Do you think your body matters?
It could sound like a stretch, but how we answer this question reveals what we think about God, the physical world and eternity. Because here’s the reality: If we claim Christ is Lord over all but treat our bodies like crap, our actual beliefs are hijacked by what we actually do.
Our culture has enormously unbalanced views concerning our physical bodies that can result in something like gluttony or a disorder anorexia, depending on your side of the spectrum. We either think too much about our bodies or too little, and both views represent an unbalanced life that can lead to dangerous consequences. And within the Church, we’ve often done a miserable job establishing a Christian ethic of health.
That needs to stop.
Here are a few simple stats for us to chew on. (see what I did there?)
Each year the average American eats …
— 156 lbs of added sugar (that’s 31- 5lb bags),
— 200 lbs of meat
— 53 Gallons of soft drinks
— 23 lbs of pizza and
— 24 lbs of artificial sweeteners
Design and Worship
God designed our bodies to work within a certain framework, and we can respond to that in one of two ways: (1) negligence or (2) worship.
Simply put, how we treat our bodies is an act of worship, and can be a core component of redemptive living. We are a creation, a design. And that means that they we’re set to not only work, but flourish within a created order. Stepping outside of that order is not only bad for our health, it fuels an autonomous view of human life—that can be traced all the way back to the Garden.
Whether unhealthy practices involve sex, food or money, sin has twisted our hearts to long to be in control. So bringing our bodies back in line of their design inherently has more to do with the posture of our hearts than the contents of our plates.
What the Bible Says
In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes:
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God … (I Tim. 4: 7-10).
Paul’s reference to “irreverent, silly myths” point to heresies promoted in that culture. These probably included things like abstaining from marriage or from certain foods—things Paul explicitly points out earlier are to be “received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
Why? Because these words harken back to a created order.
We aren’t meant to abstain from God’s good gifts, even in a fallen world, but to receive them as created and good. This has enormous implications for our bodies. We aren’t to abstain from the enjoyment of food with an ascetic view that this life is a hindrance and barrier to the one to come.
I heard someone say once that the Church is the “pilot plant of a new humanity,” and we should live as such. Enjoying God’s good gifts, with gratitude and balance can point others to Him and to the world remade.
Eat and Drink for God’s Glory
Just like we shouldn’t listen to “silly myths” about abstaining, we also shouldn’t listen to our culture’s unhealthy
views of food and leisure. These can lead to unbalanced lives full of laziness and gluttony. What’s more, our Western obsession with food, industrialized and created purely to satisfy our tastes without hurting our wallets, not only damages our bodies, but also the creation we were meant to care for.
Instead, we need to view our bodies, not only in light of our appetites or our wallets, but in light of our souls and our theology. If our lives are supposed to be invested deeply in the care and concern of this world—and they are—then, yes, that means we’re concerned about how a chicken is treated before we buy it. The implications of this could be many.
It may mean shopping at your local farmer’s market, buying more organic food or simply eating healthier. It may mean you start going to the gym more. It may mean you start going less. It’s about a holy balance, remembering that godliness is more important than our bodies—but it is not completely separate from our bodies.
We, as believers, we need should think, even about the daily things such as eating and drinking, because both can and should be done for the glory of God.