Why God loves my body

Lectionary Readings

  1. Psalms 139: 1-6, 13-18
  2. 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20

Time for those 2012 resolutions – starting with diet & exercise!

I don’t know about you, but every year seems to start with a new resolution to restart the diet and exercise.  I’ve learnt over the years that this can never start “tomorrow” or “next Monday”; if it’s doesn’t start TODAY it’s never going to start!  And yet, it seems that every year I’m starting over again.

I blame it on Panama’s weather!  I always find it’s easier in Panama’s summer months – clear blue skies beckon to go for walks, to hike in parks, and even eat salads. January through March, I love skating and cycling and just getting outdoors.  But then in April it starts to rain some mornings, not often, but just enough that you have to check the weather before making plans.

Come October, with rain every day, sometimes all day, it all goes to pieces,  and then you have all the holidays in November, and then Mother’s Day at the beginning of December, and the Christmas parties and events and get together’s… and before you know it, you’re 10 pounds up on where you  were in April!

If only during December we would remember Paul’s words from 1st Corinthians 6:

“All things are lawful for me”, but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me”, but I will not be enslaved by anything

And that includes the Christmas ham and eggnog!

And maybe remember Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

So give someone else that extra helping, in love serve another!

But seriously, as Paul says in Corinthians, my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, received from God.  I know that I am not my own… But sometimes I really do struggle to glorify God in my body.

And God knows these struggles!

Psalms 139 reminds us:

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, You perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Especially the lazy ones…

All the ways that I make excuses at 6.00 a.m. not to go for a walk, and all the reasons that I “forget” to do sit-ups, and every one of my pretexts for “later”.

So, what does the Bible say about exercise and diet?  Other than the analogy that my body is a temple and therefore needs to be kept in pristine order, what does it really say?

Let’s start with the wise man – Solomon.  He has something to say both about men as well as advice for women:

Proverbs 24: 5 – A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might…

Proverbs 31:17 – She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

And then, of course, we have Paul, living in the time of gladiators and Olympic sports:

1 Corinthians 9:27 – But I discipline my body and keep it under control…

1 Timothy 4:8 – 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

On the other hand, Peter says:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.[1]

So – don’t get too caught up in how your body looks!  It’s not about being the perfect hour-glass figure or the ironman.

And keep in mind what Isaiah says:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. [2]

So, always keep in mind that the spiritual is just as important as the physical. And we can’t forget about one and focus exclusively on the other.  The Bible has quite a lot to say about moderation and keeping everything balanced:

1 Corinthians 9:25

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath (i.e. the Olympics), but we an imperishable.

Philippians 4: 5

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.

So, we have to be reasonable about it.  Well, that’s easy right? Ask a lawyer what “reasonable” means!

And how about diets?

Proverbs 23: 2

Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.

That’s a little harsh, isn’t it?

Once again, I think it comes back to balance and moderation.

Did you know that you can find on the internet “Biblical diets”?  Of course, when I read them, it sounded very much like what my Mum would say: “if you don’t eat your veggies, you can’t have any pudding”.

I think she said it was something like: a third of your plate should be covered with veggies, a third with grains, cereals, or starch, preferably whole-grain, and then the remaining third should be split up between dairy, cheeses, meats, sweets and fat.

But really, what does the Bible say about food & diet?

Starting in Genesis 1:29 we find:

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

I guess that doesn’t include ice-cream and chocolate cake – although I’m still hoping one day they’ll grow on trees!

What’s really interesting, when you think about it, is that we have natural fruit & vegetables from every colour of the rainbow (literally).

Here are some examples:

  • Red: we have tomatoes, apples, cherries, strawberries, watermelon, beets, rhubarb, and radishes
  • Orange: we have oranges, peaches, pumpkin, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes
  • Yellow: lemons, pears, apricots, grapefruit, squash, wheat, and corn
  • Green: avocados, olives, limes, apples, cucumbers, peas, green beans, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, and spinach
  • Blue:  blueberries, blackberries & mulberries
  • White: coconut, dates, pears, nuts, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes and ginger
  • Purple: cabbage, onions, plumbs, figs, beets, eggplant and grapes

And those are just the ones that are easy to remember!

Then, add to that: Psalms 104: 14

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth.

So want to add a bit more spice to it – use herbs!

And think about this verse:  Leviticus 26:5

Threshing time will last until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until planting. You will eat all you want and live securely in your land.

Maybe that just applies to farmers and those that are physically active, right?

Try making your way through Leviticus and all the rules about what you can and can’t eat!  It’s health and safety 101!

I personally don’t believe in the Atkins Diet – because while Jesus may have said “man does not live by bread alone”, he also says “Give us this day our daily bread” – so I think it goes without saying that we are to have some carbs!

Do you want a recipe for bread? Try Ezekial 4:9

“…  take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them.”

And then there’s the need to have meat:  Genesis 9:3

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. As I gave you the green plants, I give you everything…

Daniel’s diet, on the other hand, does teach us that we could be vegetarians, although I’m pretty sure that includes vegetables in a very broad sense and not just greens!  It would have been your potatoes, rice, grains, nuts, fruits, and all the rest of nature’s bounty.

So what about fat and fried food?

Leviticus 7:23

Say to the Israelites: ‘Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goats.

Guess we’re supposed to make some effort then to stay skinny – although it does clearly say olive oil is good!

And what about wine?

I remember joking as a teenager: wasn’t it obvious what God had to say about wine? Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine.  What else do you need to know?

By the same token, we find Paul giving Timothy some advice:

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.[3]

I heard something similar recently from a visitor to Panama – they had caught a tummy bug and they found an immediate solution – drink Coca Cola – it kills everything for you!

And there are even rules (in Leviticus and elsewhere) about parties and feasts:

Try Nehemiah 8:10

“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”

 When it comes to eating and exercise, I think the most important rule to remember is what Paul says in Romans 14:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. …

Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. …

And most importantly of all:  We are to remember always, no matter how much time we may have (or not) for exercise and diet, that God made each of us as we are.  With the metabolism that we were given, the body shape that we have – whether we are tall or short, heavy-set or slim, lots of energy and drive or not, God created each of us in His image.

Psalms 139:

13 – For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

We are each loved by God – irrespective of how we look on the outside! We need to celebrate that, making the Holy Spirit’s temple as beautiful a place (both inside and out) as we are able with God’s help and guidance.

[1] 1 Peter 3: 3-4
[2] Isaiah 40: 28-31
[3] 1 Timothy 5:23

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