Loving God & Physical Fitness

And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38) 

Is there a connection between the greatest commandment and physical fitness?  Is being overweight and out of shape a spiritual matter?  Can I love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind and not give attention to the health of my body?

An act of disobedience is not an expression of love toward God.  To sin is to not show love to God.  When I sin I grieve the heart of God.  Whenever I sin, therefore, I need to acknowledge it to my myself, confess it to God, and feel miserable1 because of the grief2 I've brought to the Spirit of God.

But is it really sin to overeat and to not exercise?  Isn't getting out of shape just an evidence of not loving myself enough?  Is the most physically fit Christian also the Christian who loves God the most?  I've seen very overweight pastors; are they unspiritual because they are fat?  What if you've just got a slow metabolism; how can that be a spiritual matter?  

Let's look at what God says about all this—

Everyone knows what it means to get drunk: to drink so much alcohol that you are not in control of what you do.3  We all know that getting drunk is a sin,4 and most Christians steer conspicuously clear of drunkenness.  But what is gluttony?  In the scriptures, gluttony is often mentioned in partnership with drunkenness.  Drunkenness is over-drinking; gluttony is over-eating.  

The people who are over-eating, like the people who are over-drinking, will likely deny that they are doing it.  But despite their protestations, everybody else knows it to be true.  When overweight people take a second helping, and offer some kind of excuse ("I didn't have any chips and dip," "I skipped breakfast today," "I'm starting a diet tomorrow"), everyone at the table knows they are over-eating.  They may not stumble about and have slurred speech, like the drunken man who is trying to convince everyone that he is not drunk, but they are being gluttonous.  They are gluttons, and their excess fat is the evidence.

But what about the "metabolism factor?"  Some people just have a slower metabolism than others, and can just look at cherry pie a la mode and gain weight.  The same can be said about getting drunk: some people can drink a glass of wine and lose control, while others can have several beers and not be drunk.  In both cases, it's just not their fault, right?  

In the case of alcoholic drinks, a person can simply abstain from drinking them, and never have a problem with drunkenness.  But how can a person refrain from eating?  You have to eat to live!  Oh, but just as you can scrupulously avoid drinking any beverages that contain alcohol, you can also, for instance, meticulously avoid every so-called food that contains added sugar.  Does anyone pile on excess fat from eating too many fresh fruits and vegetables?  I don't think so.

And, about the the metabolism factor— the good news is: you can change your metabolism.  The rate at which your body metabolizes the foods you eat is directly proportional to your lean body mass.  The greater the percentage of your body that is muscle tissue, the higher will be your metabolism rate.

The bad new is this: if you've been dieting for years, your metabolism has likely been getting progressively slower with every weight loss you've achieved.  When you diet to lose weight, you typically lose both fat tissue and muscle tissue.  Less muscle tissue means a slower metabolism.  You need to learn how to eat, exercise, and rest, in a way that rids you of fat and increases your lean body mass at the same time.  We're not talking about bulging muscles; just restoration of the strong, healthy muscle tissue you had before you started dieting.  

So now that we've dealt with the common excuses, how do we deal with the sin of gluttony?  How do we deal with the lack of love for God we demonstrate when we over-eat.  The first step is to honestly name sin for what it is.  Denial and equivocation will accomplish nothing positive.  Whenever I eat more than my body needs, I am guilty of gluttony.  God designed eating to be pleasurable5, but when I eat "just for the taste of it," I'm in danger of gluttony and of doing harm to my body.

Let's consider our bodies.  As believers in Jesus Christ, our bodies really aren't ours.  In reality, our bodies are God's.6   He purchased them with the blood of his Son, and they belong to him.  They are his property.  He allows us to live in them, but he also has taken up residence in them as well.  Our bodies are literally the temples of God Almighty.  And we have a responsibility to give them the honor that is due a temple of God, by taking the most conscientious care of them.7   We are to do this, of course, because of our love for God, not as worship of the human body.

The deterioration of a relationship is marked by the injection of rituals.  Good habits are generally favorable, but when the emphasis on maintenance of the routine overshadows the fellowship, love grows cold.  The purpose for disciplined activity must remain motivated by love.  If I retain the proper perspective, attention to eating well, exercising regularly, and resting adequately, can contribute to a deeper and more fervent love relationship with God.

1 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

2 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

3 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. "They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it." (Proverbs 23:29-35)

4 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

5 And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:17)

6 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

7 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles (phtheiro) the temple of God, God will destroy (phtheiro) him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)  On phtheiro, Thayer notes: "In the opinion of the Jews, the temple was corrupted, or 'destroyed', when anyone defiled, or in the slightest degree damaged anything in it, or if its guardians neglected their duties."

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