Is health and godliness the same thing? What I have seen recently makes me wonder if Christians are interlinking the two. The verse I have seen in defense of this is Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity.” The implied message is a godly woman is a strong woman, a fit woman. But does God really require women (and men) to be physically fit and healthy in order to be godly? I do not believe so.
In 1 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy, “On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 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.” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8 NASB, emphasis mine)
Why is that? I believe it is because exercise and healthy living can only go skin deep. It scratches the surface of who we are. Yes, it is of some profit; after all, science has shown that good health can lead to more energy, wellness, and potentially longer life. But healthy living does not reach the heart. And it is in the heart where many of our fears and worries live, such as:
- Eating disorders,
- The struggles we have with our bodies,
- Images that bombard us the moment we are born (my daughter, 8 years old, is already STRUGGLING with this!),
- Believing that God loves us because deep down, we hate ourselves,
- The voices inside our mind that tell us if we just work out a little more, eat a little more healthy, get that plastic surgery/breast job, we will finally look good too.
Exercise and healthy living can also be temporary: sickness comes, or you have a baby and your body changes, the time you used to have for the gym is now taken up by your children. Or simply the world’s standards for beauty and health change.
However, godliness is permanent. It changes both the heart and the body. It frees us to be who God made us to be. And reminds us that God loves us. He loves us despite the lumps, the bumps, the extra folds of skin, the stretch marks, the love handles, the size 14 pants, the double chin, and the poochy belly. Time and age will not diminish godliness. In fact, it grows in beauty as we allow God to transform our hearts. Isn’t that so freeing!
So am I saying it is bad to be healthy? Not at all. But I do not believe it is a requirement of God. Godliness, contentment, a life of truth and integrity, a serving and giving heart, these are the things God desires and are worth pursuing, because they profit us both in this life and the next.