By Javan Rowe
We often think of our walk with the Lord solely in spiritual terms, with no regard for our physical bodies. At first glance, the Bible appears to confirm this with verses like John 4:23: “Worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth,” with no mention of the body. Or consider Paul’s teaching: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Do these examples indicate a lack of importance regarding our physical bodies?
The Importance of the Body
I am not saying that our bodies and our souls have equal footing in this life. After all, Matthew 10:28 warns, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This seems to place the soul at a higher plane because it is the soul that speaks to God in the spiritual.
I disagree with anyone, though, who claims the body is unimportant. It is the body that houses the spirit and acts as a vehicle through which the soul works.
To discover the importance of the body, we can go straight to the beginning. Genesis 1:26-30 provides the account of God’s creation of humans, saying, “It was very good” (v. 31). It was not just the soul that was declared good, as the Greek philosophers thought. The entire created being was considered good—mind, spirit, and body.
When our first parents sinned, all of creation was broken, including us. It is obvious that our souls are damaged when we witness people displaying sinful characteristics. Our bodies are likewise evidence of a fallen nature when we experience various aches, pains, and disease.
To affirm that the body is important, God the Son took on flesh and became man. Jesus then redeemed us body and spirit by dying a physical death that was preceded by real pain. We recall this literal sacrifice whenever we take communion, eating the bread and drinking the juice, as representation of the body of Christ.
When we die the body may decompose, but it is only temporary, for we anticipate a future glorified body on a new earth. That body will be without sin and decay, which is difficult for us to imagine, but it will be a real body. In Heaven the spirit and body will be perfectly combined, as we eternally commune with our Creator.
Considering the importance of the body, it only makes sense that we care for it. Body maintenance just doesn’t sound very spiritual. In fact, couldn’t we say that focusing on ourselves is selfish?
Focusing on maintaining our health is certainly not a self-centered endeavor. Sure, it can be turned into an idol, like anything else inherently good. Our bodies are a gift from God and we must keep up with those gifts. Also our primary goal in life is to serve the Lord as long and efficiently as possible.
I love what Proverbs 31:17 says: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” Though this belongs to a section of Scripture titled “The Wife of Noble Character,” the idea can apply to all of us. We are to remain physically able to continue accomplishing the tasks that God has for us.
Keeping up with our physical being means we live out three habits that we have heard about our whole lives—proper sleep, eating right, and regular exercise. Despite the myriad of technologically advanced programs and regiments designed to keep us healthy, everything can be reduced to these three basic ideas. But just because they are simple does not mean it is easy to find success in these areas.
Sleep, or simply resting, is perhaps the most important thing we can do for ourselves. Through it our spirit is rejuvenated, body healed, and we are mentally more able to refocus.
The Sabbath was given to us for the purpose of resting our bodies. Rest is so vital that Scripture even records Jesus taking time out to rest (John 4:6). He encouraged his followers to rest as well (Mark 6:30-32). On another occasion, Jesus slept so soundly on a boat amidst a terrible storm that the disciples had to rouse him (4:38).
2. Eating right
How many of us admit that we don’t eat healthy like we should? The term diet may carry negative connotations, but there is something to be said about eating right. We can get all the sleep we want but without any regard for what we put into our bodies, we can find ourselves endlessly tired.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). Though this passage is found within a discussion on sexual immorality, I believe it can also apply to what we put into our bodies.
We really don’t have much of an excuse for not eating healthy, considering how readily available those options are. There are places in this world where you must be content with whatever food you can find, but this just isn’t the case in America. We have the ability to eat healthy at increasingly more reasonable prices.
Last comes the dreaded issue of exercise! Though God knows our lifespan, we can increase the likelihood of a longer life if we regularly exercise. We also tend to feel better when we do something daily to elevate our heart rate.
We are told, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). This means we should make them as fit as possible. Certainly some of us have limitations on what we can do. For instance, I have recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but I am not going to use that diagnosis as an excuse to sit around and allow my body to crumble. I am determined to remain as fit as I can for as long as possible.
We are quite adept at developing excuses for why we shouldn’t take care of ourselves. Our schedules make it difficult to find proper rest, maintain a healthy diet, or have the energy to exercise. We must make the time though. Paul warned us, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:15, 16, Holman Christian Standard Bible). Even if our habits include overwork, staying up late, or devouring fast food, we can begin taking small steps to ensure a healthy self that can more readily and capably serve the Lord.
The issue of our bodies has been far too often neglected in Christian circles. God loves our physical bodies, just as he finds importance in our minds and spirits. We worship the Lord with our well-developed minds and a spirit steeped in prayer and Scripture. Let us also worship God with our bodies.
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio (eyesonthekingdom.com).