Dr. Kenneth Cooper, in his book Faith-Based Fitness, notes that one reason so many people fail to take care of their bodies is that “most people have a relatively weak belief in the need for good eating.” People say, “I know I should eat better, but…” It’s sort of like, “I know that driving five miles over the speed limit is technically breaking the law, but it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, so I do it all the time.”
A weak belief leads to a weak commitment.
When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he appeals to the highest authority to give us new motivation. If we want to become more useful to God and better prepared to do any of the good work He has planned for us, we need to take Paul’s words to heart.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
If we are going to live a life for God, then we need to get the following fact straight:
We don’t own our bodies.
What? It is true. They are not ours to abuse or care for according to our own perceived wants and desires. On the contrary, not only did God create us; He paid a high price to redeem us. And when He redeemed us, He didn’t just redeem our souls; He redeemed our bodies and claims them for His use as well. Therefore, we need to honor God with our bodies. This goes against everything this world teaches us, but this teaching is not of this world.
The question then becomes do Christians have any sense that our bodies don’t belong to us? Do we realize that caring for our bodies, eating appropriately and getting sufficient exercise is a matter of discipleship and obedience? What if exercise and discipline in eating isn’t as much about physical health as it is about honoring the God who made us?
Dr. Cooper adds, “The real difficulty is that Christians have never understood that their eating habits should reflect their deepest beliefs about life. In other words, they have failed to learn that the right kind of food can transform them into the energetic, healthy people they are meant to be.”
In Romans, Paul talks about the importance each of our bodies plays in doing the will of God. All our individual bodies make up one big body, the body of Christ. The Bible teaches us that every single member of the body of Christ is essential for it to function in its full glory.
Romans 12:4-8 (NIV)
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
What do our eating habits say about our deepest beliefs?
How we treat our bodies is a question of stewardship even before it is a question of health, comfort, enjoyment, or pleasure. If we’re truly going to be made holy, useful to God, and prepared to do any good work, being more energetic and even being healthier can be essential elements of effectiveness. Many issues of disability and illness can be beyond our control. These issues fall under the will of God and genes we were blessed with. But there are also many issues (how often we exercise, the amount and quality of the calories we take in)that are entirely a matter of choice. These issues are what we are held accountable for.
Going back to the book of 1 Corinthians, we see the emphasis that Paul places on our bodies and the decisions we make regarding them.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NIV)
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Later in chapter 10, Paul continues with the idea of taking care of our bodies.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, a German poet, dramatist, and novelist, says that we should “Take care of you body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded.”
The problem with the worldly view of eating and exercising to look good and feel better is that everything about that is related to self. We catch ourselves saying things like, “I shouldn’t overeat because it will make me less healthy.” “I should exercise because I don’t want to become weak and lose my breath climbing the stairs.” Talking about dicipleship as it relates to your health bring God back into the picture. Then we will say “I shouldn’t overeat because God tells me not to, and it dishonors Him as Lord when I disobey, and I want to be as strong as possible to serve Him the very best that I can.”
How does seeing healthy living as an act of discipleship and stewardship change the way we should approach health and fitness?
This is something that most of us have most-likely never thought much about before. I would challenge you to take some time today and really ponder this question.