Biblical Truths Regarding Caring for One’s Body
Being physically fit and healthy does not make a person godly. Yet being physically unfit can be the result of choices which are ungodly and ought to be repented of. In certain cases, physical transformation for the better can be the result of repentance towards God and doing works fit for repentance. Since there are spiritual implications in choices related to how we care for our bodies, this topic is worth addressing.
Self-control is an essential aspect of Christianity. A Christian, under the true grace of God, surely ought to be able to control themselves in ways that even those not under the true grace of God in Jesus Christ can control themselves.
To be a faithful Christian, whether someone is currently overweight or not, they must not be under the power of food. It should never be, especially when one is abiding in Jesus Christ and in His grace, that anyone needs to eat something which they know (or should know) really is bad for them and/or is a waste of money and/or is gluttonous.
1 Corinthians 6:12-13: “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.”
Since a Christian should not, and need not, be under the power of any type of food, then how much more does this apply being able to restrain one’s passions so that they do not fornicate and/or so that they do not give into sexually related vices like (like pornography, masturbation, etc.) and/or so that they do not overindulge sexually with their spouse in a way which they know is excessive and unhealthy? How much more does this also apply to things like using illicit drugs, smoking, vaping, chewing tobacco, etc. since the same could be said in relation to using substances which we all know are addictive, cause one to lose sobriety, are illegal, and/or are known to be terrible for one’s health?
1 Thessalonians 4:4: “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.”
This all potentially has to do with physical health and fitness. Don’t limit health and fitness to things related to performing at the gym. In relation to doing what is right before God and serving Him acceptably, these things are much more important than those things. When we hear about serving God acceptably with reverence and godly fear like Hebrews 12:28 speaks of and we relate that to physical health and fitness, if we’re honest, we think primarily of things like being disciplined in our habits, exercising self-control, being sober, and being unentangled from things like addictions and vain ambitions.
Though righteousness in God’s eyes demands that we reasonably take care of our bodies and not let them be brought under the power of food or any sensual gratification, there is a way that a person can strive to keep their body in health which still pampers their natural ambitions (that is, their “flesh” in the way that the Bible uses that word to describe the bondage of the sinner to sin). At a certain point, the pursuit of health and fitness can be counterproductive to righteousness. Jesus does not call us to pursue looking like fashion models or bodybuilders or champion athletes. Though we can learn lessons from the discipline which those who strive in such pursuits exercise in terms of being willing to suffer and willing to push themselves to attain new heights in relation to their quest, their quest itself is not consistent with the values of heaven. When excessive time, money, and mental energy is spent attending to health and fitness so that Christian duties are neglected and/or some measure of enslavement is involved in the pursuit of better health and fitness, then the pursuit of health and fitness becomes counterproductive to righteousness, inevitably leads to sin, and most likely indicates that there was a heart issue already present in relation to hunger for things which are no better than an excessive desire for food. The pursuit for admiration from people, for power, for control, for revenge, for high status, etc. are also ways to live after the flesh and sin against God.
Galatians 5:24-26: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit (Christ’s Spirit is given to all them that obey Him- Acts 5:32), let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Pursuing misguided hunger can be expressed in a lot of ways (there are so many ways to lose your soul!), and idolatry in relation to things like health and fitness is certainly among them.
