"My" Body

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)

This is not my body that I am living in.  I can see that the Lord calls it "your body", but at the same time he says that "you are not your own."  If I am separated from my body, then I am physically dead.  So, as long as I am alive, my body is an inseparable part of me.  My body is the like the house I live in.

Is this your story?

God built the house and gave you the title to it at birth.   You didn't know how to take care of the house, so you watched what other homeowners were doing, listened to the very convincing "propaganda" of the slumlord, and made the decisions that seemed best to you.  But it didn't take you long to run the place down.  The house was in disrepair, and your life was miserable and getting worse.

You knew that you couldn't sell your house (except to the slumlord) or buy another house.  You knew that you were "stuck" in this one; you had to learn to make the best of it.  So, you tried and succeeded sometimes, but in the end everything was going downhill.  You always were a good starter, but were a poor finisher.  Your life in this house was going nowhere.  

So you were desperate for some help.  You were willing to admit that you couldn't handle life in this house.  You had tried and failed; you were ready to do whatever it took to make your life better.  Finally, when you were at your lowest point, you heard about Jesus' offer to take over your house and help you make your life better.  You had heard of him before, but you just weren't listening.  You had been convinced that maybe other people needed a "crutch" like him, but you didn't.  You had thought, "I know what I'm doing and where I'm going."  You had been depending on you.

But now— now things were different.  You were a broken person; you realized that you didn't have any solutions that worked.  And you didn't have the ability to do what was right, even if someone had told you what was right.  This time when you heard the about the offer from Jesus, it all made sense to you, and it was the best news you had heard.  Here was his offer: if you would simply place your dependence in him — believe that he is God, and that he is the very one who had been promised since mankind turned its back on God — then he would guarantee you eternal life. 

So you accepted his offer.  You didn't understand everything, but you knew that you had made a mess of your life, and you were willing to put your entire dependence upon him.  Some things got better immediately: you had hope for the future; you had someone to talk to any time about whatever you were struggling with; you discovered a group of former homeowners who, like you, had placed their dependence in Jesus; you had an "owner's manual" that told you how to live life successfully.

Life was good, but it was not perfect.  You were still living in the same house and having most of the same problems that you had been having.  Even though Jesus was living in the house with you, you found that it was easy to slip back into your old habits that you had practiced all your life.  Even though you had hope for the future, fellowship with your Creator, and fellowship with other converted homeowners, you were still struggling with the care of this house.  And it seemed that most of the problems in your life were related to the house.  And so this struggle continues, right up to this very day.

I know that I can't get rid of this house I live in; if I separate myself from it, I die.  I also know that I can't take proper care of it; I've tried and failed numerous times.  And I know that I'm not alone in this struggle; even the apostle Paul wrestled with it.1  But I want to be victorious in this struggle; I want this house to be a useful instrument rather than a harmful impediment.  I'm hoping that a proper understanding of the ownership of this home will be a key that opens the door to greater freedom and joy as I live in it.

The scripture above indicates that when I placed my dependence in Jesus, that he took over ownership of my house.  So it's his house and it's my house.  It's like a rental house for which I have been given a long-term lease.  I call it "my house", but it's really his.  It's mine because I live in it, but it's his because he paid a very dear price for it.  So what should be my attitude toward this house, and how should I treat it?

This house is no longer just the place where I live; it is also the place where the Creator of the universe lives, and where the Savior of my soul lives.  It has become a holy place by virtue of the holy one who has taken up residence in it.  A holy place; and just what does that really mean?  It means that it is not just a "run of the mill" house any longer; it is a dwelling place of God.

The temple — and my body — should be thought of and treated with a different kind of respect.  God told the Israelites to treat the temple as holy; it was not to be treated as any other building.  It was "set apart" for God alone.  It was dedicated to God; it was to be used exclusively for the purposes he designed it.  If my body — the house in which I live — is also God's holy dwelling, I need to think of it and treat it with the same respect and care I would if I wasn't living in it, but just visiting it.

If I was visiting the "house of God", I would be very careful to do nothing to harm, misuse, or abuse it, or anything in it.  I would make sure that everything in it was used only for the purposes it was intended.  If I was given the responsibility of being the caretaker of the "house of God", I would do my job with the utmost sobriety and respect.  If someone were to suggest that I do something with or in "God's house" that was not in accord with God's intended purpose, I would be more concerned about offending God than about offending others.  

When God gave instructions to the people of Israel concerning the temple and its furnishings, he made it clear that they were all holy, i.e., designed and dedicated for God and his purposes alone.  To use them in any other way was to profane them.  So serious was God about keeping these things holy, that the penalty for profaning the temple, its furnishings, or its practices was often death.  One illustration of this is found in God's instructions regarding the incense that was to be offered on the altar of incense:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. You shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord. Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people.”2  (Exodus 30:34-38)

Now the people of Israel did what is natural for all people, they reduced what God intended to be a relationship with himself, into a religious ritual.  All of these instructions from God were to designed to move the people into an intimate relationship with himself.  The people, instead, focused upon keeping rules and worshiping the building and its accoutrements.  God instructs me to glorify him in, or with, my body.  If I allow myself to simply develop a set of rules to keep care of my body, while ignoring the God who is living there, I will be guilty of the same foolish error committed by the Pharisees who missed the very Messiah they were hoping would rescue them.

