Monday, May 6, 2013

Stewardship, Part 4: Body

Today we will discuss how to be good stewards of our physical bodies. If you are a believer in Christ, then you are already familiar with the infinite amount of love that God has for you. If you just want a refresher, I love this passage that describes God's love and care for us:

Psalm 139:13-16
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

God advises many times in Scripture directly, through prophets, and through His apostles that we are stewards of our bodies and are called to care for them properly. He made hygienic laws to help His people be sanitary, instructed the people how to prepare and eat food, and how to clean up afterwards.

It is clear from Scripture that we are called to honor God, and one of the (many) ways we are called to do that is by honoring our physical bodies and maintaining a certain level of self control over it.

Romans 12:1
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20
12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "The two shall become one flesh." 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

3 John 1:2
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.

The key idea here is that of stewardship, responsibility, and control. In other words, we have a certain amount of control over our physical bodies, and then there are some things pertaining to our bodies that are out of our control. Being so close to my heart, infertility is a wonderful example of this idea. No matter how "perfectly" I control the process of trying to conceive, there are factors that are simply out of my control. God and only God create life in a woman's womb.

Similarly, there are health factors that are within your control, as well as factors that are outside of your control. You could eat the most perfectly optimal diet and routinely exercise, and still one day find yourself stricken with a disease. But my point is that most people assume that more health conditions are outside of their control than what is actually the case.

Have you heard of your biological age versus your chronological age? If not, your chronological age cannot be changed, unless you have invented a time machine. If that's the case, could you please go back and tell my younger self how to dress fashionably instead of like this:

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Your chronological age is literally how many years you've been alive. But your biological age is how old your physical body looks and behaves. It's the difference between these two individuals:

 photo itunes_zpsbb610ada.jpg
This - your typical looking 71 year old...who just won $10,000 for downloading iTunes' 10 billionth song (Source)

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And this - Jack LaLanne, aged 71 in this picture (Source)

Or how about this 91-year-old who ran the Knoxville Half Marathon in just over 3 hours.

I believe that part of being a good steward of your physical body is pursuing health in the ways that you have control over. It's important of course to keep things in the proper perspective: our top commandments are to love the Lord and your neighbor. And God does not want you to be so obsessed about your physical body that you enter the realm of vanity, pride, and idolatry. But let's get one thing straight: allowing yourself to balloon up over your lifetime because you don't place any kind of priority on eating well and exercising is a different kind of idolatry (i.e., food). The standard American diet places an excessive demand for high-fat, highly processed foods. I believe the standard American diet is gluttonous, and I do not think that gluttony is supported by Scripture. (Did you know that type II diabetes used to be called "adult-onset" diabetes, but because children are starting to develop it, they had to generalize it a bit more?)

Proverbs 23:20-21
20 Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
21 For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.

Proverbs 25:16, 27
16 Have you found honey? Eat only what you need,
That you not have it in excess and vomit it.

27 It is not good to eat much honey,
Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.

Philippians 3:17-19
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

Hebrews 12:15-16
15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

1 Samuel 16:7
for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart

So please understand that there are two extremes: being vain and letting yourself go. There is a balance in the middle. Some of you may point to 1 Timothy 4:8 that says "for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" and claim this as an excuse to avoid pursuing physical health. I would argue that it is godly to pursue physical health, along with all of the other ways of pursuing godliness like prayer, worship, service, etc. Pursuing physical health is a form of spiritual discipline. It is practicing the fruit of the Spirit, self-control. It is honoring the temple God has given you. Furthermore, being in good physical health allows a person to have more energy, stamina, and mental clarity to pursue the Lord than having mediocre or poor health. You're more likely to live longer - which means more time on this planet to glorify God - if you take proper care of your physical body.

Hebrews 6:11-12
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

Heck, read Proverbs 31 and then ask yourself whether this godly wife worked hard at disciplining her physical body. She makes her arms strong, is physically active, and is not fatigued. 

So How Healthy Are We Really?
The standard American is not healthy. Cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are all on the rise. But that may be obvious. What about you in particular? If you are like I used to be, you may think that as long as you're free of those serious health conditions, then you're a fairly healthy individual. But let me ask you some questions...

Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17
"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick."

  • Do you suffer from any sort of seasonal allergy?
  • Have you experienced symptoms of irritable-bowel or other digestive disorders like diverticulitis or ulcerative colitis?
  • Do you have arthritis? Joint pain?
  • Have you ever had asthma?
  • Have you ever had eczema, keratosis pilaris, or psoriasis?
  • Do you frequently experience heartburn or acid reflux?
  • Frequent headaches or migraines?
  • Do you experience PMS, hormonal imbalances, or have you been diagnosed with infertility?
  • Have you (or your child) experienced frequent ear, sinus, or other infections?
  • Have you ever struggled with acne?
  • Do you feel tired all the time? Chronic or frequent fatigue?

I seriously could go on and on with this list of questions. I hope you are catching on to where I'm headed. Do you still consider yourself healthy after reading that list? All of the above ailments can be reduced, relieved, or eliminated through adopting a better diet and regular exercise.

So when it comes to your body, what you fuel it with and how you treat it can make a huge impact on your overall health. And within the context of Scripture, I'm fully confident that God desires each of His children to take care of the bodies He's blessed us with. I believe that prioritizing your physical health in all the ways you have control over is a godly response and a way of expressing gratitude for His gift of life in you, and it opens yourself up to be even more available to serve the Lord.

It's time to ask yourself and God how you can be a better steward of His creation.

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