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07 August 2015

Great British Bake Off and greed

Great British Bake Off and greed

How evangelicals respond to health and wellbeing is something we're exploring at the moment at the Evangelical Alliance. Today, our latest survey went live, which examines how evangelicals view their health – both mental and physical – and asks what role, if any, our churches are playing.

Please take 15 minutes to complete the survey. Results will be published in the Jan/Feb idea magazine. Our editor comments on the Bake Off and greed....

My name is Amaris Cole and I have never watched the Great British Bake Off. It feels good to get that off my chest, although I'm predicting some retribution from my co-workers once this article is published. It seems like I might be the only person in the UK –or even further afield –that has never watched the series, which apparently returned to our screens this week.

While 9.3 million of you were glued to your TVs for the first episode, I, for the sixth series in a row, was doing something else. A quick Google search has filled me in on what I missed, though. Poor Stuart and his gateau.

Despite having never seen it, I do love the idea of the show. I love the thought of nearly 10 million people essentially sitting around watching 12 people make cakes. I love that it's something that is uniting such a large number of the UK at a time where all there seems to be is division, and I ultimately I love that it's made cake cool.

Of course, we Christians have never stopped sharing a slice or two – even when the rest of the country seemed to be on a diet. Most of our extra-church activities involve some highly calorific accompaniment: biscuits or doughnuts with coffee after the service, bring and share lunches and even wine after a meeting.

While I'm not suggesting that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are to blame for the shocking obesity statistics, it does seem like a good moment to bring it up. One in four people in the UK are obese, so some of this podginess is in our churches, too. But should it matter? Does God care what the scales say? I think Christians are told conflicting messages.

On the one hand is the truth that physical beauty and status is of no importance to God. In fact, throughout the Bible we're told about people who wouldn't look like much by the world's standards, but are chosen to do the biggest things. King David was the smallest of his brothers;Mary Magdalene was a woman for starters, she was looked down upon and had seven demons cast from her;and then even a stable was selected as the perfect place for the saviour of the world to be born.

"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). In some ways, this gives us a real sense of security. It is wonderful and right that we're told to be happy in our bodies and that we can know that God loves us whatever we look like. Working at accepting our bodies and realising they are just temporary is all good. But is there a danger we can conveniently use this as an excuse to give in to another Krispy Kreme?

It's the motivation that matters. If our obesity stems from an attitude of the heart, it's then that it becomes a problem for God. I'm guilty of lacking self-control at times and eating far more than I need. But God wants the best for me, and eating half a packet of chocolate chip biscuits and a Lindt chocolate or two, for example*, isn't the best use of my time or digestive system.

"The Bible speaks a great deal about self-control: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28). We know the benefits that those with self-control have in maintaining their health. Healthy bodies can accomplish more and enjoy their achievements: "Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body." (1 Thessalonians 4:4). Dignity is a word we would rarely apply to our eating habits, but I think it is a good challenge to us to consider the way we consume.

I hope I haven't ruined the Bake Off for any of you. Go and watch the cakes being made, try the recipes and by all means eat some yourself. But before you reach for seconds and thirds, just take a moment to check your motivation. Is it greed?. While I don't think God would have the slightest problem with my muffin top, I don't think He's so keen on the lack of self-control I show when tucking into my fifth digestive.

*Definitely not speaking from experience…