Counseling Sheet

Firm Obedience to Health Principles

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

1. The first principle involving health should always be stated, "the best thing possible under the circumstances." Sometimes, because of necessity, it may be necessary to eat differently than one would choose were he in complete control of everything. As an example, Jesus ate fish when He lived on this earth, although, even at that time, the best food was fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as in CD:322. Nevertheless, it was not always possible to obtain fruits and vegetables, and from necessity fish and grains became year-round staples.

It would not be proper, however, for one to eat wrong things just to keep from offending those who are ignorant of health principles. "My brethren, the Lord calls... upon you to adorn the truth in your daily practice, and in all your dealings with one another. He requires of you a faith that works by love and purifies the soul. It is dangerous for you to trifle with the demands of conscience, dangerous for you to set an example that leads others in a wrong direction." Series B, # 1:3.

How can this delicate matter be handled the most graciously? In the story of Daniel, we are told that he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself, but asked that he might make a demonstration for the sake of Melzar. After a successful demonstration, permission was granted to continue the program. We may use this kind of educational process to keep from offending, but we should take appropriate steps in order that we not do anything that would lead others in a wrong direction.

Similarly, we should not join with others who are indulging themselves, whether ignorantly or deliberately, to keep from offending them. We are told that even at the risk of offending, the minister should refrain from partaking of the dainties that are prepared by loving and well-meaning church members. So important is his witness to the eternal principles of nutrition that he should "risk offending'' rather than join with the indulgent. Any substance known to be injurious or potentially injurious to the body should be similarly refused.

2. God often puts us in places where we can be witnesses to His eternal principles or examples of healthful living before important persons. We are told that we should be medical missionaries "at the table." Dr. Jean Nussbaum refused to eat between meals at the party of Eleanor Roosevelt and it came to the notice of the First Lady, who commended Dr. Nussbaum for it. What an opportunity to live to the glory of God, in accordance with the strictness of His principles! When we are with influential individuals, or with other church members, or at important committee meetings, if we live out faithfully the health laws we have been given from heaven itself, we can turn lame feet into a path that will be a blessing to them.

To refrain from eating between meals, eating the third meal, eating items that violate one's principle - this self-restraint may be a rebuke to indulgent ones, and instruction to the timid or ignorant. If one is ostracized because of practicing principles that are consistent with inspiration, then we must welcome ostracism. We must not seek unity, friendship, or favor on the basis of improper conduct. Ellen White states the principle in The Health Reformer, 5:29, April, 1871: "The dread of being obliged to occupy a sleeping apartment that had been closed for days... has led me frequently to deprive myself of the privilege of remaining with dear friends any length of time."

3. The health of the body requires that one select the best under the circumstances. If there is nothing else to eat at a particular meal but foods which one ordinarily does not eat because of conscientious scruples, such as meat, milk products, eggs, dainties and rich pastries, or bread which one suspects may have been made with lard, then one should pass up the food. From a well-supplied table, one can take only simple fruits or vegetables, omitting the injurious foods. When wholesome foods are available, even if the variety is limited, one should not select those that might cause a weakening of the body.

4. Principles that must harmonize:

  • Justice: Mercy
  • Witness: Custodianship (for self and others)
  • Glorifying God (done by living out Christ's life and character in ourselves as exemplified in Desire of Ages, pages 82-92): Pleasing others
  • Faith: Experience (common sense)

5. What is rebellion? Defiance of heaven; resistance to control. To know what God's law is and plan to disobey is rebellion, very close to witchcraft. However, being tripped by one of Satan's temptations, even when one willingly yields to the indulgence, is different from defiance of heaven. There is more hope for the one who continuously slips than for the one who rebels.

6. Every adult should have "the right of choice" as a principle of life. It is not wise to force a grown child to act according to the principles of his parents or the school in which he is enrolled. He must choose between right and wrong for himself, and the process of requiring conformity under the duress of penalty will be like picking leaves from a living tree. The ordinances of the school, the home, or the parents should be fairly explained. Then student or son or daughter must choose whether or not he will comply. If he chooses to comply, he may live in the home or in the school. If he, however, chooses not to obey the ordinances, he should be sent away. The age of the child and the influence on others will determine how long a period of time elapses while efforts are diligently made to instruct and convert a child, who by heredity and training has become the subject of special temptation.

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