbidden in his diet. A spiritual diet requires as much determination and strength of will — if not more. If you can learn to say, "No, thank you," when physical food is concerned, you can also learn to say, "No, thank you," to thoughts or acts which are not permitted in your spiritual diet. Jealousy, selfishness and vanity have the same effect on your mind as fattening foods have on your body. They produce spiritual obesity, which not only hinders you from going through the eye of a needle, but also from entering "the strait gate." Flattery, gossip and spreading of rumors — like sugary products — may provide you with "interesting" conversation, but will heavily add to your spiritual avoirdupois. The next time you find yourself in these circumstances, have the courage to say to yourself — or to those who are around you — "No, thank you. I'm on a diet!"
Our Diet Handbook
Humanity today for the most part rejects the only Handbook which is the authority on spiritual dieting: the Bible. Why? For one reason, people don't like to believe that the Bible really contains all the essential principles in life — both physical and spiritual — which are so desperately needed to keep our bodies and minds in good shape. Whatever your religion or beliefs, they cannot alter the truth: The Bible is the indispensable Handbook that helps us to follow the "narrow way" which leads to eternal life. It is our guideline, our Manual, our Instruction Book which contains all the necessary ingredients to maintain a good spiritual silhouette. One of the most basic of these is gratitude. Have you ever considered what you really have brought into this world? What have you contributed to it? How much have you done for others? What discoveries have you made that were not made before you? The apostle Paul wrote: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (I Tim. 6:6-8). Paul's tribulations taught him to practice what he preached. He was able to honestly write: "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:11-13). Gratitude, indeed, is one of the most efficient spiritual calorie-burners.
"To overcome spiritual obesity one must follow a spiritual diet; this is the only way to have peace of mind and to experience spiritual growth."
It will allow you to lose many unnecessary spiritual pounds. All God has created is good; the laws He has prescribed are good for us. The way He recommends us to follow is the only one that leads us toward the goal for which we have been created. When you seriously consider all these things, you can't help but feel a deep gratitude toward your Creator. Gratitude creates a desire to share with others, to help them to come to this understanding, to be grateful whatever their problems. Another effective calorie-burner recommended by our Creator in our spiritual diet is humility. Have you ever tried to use it — generously? Neither pride nor vengeance has any place in humility. Nor does selfishness The Bible tells us, "...in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:3-4). Humility is not to be confused with weakness or a lack of character. It takes a lot of courage and strength of character to be truly Christian. Perseverance requires a tough struggle against the obstacles and temptations in life. But God helps us to overcome them. He gives us His Spirit of love and courage when we repent of our sins and are baptized. You can be very strong — yet very humble. In fact, the humbler you are, the stronger you get. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (I Pet. 5:5-7). Examine your behavior and thoughts. Why do you act the way you do? What are your motives or reasons? Just how much space do pride and selfishness occupy in your mind? These are the undesirable calories — the spiritual "junk food" — that you need to watch in your spiritual diet. They are "empty calories" — utterly useless and harmful. You must eliminate them by the exercise of humility. "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility" (Prov. 15:33).
Other Great Calorie-Burners
The Bible speaks of other valuable calorie-burners: the "fruits of the Spirit" — joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). The first and foremost preventative, however — the first fruit of the Spirit of God — is love: love toward God and love toward your neighbor. All that you do, say and think should be founded on love; guided by it. Is this the case as far as you are concerned? Love never seeks to hurt anyone. It is not envious. It does not lust. Love is not puffed up with pride. On the contrary, it is full of humility and regards others more highly than itself. Love is patient; it knows how to wait without being irritated. It does not suspect wrong motives. Love forgives faults and forgets them — it never seeks vengeance (I Cor. 13). Again, ask yourself: Does this describe me? In essence, this is your spiritual diet. It does work if you follow it faithfully. You must learn to refuse to accept whatever is contrary to it. You will say, "No, thank you, it isn't good for me. It's not in my diet." You won't criticize people, you won't judge anyone, you won't speak evil of your neighbor, because such things add excess calories and increase your spiritual obesity. They are against love. They are prohibited in your Manual. How would you like to try this spiritual diet awhile? Isn't it more important than your physical diet? What good is the loss of a few physical pounds if you are spiritually gross? As Christ said: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37.) Actually, we are all much too fat — from a spiritual point of view — to enter the Kingdom of God. We must lose weight daily, get rid of all that is contrary to the teachings of our spiritual Handbook, the Bible. The apostle Paul admonished: "... let us lay aside every weight [including the excess spiritual baggage which drags us down], and the sin which doth so easily beset us..." (Heb. 12:1). What prevents you from trying this spiritual diet? It costs you a absolutely nothing, and guarantees your entrance into the Kingdom of God!
ADDITIONAL READING Why are we not more successful in living up to God's standard? Why do we slip and fall occasionally? How can we overcome where we are weakest and hardest tempted? These questions are answered in our reprint article "How to Be an OVERCOMER."