Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Biblical Principles of Physical Fitness

I like to work out. Well, sometimes I don't like to. I certainly like to be one who has worked out.

But it's more than just my preference. In taking Scripture to all areas of life, I believe that one area that is often overlooked is the area of physical fitness.

So, the question- "Should Christians be 'in shape'?"

I shall give some Biblical principles. Scripture doesn't say "Thou shalt do 100 push-ups daily," so I shall not say so either.

First, a few counterpoints need to be addressed:

"Doesn't 1 Tim. 4:6-9 say that we don't need to worry about this?"
No. Godliness is certainly MORE important. However, since spiritual and physical health are intertwined, and in the context of all of Scripture, this certainly doesn't mean that we should give no consideration to the state of our bodies.

"What if a person can't exercise?"
In that case, obviously, it is The LORD's Will for them to be in the condition they are, and their application of these principles, which they still should apply, may nevertheless be in very different ways than the physically healthy person. If they can't, they can't! (Welcome to the tautology club.)

However, that is usually not the case.

Here are 8 Biblical principles which apply in this realm.

  1. Self-Control- 1 Cor. 9:24-27 - We must be self-controlled, and one way to practice this is through physical discipline- working out, or working hard.
  2. Good Stewardship- Lk. 19:11 - We are called to be good stewards of what God has given us- how would that not include our bodies?
  3. Protection of the Innocent- Neh. 4:14 - We, especially as men, should be ready to protect our families. To be weak and impotent physically- or even just "out of shape"- will certainly affect our ability to do this.
  4. The Relationship of Body and Soul- We don't believe that the soul and body are entirely separate, but rather that they are connected- and, to some degree or another, as goes one, so goes the other. So, when we apply the principle of Self-Control to the body, we also discipline the soul- and vice-versa.
  5. Readiness to Obey- 1 Pet. 5:8 - We will be better able to do whatever God calls us to. "The best of my ability" becomes better.
  6. Multi-generational Vision- Taking better care of our bodies will, LORD willing, allow for longer, healthier lives of vision-impartation. How wonderful would it be for four generations of men to be elk hunting together? Ultimately, of course, God is sovereign over death- but man is responsible for what he does with the life that God has given him.
  7. Strength as Glory- Pr. 20:29 - This applies specifically to young men, but I don't think it too much of a stretch to apply it to men in general. Physical strength should certainly NOT be a source of identity or ungodly pride. However, God has designed men to be strong. It is good, it is right, when we are. We should be proud of this in the right sense, and cultivate manly strength.
  8. Testimony to the Lost- 2 Cor. 5:20 - As ambassadors for Christ, what kind of testimony is it to the world when we are unhealthy? Is that good representation of The King Whom we serve?
And some practical points:
  • Gluttony is bad. (Pr. 23:21, 28:7) We ought to eat "only what we need, lest we have it in excess and vomit it". Feasting to The LORD is good (as is fasting, both at proper times), but gluttony is not.
  • "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable." (1 Cor. 6:12, 10:23) It's not a sin to eat Dunkin' Donuts. But is it profitable? (And, honestly, I think for people like me it IS profitable to, every once in a while, have a DD or shake from Chik-Fil-A- as a reminder that it is indeed lawful.)
  • Our bodies were designed to be used. Until recent times, they were. Now, we need to find a way to use them.