Significantly better discipline regarding eating and exercising is not something which all people currently need. Some are already basically disciplined in these things, though many need to redirect their priorities, and thus alter their reasons and goals in relation to their discipline.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery (strives to win in an athletic competition) is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
There is yet the necessity in Christianity of not being a slave to food nor to any substance, and of taking reasonable measures for good health. Many, even many who profess to be Christians, don’t heed this. They are overweight and/or in bad health otherwise due to their lack of discipline in eating and exercise, and quite possibly even a rebellious commitment to pamper themselves with excess food and/or unhealthy food and/or other bad habits. Their poor health doesn’t glorify God since their health problems could be solved, or at least made a lot better, if they simply stopped lying to themselves, acknowledged the truth about themselves, and received the discipline involved in heeding the counsel of God’s Word on these matters. They’d eat less and/or eat healthier; they’d start exercising and/or exercising more effectively. If they really weren’t sure how to define “eating healthier” and “exercising more effectively” they’d do their research and find out. When it comes to what generally ought to be done to go in the right direction towards solving problems related to obesity and poor health associated with that, it is generally not complicated, and it is typically more a matter of the discipline to do what needs to be done rather than knowing what ought to be done. Yet if someone is really not stuffing themselves frequently beyond their fill, they’ve really cut back on sugars, processed food, and fast food, they are exercising regularly (or they’re at least moving around a lot and leading an overall active lifestyle) and then they are still significantly obese and have other health problems typically related to a bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle (which aren’t even getting noticeably better), then research might really especially matter when it comes to getting adequately healthy (I’m not talking about losing the last ten or twenty pounds to obtain an optimal body composition or looking like a bodybuilder or achieving optimal athletic performance- achieving such things might be complicated but we don’t need those things anyways).
Christianity is about pursuing the values of heaven. We will be judged by God for what we did on earth in this regard- in these mortal bodies. The Christian hope is ultimately in reigning with Christ in a resurrected, glorified body- one which will not be subject to the curse of death which also involves pain, sickness, and overall physical infirmity. Being a Christian doesn’t mean one is not subject to these things anymore, though some foolishly teach otherwise. Yet that is all the more reason for the Christian to take reasonable measures to obtain and maintain good health and physical fitness- without making an idol of this nor in any way making doing this counterproductive to righteousness.
Consider the following passage with the judgment of the sheep and the goats (in Matthew 25:31-46).
Acts 11:27-30: “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth (famine) throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
Look at what these disciples did here (if you go a bit back in the chapter, you’ll see that these were the very ones who were first called Christians in Antioch). They must have compromised their quality of life significantly to give something of significance to help meet the needs of the vast Christian church at Jerusalem in the famine which was about to happen. This possibly affected their health and fitness negatively (though perhaps it helped some lose weight which was good that they lose). Maybe they went without some beneficial things to their health that they would have had otherwise due to this sacrifice which they made. Yet note that they opened their hands so that they had less, and especially note also that if their health indeed did suffer as a result of this, then it happened so that they could do their duties towards God in a way in which there was no doubt that they did what was pleasing to Him. Think of what they gained thereby. Here is just an idea of that.
1 John 3:18-23: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
1 Timothy 1:19: “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.”
Physical fitness is an area which illustrates why truly godly and wise leadership is needed in a church. This is an area which can’t be totally neglected for the Christian, yet it is an area which immature Christians could also easily come to tear each other apart over, and even unnecessarily divide themselves over in certain circumstances- especially when some bad counsel was introduced among them in relation to these things.
Don’t prematurely judge a person who is in bad physical shape whom you’ve just met or don’t know well. They might be working on it. Maybe they’ve even already lost one hundred pounds. If something needs to be rebuked in relation to this, deal with evident sins and evident bad patterns. If someone really wants to “get” someone then they can almost certainly catch them eating something unhealthy at some point (that’s not a sin unless done in a gluttonous manner and/or as a pattern which is obviously significantly harming one’s health). If they can’t make such a discovery, they can then accuse the person of being a fitness idolator (and maybe they’d be right- but if you’re intent on “getting” someone in this way, then you’re surely living in sin too).
We should do what’s in our power to ensure that if our choices cause our health and/or overall physical fitness to decline, it is because the choices were made because they were necessary to do what is right before God in the particular circumstances. Being taken up with the cares of life will make it impossible to consistently discern this, and so will an inordinate love of food and/or other possible means of instant gratification.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
Ecclesiastes 10:16-17: “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat (feast) in the morning! Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!”
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]