Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Tim 4:7-8
During the New Year, one of the main focuses for a lot people is on evaluating the parts of their life that they want to improve and, more often than not, one of those things is to “get in shape”. This is true across the board for Christians and non-Christians alike. According to a Nielsen survey from 2015 the top 2 New Year’s resolutions are to “lose weight” and to “stay fit and healthy.”
Now while these goals may be ubiquitous among all Americans, the question that I want to pose for the Christian is “Why?” Why do you want to be healthier? What are the intrinsic motivations that are driving you to put forth the time and resources to obtain these goals? Are these pursuits merely pragmatic or selfish or is there something deeper spiritually that under-girds these yearnings to take care of yourself?
I regularly get questions throughout my day about how to improve a person’s diet or how to exercise better or how to lose weight. I enjoy this, as I already do it as part of my vocation as a doctor of physical therapy. On a regular basis, I witness the impact of not taking care of your body through proper diet and exercise and the horrible effects disease and dysfunction have on a person as they age. While some things are unavoidable (such as accidents and genetics) many other factors that are within a person’s daily control contribute over time to a wide variety of diseases and syndromes. Among the modifiable risk factors that impact a person’s health, the two greatest are what we choose to eat or not eat and how active we are.
Now, while my education and training for the past 16 years has been purely scientific in nature and my practice is based upon the best evidence accumulated and scrutinized through worldwide clinical research, I don’t want this pursuit to be mainly a pragmatic one that focuses on answering the “why” question with a generic platitude such as “because science says so”. Is there a place for this? Sure, there is a certain level of cause and effect wisdom that God has given us that informs our decision-making and allows us to make practical, logical, every day choices. I believe Scripture has a lot more to say than we realize when it comes to the category of how we should eat, drink, and move.
In particular when you frame the concept slightly differently by changing the focus from improving our “diet and exercise” to “stewarding our body, health and resources” the reality of our existence becomes a little sharper. What if, instead of looking at our bodies as something here merely for our pleasure, we saw ourselves as magnificent organic machines gifted to us by God and through it we were meant to glorify Him. What if part of that glorification is in how we steward our health? Stewardship is typically talked and preached about in the realm of money and finances but it is my assertion that our health falls in line very closely to how God views the money and resources that He provides for us.
Considering this, I am immediately drawn to Matthew 25:14-30 and the parable of the talents. In it we glean how God views, in the words of John MacArthur, “the tragedy of wasted opportunities” 1. Those men who faithfully invested the resources given to them in different measure by our Lord were praised and rewarded for their wise stewardship while the man who squandered his resources was condemned.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, my question to you today is this: how have you been stewarding the health resources that God has given you? Have you been a wise investor of your health or have you squandered it and are suffering the consequences? My question is not meant to condemn but rather to open up an internal dialogue between our God and us and to see if there is maybe a realm of stewardship and spiritual discipline that we haven’t really considered.
Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to focus on some major topics that touch on different aspects of Christian stewardship and our health such as:
- The Theology of Our Bodies
- The Theology of Eating
- The Theology of Exercise
- Idolatry and Our Bodies
- Glorifying God with Our Health
- Practical Steps to Health and Wellness
I hope and pray that this series results in a firm biblical foundation to establish why we should question our motivations to diet and exercise. Hopefully, I will help inspire you to live a happier, healthier and, ultimately, God glorifying life in the days and years to come.
Dr. Joshua Trock is a doctor of physical therapy with a home-based practice that focuses on geriatric disease management. Dr. Trock lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and daughter. He attends Wayside Chapel and enjoys reading theology, outdoor activities and discovering how to get the most out of the amazing bodies God has blessed us with.
- John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 1441. ↩