In a recent conversation with family, I was discussing the differences between people who exercise and those who don’t. Perhaps the venom in my voice was higher than usual, and maybe I had ranted about this particular topic on more than one occasion (I definitely had), because the next question that was posed was, “Why do you hate out-of-shape people so much?”First off, I didn’t realize that I was coming across that way.
Second of all, the short answer is that I really don’t hate them. As a man dedicated to the words of Christ, I have never seen a verse in the Bible dictating a man to have a certain Body Mass Index in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. A woman is no less a child of God if she weighs twice as much as my car. I realize the love of God and His salvation is able to reach every person regardless of the layers of flesh it has to go through, so what I hate instead is the mentality of giving up on one’s body.
I’m no fitness expert. You’ll never see me on the cover of “Men’s Magazine,” or “Muscle and Fitness.” I don’t have half the knowledge of a licensed physical trainer or professional athlete. My workouts more often than not tend to tear my little body down instead of build it, and I spend many days nursing preventable injuries.
What I do have is an appreciation for the abilities of the human body. Maybe it’s because I’m now a combat medic, or maybe it’s that I’ve seen people survive terrible things that should have killed them, but I can’t help but believe that our physical bodies are truly a gift from God. When I consider the wonder of engineering inherant in the workings of our organs, bones, and sinews, it amazes me. We are capable of lifting immense amounts of weight, running for insane distances, and an incredible amount of flexibility, yet many of us treat our bodies as mere vehicles to get us from our beds to our bill-paying jobs, and back to our beds again. If I have received something wonderful from God, why in the world would I let it rot and degrade? Why would I not, rather, explore the limits of what this gift is capable of?
I’m reminded of a parable of Jesus, which I am about to take completely out of context for my own purposes. Don’t hate, we all do it occasionally. In Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27, Christ tells a story of three servants who were each given large sums of money while their master was away. The first invested wisely and increased the amount, as did the second. The third decided that he was afraid to do anything with what he was given, and so he buried and did nothing with the money. Upon the return of the master, the first two servants were praised for their use of what was given to them, while the third was harshly criticized for doing nothing with the gift. The context here is that we are to use every gift and ability given to us for the glory of God, and I see our physical bodies as one of those gifts.
How can we seriously call ourselves good caretakers of the gifts of God when we daily neglect our health?
I almost view it as a slap in the face to God when we intentionally bury this wonder of muscle, bone, and flesh under a layer of potato chips and candy bars.
When I see my brother at the gym struggling and failing under the weight of the squat bar, I see a dude exploring the limits of his body. When I see a obese man in sweatpants huffing his way through a treadmill, I see someone who has finally acknowledged the importance of physical health, and has started on a difficult journey to change his entire lifestyle. When I see the co-host of my podcast lose a visible amount of weight after “crunching it,” as he calls it, for weeks on end, I am impressed.
Some will criticize a focus on fitness and strength as prideful, and a method of living for the earthly rather than the spiritual. I will admit that it can lead to that if one’s focus is merely strength for the sake of strength. It definitely can get there if the only goal is the beach body. To refute that, I will say that I cannot believe that Christ is glorified more by a “dad bod” and physical weakness than He is by one who develops the physical manifestation that houses our souls. The idea of neglecting one’s body for the sake of a total focus on the spiritual seems to tell our Creator that the flesh He gave us is a curse. He screwed up by placing eternal spirits in temporary vessels.
If I give one of my daughters a car, even if it’s only purpose is to take her to school and back, I know that she appreciates it if she takes care of it. If I see her maintain regular oil changes, a constant air pressure in the tires, necessary washing, and good gasoline, she is visibly grateful for the gift and making a return on the investment.
A person who neglects the body with the excuse that it’s just a temporary shell is like one who doesn’t care about the condition of the engine of their car. Tires are borderline flat, crappy gasoline fills the tank, and the only time any attention is payed to it is when the check engine light comes on, or it stops running altogether. If my kids treat my gift like that, I know that they are completely taking it for granted.
In the long list of gifts given by our Creator, I see our bodies as the only ones we will treat with total contempt, and label it as a higher spirituality.
On a side note, were I to compare my body to a car, I think I would be one of those smart cars. They are weirdly shaped, easily thrown across a parking lot, and tend to conjure up images of hobbits. I’d rather be a F-350, but you take what you get.
Author’s note: Gymnastics rings suck. They suck even more with a weighted vest.