Junk food! Yummy junk food! For many people, chips, soda, candy, and cake are the four basic food groups. Junk food fills us up but contributes little to the health of our bodies. Nearly 40 percent of Americans are overweight, and 33 percent are considered obese, primarily due to the prevalence of junk food diets. Junk foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, and fat. A steady diet of such foods can contribute to heart and liver disease as well as diabetes. So it may be unhealthy, but is eating junk food wrong? Does the Bible mention it?
When God formed Israel as a nation for Himself, He gave them a detailed set of laws they were to strictly obey (Deuteronomy 4:1–2). Those laws were to help set them apart as a holy nation and also for their own good. Before nutritional science discovered the reasons, God had already given His people dietary laws intended to keep them healthy (Leviticus 11). Adherence to those laws was one reason God could promise Israel that they would not suffer from the diseases that God brought upon Egypt (Exodus 15:26). By following His dietary instructions, they would have less risk of intestinal parasites, malnutrition, and sickness brought on by unhealthy eating habits.
This is not to say that God is entirely opposed to non-nutritional junk food. In fact, He even encourages us to enjoy them as gifts from Him. Psalm 104 praises God for making “wine that gladdens the heart.” Nehemiah 8:10 instructs Israel to celebrate a holy day with “choice food and sweet drinks.”
Romans 14:20 may give us the clearest direction about food: “All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” Although this was written in the context of eating foods once banned by the law, it can also pertain to junk food. Junk food is not a sin, but if we consume it as gluttons (Proverbs 23:20) or drunkards (Proverbs 20:1), or if we are abusing our bodies with it, then eating it is wrong.
Sugar and caffeine addictions are real and can contribute to an overall unhealthy lifestyle. High levels of sodium, present in many types of junk food, are also unhealthy. God created our bodies to be temples for His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19–20). When we abuse our bodies through poor hygiene, substance abuse, self-harm, or junk food addiction, we are not taking good care of His temple. Eating junk food is not sin in itself, but when we continually stuff ourselves with it to the detriment of our bodies, our bank accounts, and our witness, it may have become an idol.