“Don’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, The Message).
You probably already know you should lose weight, or stop smoking, or get in shape, or have better sleep hygiene, and generally take much better care of your body. I am not here to add to the burden. Rather, I am here to bring out a very important point: Our bodies are the vehicle given to us to glorify God. In other words, our spirituality is really quite embodied.
One of the reasons we fail our bodies is that we do not always make the biblical connection of seeing our physical selves as important as other things – as if care of the body is somehow optional to the Christian life. The major reason Paul brought up a discussion about the body was because Corinth was a Greek city thoroughly imbibed with a Platonic philosophy of life. At the core of Plato’s view of humanity was that the immaterial and the spiritual were of higher value than the body. For Plato, the body is a necessary evil. He referred to our souls being imprisoned within the flesh. When we die the soul is released and is freed from its bodily jail.
Western civilization has been significantly influenced, even today, by Plato’s view of humanity. But that is not the biblical view of the body. Instead of being a prison, the body is a temple, a sacred place which is no better or no worse than the soul. When we die, Paul made it clear to the Corinthians at the end of his letter to them that we will not be disembodied souls, but will experience a bodily resurrection at the end of the age. Eternity will be spent existing in a renewed body free from sin, but nonetheless a real body.
If it is true that the body is sacred, and that we cannot glorify God apart from our bodies, then it is of great spiritual importance that we steward our bodies just like we would steward any other physical material possession we own. We have bought into Platonic philosophy, for example, when we treat our cars better than we treat our bodies. If a warning light comes on in our cars, we get it checked out by the mechanic. He fixes the problem and tells us what we need to do to prevent it from happening again, and we listen to him. But when warning lights go off in our bodies, we ignore them until our bodies literally break down and we have to go to the doctor. And even then, the doctor tells us to do something, and we don’t do it. We do not even think of ignoring the advice of our mechanic, and yet we do it with our doctor. Why in the world would we do that? We function in such a wrongheaded way because we need to listen carefully to the biblical wisdom that we glorify God on this earth through using our bodies.
If we do not have time or priority for sleep, exercise, and eating well, then we do not have time for God because God has given us our bodies and he expects us to care for them and use them well. I look at my body the same way I look at borrowing something from another person: I return it in the best condition I can. When God takes me home someday, I don’t want it to be because I did not take care of my body and hastened my own death.
People often give up on their best laid plans for physical health because it is disconnected from the rest of their lives. What I am insisting is that care of the body is as important as anything we do in the spiritual realm because our bodies belong to God. The church, rather than ignoring proper care of the body, really ought to be at the forefront of promoting physical fitness and health by stopping the insanity of bifurcating body and soul.
I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. We are holistic beings, created by God to glorify him in the church and the world. Let’s uphold this by taking care to be responsible with how we treat and use our bodies. After all, it is a spiritual issue.