It’s hard to believe that in Australia, the ‘lucky country’, so many people are either malnourished or over-nourished. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) published a Food and Nutrition Report in 2012[1]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (5th September 2012). Australia’s Food and Nutrition Report 2012, and their findings revealed that the major cause of death and morbidity in Australia are diet-related diseases, and this was on the increase. In 2016 they also reported that 63% of Australian adults are obese or overweight (that’s 2 in 3 people), as are 25% of children (that’s 1 in 4). A third of Australians over 65 years of age who are hospitalised are “overtly malnourished”, and almost 10% of older adults living in the community are malnourished[2] These statistics are alarming.

There are many reasons why Australians are suffering from nutritional deficiencies; a diet largely consisting of processed foods, lack of education about nutrition, lower socioeconomics, lack of exercise, chronic and mental illness, pharmaceutical drugs, availability of fast and “easy” foods such as takeaway, work commitments etc. There’s no easy answer and it differs for many people. Over-nutrition (which is a form of malnutrition) is when a person consumes too many nutrients (eating too much), and under-nutrition is not giving your body enough of the nutrients it needs to function effectively. Both are equally dangerous to our health. It’s mind-boggling that in a country like Australia, with access to affordable fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, and a wealth of other nutrient-rich foods, that so many of us suffer from a form of malnutrition. We are surrounded by food but possibly, we lack the education or drive to know what we should be eating, to know what our bodies actually require, and instead, we feed ourselves what’s abundant, cheap, and easy. This is something we are all guilty of.

The same principle applies to our spiritual diet. In Australia we have religious freedom, even though it could be argued that as Christians, our freedoms are slowly being eroded. However, we have a great deal of liberty to pursue God and to grow in our love, obedience and knowledge of Him. We have many Christian bookstores, both physical and online; the web has millions of websites, articles, sermons, blogs and libraries filled with Christian thought and information; we have churches in almost every suburb and town; as well as Bible Studies, Bible Colleges, online courses, and Christian meeting places. We are almost spoiled for choice, yet many Christians are suffering from spiritual malnutrition. We certainly cannot blame a lack of accessible quality sources as the cause of our spiritual malnutrition.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3a says “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.” Paul was telling the Corinthian church that even though they had received the Holy Spirit, their behaviour was inconsistent with Christian truth. Paul was treating them like babies, giving them a diet of milk, as they were lacking in understanding. He wanted to feed them meat, but babies cannot eat meat; not only can they not chew it, but they also cannot digest it. After years of being Christians, the Corinthian church had not yet weaned themselves off milk, and this was stunting their spiritual growth, causing all manner of sin and divisions in their church. In our Christian walk, just as our human walk, we start on a diet of milk, and as we mature solid foods are added to our diets. We cannot stay on milk as it is not going to be enough alone to nourish us as we grow into adults, and as Christians, we also need to grow in our knowledge of God and His word. We start with the basics of Christianity and as we walk with the Lord, we start to chew on spiritually meatier things. How do we grow? By weaning ourselves off milk (the very basics of the Christian faith), and widening our variety of foods (growing in the knowledge of God).

In Matthew 4:4 we see a very interesting occurrence. After forty days in the wilderness Jesus is tested by Satan in a number of ways. It must be noted that for forty days Jesus was fasting, so when Satan came to Him, Jesus would have been extraordinarily hungry, tired, and weak. I know that through my times of fasting for only a day or two that I find it hard to concentrate and I am easily distracted. Knowing Jesus had been fasting Satan says “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt 4:3).  Jesus replies, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:4). Jesus is God, and rather than simply assert His authority, He uses Scripture to thwart Satan. He acknowledges that yes, the body does need to be fed physical food to nourish and sustain it, but also, a person needs to be fed spiritually, through Scripture. Jesus didn’t enter into a huge debate, He simply quoted Scripture and moved on. Jesus’s response is an example to us.

We need to be nourished in God’s word. Yes, we have an abundance of Christian resources available to us, but are we actually nourishing ourselves with them properly? We can suffer from over-nutrition, where we are heavily using Christian resources which are not nourishing us properly; not every Christian website or book is helpful, and many are downright heretical. Or we can suffer from under-nutrition because we do not involve ourselves in reading God’s word, the Bible, and the study of it. Like our physical bodies, we need to be supplying ourselves with correct nutrition in order to grow, mature, and thrive. Reading a daily devotional with no other Bible reading or study will not mature us spiritually, neither will just reading what everyone else has to say about their reading of God’s word.

Eating a diet of McDonalds and KFC may keep us from starving, but it will not nourish us or cause our bodies to be strong and vibrant. They won’t be equipped to fight off chronic illness and disease, even though we may have the energy to live day by day. A spiritual diet void of regular Bible reading, the study of Scripture, church, and Christian fellowship will cause us spiritual malnutrition Yes, we may still call ourselves Christian, but we will not grow beyond babyhood, and we will not be equipped to thwart the fiery darts of the evil one. We need to move beyond the spiritual milk that Paul rebuked the Corinthian church of still needing, and we need to become more like Jesus who was able to fight the evil one with Scripture. We can be so thankful in this country, with our religious freedom that we do have such access to Bibles and quality Christian resources. Let’s use them properly, and grow in our knowledge of the Lord and in our love for Him; thriving, being nourished and sustained by His word.

References   [ + ]

1.Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (5th September 2012). Australia’s Food and Nutrition Report 2012