Written and media by Ben Casey. [divide]
The phrase, “It’s my body, I can do what I want with it!” gets thrown around to avoid judgement when eating unhealthily. But as Christians, it isn’t our body. According to Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” God has called us to use our bodies as living examples and sacrifices for Him. An expectation of how Christians should treat themselves follows.
Healthy Equals Holy?
1 Timothy 4:7 recognizes that physical training has value. An example in the old Testament is when Daniel refuses to dine on the king’s meats and eats vegetables as an alternative. There are many verses in the Bible that frown upon unhealthy habits such as gluttony, sloth and drunkenness. Not all believers are called to be bodybuilders and Olympic athletes, but God does expect us to take care of our bodies.
What does it mean to take care of our bodies? Should Christians workout regularly? Is it wrong for Christians to smoke cigarettes? Are certain foods sinful if they are considered unhealthy?
When asking the question of whether a bad habit is sinful, many people will point to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” While this may seem like a clear-cut answer, Paul is addressing the church as a whole. He’s telling the church that the Holy Spirit dwells within the body. Therefore, this verse does not support the idea that Christians are supposed to abstain from bad habits.
Then there are verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:12 where Paul exclaims, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for using Jesus’ sacrifice as an excuse for debauchery, and informing them that there are activities and/or habits that are not beneficial to their well-being. In this verse, Paul is implying to abstain from temptations that may lead to sin.
For instance, smoking, chewing tobacco and unhealthy foods should be consumed with caution and/or in moderation, if at all. A Christian’s goal is to glorify God, and partaking in potentially harmful activities and/or habits do not glorify God.
Does the Bible call Christians to exercise their bodies and spirits? The Bible alludes to exercise in the New Testament because of the Greek’s obsession with physical fitness. These metaphors of running a race or discipline of the body might not directly require Christians to be fit, but they do inspire an image of fitness. 1 Timothy 4:7 says that exercise “has some value,” and Proverbs 24:5 states that wise men take the time to enhance their strength. All of these verses emphasize the value of exercise and taking care of one’s self.
Paul referenced the Church when he called the body a temple, but our physical bodies could also be viewed as temples for the Holy Spirit. Christians are called to worship God in everything they do. Taking care of one’s self can be an act of this worship.
Moderation is the key. Smoking may not be a sin, but it can lead to addiction. Working out is good for the body, but it should not be worshiped. If the church is a temple, Christians are the bricks that build it. Christians should think about the kind of church they are building with their bricks.