Key Scriptures: Daniel 1, Proverbs 17:22, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 10, Proverbs 12:25, 1 Timothy 4:8, Philippians 4:6-8, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 25:16, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Matthew 6:34, Romans 12:1-2, Genesis 1:29, Proverbs 23:20-21, 1 Kings 4:22-23
Guiding Question: Does God care what we do to our bodies? If so, what is important to Him?
Optional Introductory Activity: Give students a health inventory to take similar to the one found here https://www.health.state.mn.us/docs/people/childrenyouth/ctc/ayahlthqst-eng.pdf (Note: Some of these questions are of a sensitive nature. You may wish to edit this survey or discuss with parents how it will be used and whether or not students will be encouraged to share their answers and with whom.)
Ask students if they believe they are healthy. Have students explain their answers (It is important to handle issues like weight with sensitivity.) focusing on safety, nutrition, exercise, mental health, spiritual health and other health practices. Have students list the attributes of someone they would define as healthy physically, mentally and spiritually. Save the list to refer to at the end of the lesson.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read Daniel 1. What choices did Daniel and his friends make about their diet in this story? Why do you think they made those choices? The Bible doesn’t actually tell us exactly why Daniel and his friends rejected the food from the King’s table except for vegetables and water. We do know from sources outside of the Bible that the King’s diet probably included lots of meat and wine.
We can read 1 Kings 4:22-23 to see King Solomon’s daily food rations – five and a half tons of flour, eleven tons of meal, ten stall fed cows, twenty pasture fed cows, a hundred sheep and goats as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. It sounds like a tremendous amount of food, but remember Kings were often assassinated if they didn’t treat the people around them well. Thus many kings are famous for having regular lavish banquets. In addition, Solomon would have been feeding his multiple wives and children, servants and their families. In spite of the large number people being fed, this diet was high in meat, which is unusual for that area and time. People usually only ate meat on special occasions.
Daniel and his friends were obviously from a privileged background, but they may have known lots of meat and alcohol weren’t great for their bodies. Nutritionists today suggest limiting or eliminating meat and alcohol from one’s diet for various health reasons. Other scholars believe the food choice had more to do with their spiritual health. They may have rejected the meat and wine as having been sacrificed to idols or as a way to signal they would obey God over the King. Regardless, they made a controversial and potentially dangerous choice in order to be healthy.
Health is one area where the Bible gives us some general principles and commands and a few specific ones. In the Old Testament, God gave the Jewish people a lot of dietary and other health laws. He even gave them a long list of specific foods they could and could not eat. Peter’s vision in the New Testament freed us from those dietary laws. The rest of the New Testament is a bit ambiguous about specific foods, except for a couple of specific situations (1 Corinthians 10 discusses not eating meat sacrificed to idols if it would cause someone to stumble. It is probably not necessary to get sidetracked on this point at the moment.) . Let’s look at some scriptures and see if we can come to some conclusions about the choices God wants us to make regarding our health.
Before we get specific, what is the general guiding principle God wants us to bear in minds regarding how we take care of our bodies? Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Romans 12:1-2. What would you say God wants our guiding principle to be when making any choices that might impact our health?
God wants us to care for our bodies as if they were a temple for God or a living sacrifice to Him. The temple was considered an extremely important place. The priests worked diligently to keep it perfect – taking care of everything in it as much as humanly possible. We also know that animal sacrifices couldn’t be just any animal. They had to be the best…healthy and without blemish or disease. Now, God doesn’t expect our bodies to be perfect and He doesn’t reject us when we become ill or injured. The scripture is merely telling us we should take care of our bodies as carefully as the people took care of the Temple and the animals that would be sacrificed.
In Corinthians 9, Paul gives us a hint of what we will need to do to be successful in caring for our bodies (and the implied minds and souls within them). What does Paul say we will need to be successful? Why is self control so important to caring for our bodies, minds and souls? Remember, self control is a fruit of the Spirit. While anyone can practice self control, Christians who have the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit also have the extra help the Holy Spirit can provide when they need self control. Our self control in how we care for our bodies also shows others the difference God can make in our lives.
When we think of self control and caring for our bodies as a living sacrifice, we usually think about diet and exercise. The Bible also talks, not surprisingly, about mental and spiritual health, too. Read the following verses. What additional information do they give us about how God wants us to live a healthy life? Proverbs 17:22, Proverbs 12:25, 1 Timothy 4:8, Philippians 4:6-8, Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 25:16, Matthew 6:34, Proverbs 23:20-21.
What are some area of health for which we have not read scriptures? What choices do you think God would want us to make in those areas? Why do you believe those are the best choices? (Safety, sleep, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, vaping, exercise, at risk sexual behaviors, hygiene and other topics can be discussed. It is important to focus on the basic principles in scripture and not try to force a scripture to say something specific it doesn’t mention. For example, wearing a safety belt is a wise healthy choice to make that would fall under the scriptures previously discussed. To try and imply a specific verse prophesied about safety belts and the need to wear them or was obviously talking about safety belts would not be appropriate.)
Read Ephesians 2:10. Why might this be one of the reasons God wants us to take good care of our health physically, mentally and spiritually? What might happen if we don’t take the best possible care of ourselves?
Skills Activity: Review the major points from the lesson. Have students look at their original health inventory and circle any areas where they believe they could make healthier choices. They may or may not choose to share what they circled.
Teens are beginning to experience more freedom in choosing what they eat, how much they sleep and exercise and whether or not they participate in high risk activities. Depending upon the students in your class, you may want to help them develop a plan for a healthy diet by finding nutritious foods they enjoy and grouping them in healthy, balanced meals. You may want to give them some easy to cook meal or snack recipes and teach them how to cook those things. Or you might wish to help them each devise a workout routine they will enjoy, that will also give them the exercise they need.
If students are more concerned about issues like anxiety and depression, consider having a mental health practitioner come in and give them helpful tips. You might want to pair that person with someone who can teach a stretching and breathing routine they can use to help relax.
If students are more concerned about their spiritual health, consider having a panel of older, faithful, productive Christians come in and share with the class various tips for growing and staying healthy spiritually. If you have enough adults, you could also set up prayer partners or mentor relationships for the students.
Regardless of which area you choose as your focus, be sure to at least touch on the others. Students should leave this lesson with some practical tips for staying healthy in all three of the major areas discussed.
Application Challenge: Review the main points and scriptures from the lesson. Looking back at your health inventory, with what do you struggle the most? What is one small change you can commit to making every day for the next month to be healthier in that area? Remember, if you forget one day, you can start again the next!