At the dawning of a new day, I grab my favorite pair of jeans and zip them up. I wince when I feel how tight they are. “It’s not like I’m super overweight”, I tell myself for the umpteenth time, “It just would be good to lose 10 pounds. Then these jeans would be comfortable again!”
Ever had a conversation with yourself similar to this one? You aren’t alone! Many of us have found ourselves in this uncomfortable situation, struggling to squeeze into clothes that should fit.
Throughout my own journey of learning about fitness and health, I have struggled to find the balance between staying healthy and not obsessing over my physical appearance. I began searching the Bible for its insight on these issues. Here are four counter-cultural, Biblical directives on fitness and health that I discovered.
We should value fitness and health as a means to glorify God rather than ourselves.
In today’s society, fitness and health are often seen primarily as a means of becoming more attractive. Just look at the gym advertisements in your mailbox. They usually feature a fit woman who is wearing nothing but an exercise bra and short-shorts. Many people head into the gym with the aim of achieving the same look. However, this motivation usually proves to be flimsy in the long haul.
We should not exercise and eat healthily with the sole purpose of improving our physical appearance. Instead, we should treat our bodies with respect because God crafted them and the Holy Spirit makes his home inside of us! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Comparing ourselves with those around us is purely foolish and leads us down a path of frustration. Second Corinthians 10:12 has something to say about those who are constantly playing the comparison game: “But when they (comparers) measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” Body type and build vary immensely among individuals; no two people are exactly the same. If a girl tries to assimilate the clothing size and weight of one of her peers, she is setting a trap for failure. I am absolutely guilty of participating in comparisons, and have finally come to realize that our bodies are simply different. Even in my most “fit”, there would still be no logical comparison. Comparison is futile!
Spiritual exercise is more important than physical exercise.
1 Timothy 4:8 says, “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.” While keeping in shape is important, staying spiritually fit is exponentially more essential. Our physical bodies are mortal, but our spirits are eternal! Thus, while fitness and health do have value, spiritual training is priceless.
Most importantly, God cares more about the appearance of our heart than the appearance of our bodies.
While taking care of our bodies is crucial for a long and healthy life, building up our character and faith is even more vital. When Samuel went to Jesse’s house to appoint the next king of Israel, he naturally gravitated towards the brothers who were strong and handsome. However, God has a completely different outlook. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God speaks to Samuel, saying, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
In the end, we should endeavor to stay physically fit while keeping a balanced perspective about our outward appearance and the number on the scale. We should not be consumed with comparing ourselves to others. Instead, we should enjoy the beautifully unique bodies that God has given us. Fitness and health is all about glorifying God by taking excellent care of the body He has given us.