Let’s talk about a touchy issue on which people demonstrate dramatic excesses. Some obsess and fixate on this topic, while others ignore and reject it entirely.
Americans today are grossly unhealthy in record numbers. Despite having tons of resources and education, Americans are more obese than ever.
The language of a recent Reebok advertising campaign caught my eye: “Honor the body you’ve been given.” It chastened me a bit, because their call to “honor” your body is one we as believers should be pursuing.
We have more reason to honor our bodies than anyone—and yet we don’t. When we honor our bodies, we honor God.
As 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 puts it: Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Unfortunately, those of us who live and work in the world of vocational ministry have a bad track record when it comes to our health. Statistics from GuideStone indicate that approximately half of insurance claims are for largely preventable diseases: hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease. Often these problems are caused by excess weight, poor diet, and high stress.
What does it mean to be “fit”? It is not trendy eating fads or extremist behaviors. It is not body-shaming anyone. It is about an ongoing, comprehensive approach to nutritious eating, combined with consistent physical activity that is maintainable for each unique individual that viably improves health.
What are the right reasons to be fit?
The number one reason is clearly a spiritual one. God has commanded us: So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). It is unavoidable because the language, “eat or drink,” is clear.
We have far better motives than vanity. We understand that even what we eat and drink glorifies God. Think about that: We reflect His glory by how we handle our appetites.
Spiritual maturity requires that we have control of our fleshly desires and resist being controlled by temptations. While we might be strident on this teaching when it comes to sexuality, our emotions, character, and morality, this also includes the desire to overeat and the propensity to be sedentary. To neglect this is sin.
Without discipline, moderation, and self-control, it is easy for our appetite for food to overtake us and derail our intentions for a healthier life.
We cannot isolate the fact that our health and fitness affect others. Our choices, behaviors, and mindset say something to a watching world.
- In our families, our health choices deeply impact our children. We can shape their understanding and choices about food as well as exercise and activity. Children may develop lifelong eating and exercising habits under our influence. No, it’s not automatic that they emulate our behaviors, but it’s fairly likely.
- In the world around us, our culture has increasingly become more health-conscious. The science and mountains of evidence have changed many behaviors. Do we look uninformed, undisciplined, and unintelligent when our bodies, behaviors, and mindset scream denial about this issue? When we move in a Christian culture that speaks of controlling the flesh in other areas—yet are glaringly inconsistent in the physical realm—we lose credibility.
God has given us resources He intends for us to steward, like our time, talent, and money. The Bible is clear that we will be accountable for what we have done with those resources. This includes how we manage, maintain, and value our bodies.
Yes, we have been given one body to inhabit, and we are responsible to maintain it and use it fully. Ignoring its needs and ignoring its maintenance means we are not stewarding the body God gave us. So, if we are loading up on obscene amounts of sugar or fat that creates hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease, we are not taking care of the temple of God and, in fact, we may be destroying it prematurely.
If we want to get the most out of our bodies, we must steward them attentively and intentionally. At sixty-two years old, I fully appreciate the aging process. Stamina, energy, strength, and vitality become more critically important to me every day. Physical movement and what I eat add tremendous value to my daily life.
These are the right reasons; swimsuit season is not!
I ask this question of you as a friend . . . a friend who deeply cares. Where do you need to start to develop an ongoing, comprehensive approach to nutritious eating, combined with consistent physical activity, that is maintainable for you?
Consider taking the next step you need to take to be fit, for all the right reasons.
Kathy Ferguson Litton lives in Mobile, Alabama, where her husband Ed is pastor of Redemption Church. Their lives have encountered the unexpected as they both lost their former spouses in car accidents. Ed and Kathy share six children and ten grandchildren. She has been a pastor’s wife twice and is currently the director of planter spouse development at NAMB. Kathy is also on the Steering Committee of the newly-launched SBC Women’s Leadership Network. This article first appeared on namb.net.