How many times have you greeted someone by saying, “Hi, how are you?” Although it’s a common social expression, the usual reality is that we don’t truly want to know the other person’s blood pressure and cholesterol numbers right at the moment. Still, it’s interesting that this type of greeting is so common. It reveals that we all understand the importance of our physical health.
The Bible agrees with this perspective. The apostle John wrote to his friend Gaius, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 Jn. 1:2 NKJV). Even though Gaius was doing fine spiritually, it seems he had some physical concerns. John’s realism about the subject shows that it’s appropriate to care about our health and physical development. Thus, this is another way for us to grow.
In the Scriptures our bodies are compared to tents, which means they are only temporary (2 Cor. 5:1-4). Yet our bodies are also compared to temples in which the Holy Spirit lives (1 Cor. 6:19). If you are a Christian, you have the privilege of knowing that, in some amazing way, God Himself resides in your body.
Therefore, it’s important to eat well, stay active, and make choices which keep your body strong and healthy. Although physical exercise should not become the most important thing you do, still it is a useful activity as far as it goes (1 Tim. 4:8).
You are made in the image of God. Therefore, don’t obsess about your body image. You don’t have to have a certain level of fitness or a certain body type in order to bear God’s image well. Accept who you are and the way God has made you.
On the other hand, don’t make excuses for bad physical habits which lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s true that God looks on the heart rather than the outward appearance; but that’s no excuse for poor choices in your eating and exercise habits.
Resist the temptation to be lazy. Laziness feeds on itself and only leads to ruin (Prov. 24:30-34). Physical activity is not only fulfilling in its own right but is also an essential aspect of good health.
Earthly activities and pleasures can be received as from God Himself, who generously gives us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:19). However, although all sorts of food and drink may be fine in moderation, every addiction must be avoided. Resolve not to be “dominated by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12), for we are responsible to make disciplined choices about how we use our bodies (1 Cor. 9:27; 1 Th. 4:4).
More than our bodies
It’s important to emphasize that we are more than just our bodies. Our natural instincts and physical needs are not the only things which give value to our existence. If that’s all we are, then we are simply like the beasts of the field. Besides, if our bodies were to contain all our value, then a person with a physical disability would be less valuable than a person of typical abilities, which is simply not a biblical idea.
Yet our bodies are truly special. The Lord Jesus gave added dignity to the human body by taking on human form Himself. In that body, He did the will of God; and that’s what God wants us to do, too. Stay motivated to grow physically so you will be able to “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
A nice, succinct group of thoughts! Some of these verses have been taken out of context by commentators or even used to promote unbalanced views of health and wealth, so it’s nice to see them presented in a way that brings the balance.
Thanks for those comments, Aaron. As you have implied, there are many “simple” answers about how to view our humanity. They range from obsessing about health and success to the opposite response of some kind of self-flagellation (whether actual or metaphorical), as if our bodies are only to be despised. But many “simple” answers are wrong (or at least incomplete) when it comes to spiritual things.
Excellent, well-balanced biblical observations by Stephen Campbell!
Thanks, Ray, for adding your thoughts here!