So, I need to think of and care for my body with the greatest respect, out of love and honor for the God who redeemed it and lives in it.  If I were to borrow a car or use the vacation home of someone else, out of gratitude and respect for them, it is my practice to return it to them in better shape than I was given it, if possible.  Can I do any less with the marvelous body God has purchased for me and given me to live in?  And when I consider the awesome price he paid to redeem it, I ought to be filled with gratitude every day that I am permitted to dwell with God in his house.

So then, what are the implications of this truth for the way I eat?  God made both food for the body, and the body for food.3  Our bodies weren't made to run on gasoline, nor was food made to power rockets to the moon.  There is specific and marvelous design in God's creation.  God made food, from both plants and animals, for human consumption and nutrition.4  Of this there is no doubt.  And just as truly, God meticulously designed the human body to grow and be sustained by means of these very same foods.

So, here's the $64,000 question: "Can the body grow and maintain good health when we put into it things other than that which God designed as food?"  And even more importantly: "Am I treating as holy the house which God purchased and lives in with me, when I put into it that which God did not design to be put into it?"  

When the people of Israel employed what might be called "creative expression" or "individualism" or even "compassion" in their use of the holy things of the temple and its service, they were, at times, killed by God.  The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were both struck dead by God when they offered a sacrifice that was not according to God's specific instructions.  The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were both killed in battle, a judgment from God because they greedily took more than they were allotted from the people's sacrifices. Uzza died instantly because he put his hand out to steady the ark of God, when it was his responsibility to make sure that the ark was not touched, but carried on poles.  

If God executed such judgment upon those who did not treat the holy things of the temple with respect and honor, would it be unusual if God would execute judgment upon those who do not treat with respect and honor the holy temple that is the body of a believer in Jesus Christ?  In fact, should it make sense that God would answer the prayers of those who treat their bodies as unholy and then ask him to heal them from diseases that result directly from such profane treatment?  

What am I talking about?  This is specifically what I mean: if I put non-foods, or the wrong amounts of foods, into my body and expect God to grant me good health and long life, I am a fool.  How can I ask for his blessing, when I am, by my actions, mocking the God who made food and my body, and am disrespecting the same God who has made my body to be his holy dwelling place?  

If I take sugar cane or beets, wheat, or corn, and strip them of all or most their nutrients, reducing them to highly refined, soft or sweet substances, and then add them to nearly every food product that is sold in the market, do I have food as God created it?  When I add hundreds of different chemicals to food products so that they taste or feel better in my mouth, or so they last longer on the shelf, do I have food as God created it?  When I add steroids and antibiotics to the diets of animals, or feed them with nothing but grains, so that they grow bigger and faster, have I changed the composition of the meat such that it is not food as God created it?  

These are not the questions of a kook who is bent on changing the culture.  Scientific research tells us that all of these modifications of food products are harmful for our bodies.  The direction of the popular culture is set by pictures of beautiful people, the promise of easy preparation, and the lure of great taste; can we expect sound reasoning from it?  We must go back the The Book.  God made plants and animals for food, and when we alter them as significantly as we have in our culture, I submit to you that they become non-food.  

If we want to treat as holy the temple in which God lives, and which he has purchased with the blood of his Son, then we need to follow his directions for taking care of what he made, and what only he can sustain.  We have allowed people who are motivated by making money to set the table for us.  And it's not that making money is bad, it's just that they are controlled by the profit motive rather than by a desire to treat the body as holy.  We must set our own tables, following the directions of the maker and resident of our bodies.  

And we must also care for these temples of God by exercising them as well.  God intended that we walk wherever we would go.  Only the wealthy were carried where they would go.  And it was also only the wealthy that grew fat from overeating.  Perhaps they grew fat from a combination of overeating as well as under-exercising!  Since many of us travel dozens of miles to work or shop or worship, we need to add walking to our daily schedules.  And since many of us do work that requires little or no physical exertion, we need to add some kind of exercise — preferably light weight lifting — to our daily schedules.  

Now if you are seeking a motivation for "diet and exercise" that will last a lifetime — that will actually result in an alteration of your lifestyle — I suggest this one: your body is not your own, it was purchased by God to be his temple; treat it as holy.  If you just go on a diet whenever you want to take a trip, or to look good for a wedding, you will yo-yo up and down and your health will grow progressively worse.  But if you alter your thinking about your body, and change your treatment of it, out of honor and respect for the one who dwells with you in it, you will have a lifetime of motivation.

1 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Romans 7:18-19,24)

2 This expression, "Cut off from among his people", means put to death.

3 1 Corinthians 6:13

4 Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you." (Genesis 1:29)  Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. (Genesis 9:3)

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