By Matthew Pryor
A few years back, we needed some bedroom furniture for our oldest son. Being a fan of financial fitness, we decided we’d get the best bang for our buck at IKEA. But the closest one is an hour and a half from us and I didn’t want to get there and not be able to fit the furniture in our SUV. Fortunately, my sister-in-law was gracious enough to lend us her minivan. And while it makes me a little nervous driving other people’s cars (what if something happens to it while it’s in my care?), we needed the furniture and I didn’t see a better way. So I drove… carefully.
The trip up and back went without incident and it was time to return the car. I only had it a few hours but wanted to return it in the best condition I could. So I filled the tank with gas (even though it wasn’t full when I got it), I made sure there was no garbage in it, and I helped put the seats back in it. I wanted to show my gratitude to the owner by driving carefully, parking away from the other cars to avoid dings, and returning the car in better condition than I received it. This is just common courtesy and how I believe we should treat things that don’t belong to us.
If you’ve read much of the Bible, you’ve probably read the following verse:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1).
As a Christian, I believe what the Bible has to say. And according to this verse, I belong to God. And if I belong to God, then I am not my own. In fact, here are a couple verses that speak to that very point:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, emphasis added).
And the fact that the context of these verses is referring to sexual immorality doesn’t then mean that we are our own in other circumstances, that we were only bought at a price as it relates to our sexual purity. In fact, verses 12-13 talk about not being mastered by anything and even use “food for the stomach and stomach for food” as an example. And what sense would it make to honor God with our bodies only sexually but not in other ways? To be sexually pure but gluttonous would be inconsistent with scripture. The Psalms say it. 1st Corinthians says it. We are not our own.
You know what else the Psalms say?
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well (Psalm 139:13-14).
I am fearfully made. You are wonderfully made. Why then wouldn’t we want to get and stay fit? Why wouldn’t we want to take care of this incredible gift of a body that He has entrusted to us? We should want to. We should strive to. I’m not saying we can’t enjoy food. I certainly do by practicing the nutrition tithe and cheating the right way. But as a lifestyle, we shouldn’t be putting salt water in our gas tanks. What kind of steward would that make us?
And that’s what it comes down to for Christians: we are stewards. We are stewards of our money, our time, our families, our talents… and yes, we are steward of our bodies.
It’s only when we learn to own this fact, that we are not our own, can we then begin to change our view and avoid the pressure we put on ourselves to do it for ourselves. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do it for ourselves. In fact, it can often being a catalyst motivation (it certainly was and is for me). But it somehow becomes easier when we are doing it for someone else! These bodies are not really ours. The owner was kind enough to entrust them to us and we want to take care, the best care, of these depreciating assets we can. Someday we will have to return our bodies to the One who made them. Until then it’s my prayer that I can learn to live outside my own motives and seek to be the kind of steward he finds faithful.
Keep in mind, all of this really isn’t worthwhile, or even possible without God’s grace. And he extends that grace to our fitness lives as well. While we shouldn’t use his grace as an excuse to not take care of ourselves, we also shouldn’t feel condemnation (Romans 8:1) if we haven’t taken the kind of care that we should. That’s not what his grace is about. His grace is bigger than that. His grace covers us where we are at, irrespective of our “performance.” Therefore, our fitness ambitions should NOT be a response to the guilt we may have for years of poor body stewardship, but rather a response to the perfect love that God has extended to us. A love so great that it can deliver us from our cycle of defeat and strengthen us to tend to our bodies in a way that honors the One who gave them to us.
So if you’re a Christian and you’re struggling with your desires to get fit, perhaps it would be good to examine your motivations, to pray for his strength to help you, to trust that he will, and to remind yourself of this simple fact: you have to return the minivan!
You’ve been challenged… now GO!
Matthew Pryor is a writer, personal trainer, and founder of the Christian fitness site Body Tithe University (BTU). BTU specializes in helping Christians get fit with one objective in mind: live more so you can give more… more to your family, your friends, and your heavenly Father.