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.
7 thoughts on “Health and Godliness”
I agree whole-heartedly–and this is a topic I’ve brought up around my Christian girl friends whenever we get into a diet-comparison rut or a body-issue rut (it’s odd how complaining about our bodies or lack of weight loss can become such an acceptable topic! It certainly doesn’t build anyone up…). Your salvation or standing as Christian is not in the slightest affected by your adherence to diet and exercise (now, there is gluttony, but that is another issue that can come up in a variety of ways, not just with food).
Janeen, I think you hit the nail on the head. Health is such a common topic (or complaint), that we forget that God desires more of us than just the physical.
I feel like health and being a Christian go hand in hand. I feel like I’ve become a health evangelist. Ever since I started trying to cut out processed oils and soy and use only real animal fats, I’ve had so many health problems go away. I’ve had these horrible headaches ever since I had my third child, and when I’m eating right, those go away. I want to tell people about this! I see people sick with the same little things I had, and I want to grab them and cry, “Here’s the answer! Eat food that God made, not man-made processed junk! It’s so easy!”
Kessie, great point. I made some changes to my diet and found I had a whole lot more energy. But this did not come until I made changes with my heart. After I had my twins, I was devastated at how much my body had changed (and there was no going back!). With God’s help, I learned not to put myself down, to see myself the way He sees me, and to learn to love my new mommy body. I was finally free to be me 🙂
Thank you Morgan. I needed this word.
I so glad my words encouraged you, my friend 🙂
In III John 2 John prays for good health.
II Cor. 7:1 tells us to purify ourselves in body and spirit.
Of course many make too much of outward appearance, but that does not mean that taking care of our “temple of the Holy Spirit” is unimportant or unnecessary. Eating healthy and exercising in a self controlled manner can help reduce depression and anxiety.