Health, Fitness, and the Believer

*Posted by Joe Wooddell

This blog site is “For Christ and Culture,” and an enormous part of our culture includes health and fitness, so such topics are worth treating here. The Bible says God “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17), but clearly this doesn’t mean we are to enjoy (or even participate in) things like adultery, idolatry, coveting, theft, or murder (if, philosophically speaking, these can even be called “things”). In other words, 1 Timothy 6:17 does not preclude the reality of sin. We may enjoy many things, but to indulge in some things, or to indulge in certain things excessively or with the wrong attitude or motivation, or at the wrong place or time or with the wrong person, is sin.

It may strike the reader as incredibly simple, but we need to address the following: Food and relaxation are neither good nor bad in themselves. God richly supplies them for us to enjoy (and for other reasons). Take food, for example. While the primary meaning of Acts 10:9-16 (the clean and unclean animals) is God teaching Peter that God is (and, we might argue, always had been) open to Gentiles being saved, a second, peripheral meaning (or at least application) is that the OT dietary laws (as either “civil” or “ceremonial”) are no longer mandatory for the people of God. And if this passage doesn’t mean that in some sense, it doesn’t mean such a principle is not true. Just look at Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews: quit trying to be justified by law, quit going back toward Egypt. Take relaxation (or celebration or leisure) as well. The OT feasts and holidays included rest, as does setting a day apart for worship and ceasing from round-the-clock labor (i.e. trusting in self rather than God).

Food and relaxation can be enjoyed in godly ways, or they can be exploited, abused, and become sinful. Believers ought to be careful here, and they ought to know their limitations. There’s nothing wrong with abstaining from certain foods if one knows they are harmful or too tempting to one personally. But there’s also nothing wrong with others enjoying those same foods from time to time. (For the record, I am decidedly not talking about mind-altering substances, which should be avoided altogether.) However, gluttony is sin. What is gluttony? The dictionary defines it as excessive eating and drinking; intemperance. The Bible condemns this (Prov. 23:20-21). There’s also nothing wrong with appropriate relaxation, but such can become laziness, which the Bible also condemns (Prov. 6:9-10; 19:15).

Here is the hard part, however: What constitutes “excessive”? How much leisure is too much? As with so many things, I leave this up to the individual believer before God (Rom. 14:5; 1 Cor. 10:23-33). I should also include leaving it up to that believer’s closest circle of godly family and friends. Often those closest to a believer will see his faults before he does, and they should admonish him (Col. 3:16; 2 Thes. 3:15).

Finally, just because someone looks physically fit doesn’t mean he’s not lazy or gluttonous. Just like a poor person can be greedy and a rich person might not be, a so-called “fit” person can still be gluttonous. Believers should honor God with their bodies, they should not be gluttonous or lazy, and a healthy body (all else being equal) will tend to aid in a longer, more productive life of service to God. Physically strong and healthy believers also are setting good examples for their families, their churches, and are being a positive witness to unbelievers. There’s normally no good reason not to engage in healthy eating and physical exercise, and there are lots of reasons to avoid their opposites.

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3 Responses to Health, Fitness, and the Believer

  1. Pingback: Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog

  2. Pingback: Health, Fitness, and the Believer | My Big Fat Blog

  3. Nice blog, i love reading it.

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