With the new year underway and shows like the Biggest Loser on, everyone has a health goal on the new years resolution list – one that stays on the list, year after year. With the weight loss industry booming and reports showing that, by 2020, 80% of people will be overweight or obese, we know that health will become an increasing obsession and more burdensome to many families. So if Christians living in the world are not to become like the world in any aspect, how should we as Christians approach nutrition, fitness, and healthy living?
First, the questions we must ask are, “Does God care about the body? And Does he care about our health?” and if so, “How much?”. We will explore these questions in this post and the posts to come.
It is clear in scripture, that God cares about the body and has a plan for our body. In 1 Corinthians 6:13, Paul rebukes false teachings in the church at Corinth by saying “for the Lord is for the body and the body for the Lord.” The Lord is for the body and body for the Lord because the cross joins us with Christ. Not only that, but we are made in His image. God is spirit (John 4:24), so in our intellect, reason, emotions, morality, and piety we reflect His image. However, the image is stored in the body. As God’s presence dwelt inside the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle, so is God’s presence dwelling in the body of a believer – for we are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Therefore, the body is a vehicle, a means, for the manifestation of holiness and godliness, of Christ likeness.
Through a physical body we can move to act. We can show sacrifice. We can display obedience and purity. Through our mouth we can encourage and love. Through our hands we can wash the feet of others as Christ washed the feet of his disciples. With our ears we can receive God’s word. With our minds we can meditate and apply God’s word. Through our legs, we can walk alongside the struggling, hurting, and the lost. Through our vocation, we can worship God. We can suffer towards sanctification. In our tears we can show compassion. We can display stewardship–stewardship over our body and health.
Our health is important. Our health can affect the body and its functions. And in His word He reveals to us how He cares about our health. In 1 John 1:1, John wishes Gaius’ good health. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul tells Timothy to not drink the water without wine, in danger of disease and illness from the water. In the OT, God provides dietary guidelines to Israel, to primarily encourage holiness of His people, but also in some of these laws to prevent his people from diseases. In Timothy 4:7, Paul tells timothy that exercise has little profit. God was concerned for their health because it affected how they served. So Paul and John encouraged good health that they may be effective in ministry and not hindered by illness or disease. Paul says that if we are to live, we are to live for fruitful labor. Being a good steward over our bodies can help us run with endurance. It helps and aids in many areas of life. But, we must understand that it is God who has numbered our days and, due to sin, allows physical sufferings.
However, all these passages on watching over our health are overshadowed by the importance of taking care of our spiritual health. In 1 Timothy 4:8, he contrasts the little profit of physical training versus training for godliness, for that is of greater profit because that endures and has eternal ramifications. We do want to be good stewards of the body God has given us. He has put longevity into our genes. If God so wishes, our lives could end tomorrow, but as much as it depends on us, we should hope to live a long and healthy life to serve the King and enjoy Him and others. Our genes are delicate, and can be altered by foods and how we live our lives. And sometimes, our bad health can reveal sin – lack of discipline, lack of self-control, idols, etc. But what is of highest importance is the ultimate disease. The one that effects our eternity. It is well and good to have a healthy body and life. But how much better is it to have a healthy soul? A man may gain the world, gain the perfect body, the perfect mile, and still lose his soul. But whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s will save it (Mark 8).