How a Healthy Lifestyle Enables Christians to Glorify God
The body’s a temple. That is a concept familiar to Christians, but the implication is far greater than just how important our body is to us and our life. For Christians it means that our bodies are a vessel for Christ himself. He resides in us, and we have to glorify God by providing him with a home fit for a king. A healthy lifestyle is an important part of maintaining our bodies so that Christ can work through us.
Our Bodies Belong to God
Now, like most Christians I understood the message of 1st Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” but I understood it in a rather esoteric way. I didn’t exactly think God was in my body as I wandered around doing yard work or watching a football game on T.V. I figured it meant that he wanted us to take care of ourselves so we could live longer, and testify for him. Good enough reason, just as it is, but it takes a little of the pressure off feeling the need to really perform when it is just a matter of God wanting us to be good to ourselves for our own sake.
Thinking the way I did, I always did my best to avoid the really harmful stuff. Cigarettes, alcohol, of course drugs, all of the things we know for a fact are damaging to the body. I didn’t really think much about food and how it could possibly damage my body and make it an unfit place. After all, it was food. The stuff we all need to live, and some of it tasted darned good.
I certainly didn’t think exercise fit into God’s demands. I mean why would God concern himself over whether or not I did a few pushups or jogged a mile or so? I felt like I was a good Christian just by attending services and tithing. I knew God wanted us to live in a Christ-like way, but somehow, eating healthy and exercising didn’t seem like part of the duty of testifying for the Lord.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that part of being an example for others was how I treated my own body. It didn’t dawn on me for a minute that being overweight and out of shape had anything to do with my Christianity. When someone brought up treating the body like a temple, and mentioned scriptures pointing to how we should live, I still didn’t make a connection.
One of the things that had plagued me whenever someone brought up the importance of eating the right things from a biblical standpoint was that all of the laws regarding foods seemed to be rather Old Testament based. Jesus made those old laws obsolete when he gave himself for us. Then one day as I was contemplating 1st Corinthians, verse 6:12 hit me: “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.”
That was a whole new concept to consider. Yes, the old laws were negated, but just because something wasn’t against God’s laws, didn’t mean they were good for us. Right before that passage in 1st Corinthians, verse 11:20-30 it says “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
So what we eat still has a direct bearing on our health. Of course anyone who pays attention to medical news knows that some foods are bad for us. But here was a warning written way back in the first centuries. Here was a biblical warning that not only were we making our body’s a slum, we were destroying them and killing ourselves.
1st Corinthians also ties in lust of a sexual nature with the passages about food, saying “Now the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.” I never really thought about cravings being a form of lust. But there it was. God was telling me that the cravings I gave in to were as bad as sexual lust.
It all came into glaring focus for me. “Our bodies are members of Christ.” That’s really deep. 1st Corinthians 6:17 “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” We are a part of Christ in a really physical way. If we kill ourselves, we are destroying him as well. I realized then how very important living a healthy lifestyle was, but now I had to figure out what that meant.
Reading 1st Corinthians 6:19 one more time with a new outlook on the contents: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God whom you have from God and you are not your own.” Clearly it meant more than a superficial nod to the obviously poisonous things that everyone now knew was destructive. It meant I was going to have to really start paying attention to what I was putting in my body for fuel, and how I used that fuel, because my body belongs to God.
The idea is summed up at the end of that passage in 1st Corinthians 6:20 “For you were bought at a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” When Christ died for us, he took away all of the sin, but now, our body’s belonged to him.
I was going to have to learn how to eat, and I was going to have to exercise to make myself a fit and useful vessel for the Lord. As I started to learn more about how important it was to live a healthier lifestyle, I began to realize the difference between giving material things to God in the form of tithing, and giving my body to God different in a very fundamental way. Tithing was giving to give, in a manner of praise. Dieting and exercising was also giving to God in the form of my body, but it was a way of giving to get. It wasn’t about vanity, or wanting to look good. It was a way to be healthier and live in connection with the Lord.
The Sin of Gluttony
One of the things that many Christians do, and myself very much included is allowing for our humanity. We’re only human. So of course, some of the things we do are going to be wrong no matter how hard we try. I realized I gave myself a lot of “gray area” in terms of leeway. If treating the body like a temple was important, as I grew up knowing, just avoiding the main hazards was enough. But there really is no gray area. There is right and there is wrong. Any amount of wrong is just as wrong as doing everything wrong. That’s a little hard to swallow at first, but once I started to think that way I realized it was actually quite liberating. I didn’t have to wonder anymore if it was okay to indulge just a little. Gluttony in any form was wrong whether it was eating an entire gallon of ice cream of just a scoop. I had to be disciplined, but being disciplined became easier when I stopped giving myself an excuse for it.
So I started to look back at the Old Testament for some guidance in what was right and wrong from a healthy lifestyle point of view. In Proverbs 23:20 it says “Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness with clothe a man with rags.” There it was. Of course an excess of alcohol was bad for the body. Everyone knows that now, but there it connected any gluttony including overeating with destruction of the body. Proverbs 23:2 goes on to say “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” That seems pretty extreme until you think about the fact that it is pretty much what you are doing. You are killing yourself. May as well get it over with quickly rather than endure a long, painful death. I had never considered myself a glutton. Maybe a little overweight, but certainly not sinfully gluttonous. When I looked up the root of the word though, I realized that overeating in any way is gluttonous. The root of the word comes from the word glutire—to gulp down; to swallow.
Saint Gregory explained that there were 5 ways that people commit gluttony.
- Eating at times other than meal times.
- Gratifying taste buds and seeking out delicacies rather than being content with solid, healthy food.
- Adding sauces and seasonings to food simply to enjoy them more and give into the sensations of taste.
- Eating more than the body needs for sustenance.
- Eating with too much vigor and eating too quickly even when not overeating.
When I looked over that list, I realized I had often been gluttonous and I realized that now I had to stop living in that gray area of excuses. Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins: pride, greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.
Giving Your Body to God
In Romans verse 12:1 God asks us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. In essence, saying that it’s not enough to simply walk the walk, we have to talk the talk too. We have to worship him in every way possible, both through prayer and by keeping our bodies healthy and fit with the proper diet and exercise. We are simply the caretakers of the bodies that God has given us to keep for him.
Not paying attention to the foods we eat can be hurting us in other ways as well. In 1st Corinthians 7:4 God says that “The wife doesn’t have authority of her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” That goes much deeper than simply telling each other what they can do, it means that our bodies belong to our families and not eating right takes away the time we have to be with each other. I know that I want to be here for my grandkids, so I have to do everything I can to stay healthy and live longer. It also means that husbands and wives are responsible for making sure the the other eats rights and gets enough exercising. It’s not nagging when you think about it that way. It’s love. Having a healthy body gives us the ability to be around for our family, and also to be around for God.
As with everything, God gave us free will. It’s our choice to live the way he has shown us, so that we can best serve him, or we can serve ourselves. It’s hard. It’s hard to pass up those goodies on the supermarket shelves, but I have begun to do it a lot easier knowing that the pleasant taste only lasts a few minutes, but when I pass them up, I’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of feeling good, being strong and living longer for God’s glory.
David is a devoted husband and father of two who believes that the Bible gives us the blueprint not just to the spiritual life, but our everyday life as well. He has committed his life to offering his body to the Lord by exercising and eating properly. In this age where obesity kills over 100,000 people a year in the U.S, he feels good knowing that he is healthier and hopes more and more Christians will find the conviction through the word of God to live a healthier lifestyle.