In the Seventh-day Adventist church I grew up in we embraced dietary restrictions, dietary and lifestyle counsel, and what Seventh-day Adventists recognize as the “health message.”
Several biblical accounts illustrate that God’s people—e.g., Samson, John the Baptist, and ancient Israel—followed certain health routines and diets. More than symbolic, ceremonial, and a way to set His people apart, the special diet had a beneficial effect. A favored example is the story found in Daniel 1 of the four young Hebrew captives and how they grew healthier and wiser on a simple diet rather than the rich foods and meats from the king’s table.
In addition to fortifying the whole person, good health would enable us to better achieve God’s purposes, and a clear and healthy mind can better hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Like people of some other faiths and denominations, we follow a diet free of meat from animals intended to be scavengers (see Leviticus 11). We avoid substances and chemicals that could compromise one’s judgment or will, or cause lingering damage to the body. We seek a lifestyle balance in time and resources, something we call temperance or moderation. We learned to respect the fact that underpinning all life is the power of God and to trust Him.
While medical science has documented that good health extends the lifespan, and reduces the risks of certain diseases, I’ll admit that throughout the years it has been easy to drift from what is sometimes perceived as fussy restrictions, and to gravitate toward an “easier, more normal” lifestyle. This meant choosing foods that were easy to access, easy to prepare, and able to be consumed in the car. Being on the go sometimes means enabling oneself to keep going—pumping up on caffeine, and energy drinks and bars. With good sleep interrupted, such substances as a good shot of “so you can rest” medicine helped. Add to this a sense that downtime has no value, and only personal, restless effort marks the potential for career success. Cranky and impatient, headachy and gloomy, palpitations and untraceable pains emerge, and foreboding symptoms go unaddressed. Now, it’s just normal—blood pressure problems, relationship stresses, and a God who cannot be seen or heard.
So it was a strange reawakening for me when I heard Los Angeles fashion designer and art collector Ron Finley’s TED Talk. He intrigued me with a perspective I used to embrace. (See his story on page 8.) I was energized at the idea that it is radical to take one’s health into one’s own hands by eat- ing whole, natural foods. I was reinvigorated by his disgust at the unavailability of fresh, nutritional foods in his urban neighborhood. When I heard him counter the idea that we are doomed to be sick and unhealthy, and saw how he planted fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs in undervalued dirt, dis- carded buckets and pots, I remembered the simple means that Jesus used to impart healing to the masses.
Finley possesses no formal medical, agricultural, or religious inclinations, nor is he even particularly health con- scious. He just has enough insight to know that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I used to know that. I know that.
Think of the scriptures detailing how Jesus tended to throngs of pained, debilitated, and ostracized people (Matthew 8:16, 17). He had to stop, to rest, but pressed on in healing and imparting life to all, regardless of their preexisting conditions (Mark 5:26-34), their lifestyle choices (John 5:1-15), and national origins that would have disqualified them from His benefits (Mark 7:24-30). Twice He even took time to heal and feed people in a food desert (Matthew 14:15, 16 and 15:30-38). Hence, the words of Jesus ring true: “I come that you have life, and life more abundantly.” Be in good health, I tell myself. I say the same to you.
1 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copy- right © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
2 Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.