I‘m a pastor’s kid, including all the rebellion that comes with it. Growing up, I listened to a gazillion sermons on what God had to say about my soul, mind, will, and emotions. But I never heard a sermon on God’s view of my body.
Webster defines theology as “the study of religious faith, practice, and experience.” Sit with the last two words for a second, practice and experience. What I’ve found in my own practice and experience, and invite you to consider, is that by including the physical body in our spiritual disciplines, we establish a theology of health.
When I turn back to Webster I find that it defines health as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, and spirit; especially freedom from physical disease or pain.” It’s interesting how theology contains practice and experience, while health is being sound in your WHOLE being. This leads me to a definition of the theology of health as the sacred space where our knowledge and practice of God’s word intersects with the lens through which we care for our bodies.
Through an accumulation of health issues starting in my 20’s – anxiety, infertility, unexplained weight gain, worsening digestive dysfunction, severe fatigue, sleeplessness, skin rashes, mood swings, stress, and more – I started taking note. I reached out for help from several practitioners and was told “you’re fine, it’s all in your head.” That moment in my life was a turning point for me.
I went on a mission, looking for what God said about my circumstances in addition to seeking answers that would help me to support my health and healing.
I discovered that God actually had a lot to say about the importance of the body He gave me, though I had not heard much about it in those sermons from my childhood. His perspective is relayed throughout the Bible, including in 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 (ESV), “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.”
There it is, a tell-it-like-it-is description of what God considers to be the right and wrong use of our bodies. In just these two verses, we learn FOUR truths about our bodies that run counter to what you might hear today.
1. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. When you say ‘yes’ to God, He puts his Spirit in you. He works through you. Your body becomes a residence for Him. Ancient Greek philosophy said that things done to the body were inconsequential to spirituality. However, based on these verses, we know that God says otherwise. When we subject our bodies to anything, we also involve the Holy Spirit. If you saw someone vandalizing a temple dedicated to God, would you consider that a crime? Absolutely! But we equally vandalize our body — another one of God’s temples — when we deprive it of rest, feed it junk, stop moving it, put unneeded stress on it, and fail to honor and take care of it.
2. You are not your own. I don’t own my body, God does. He created my body, and He expects me to use it according to His intentions. Modern culture teaches us: “My body is mine to do whatever I want with it.” But God says: “Your body is not yours, because you didn’t create it.” God made it, gave it to you, and expects you to take care of it. Your body is holy. Everything God makes has a purpose.
3. You were bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 6: 20 states that our bodies have been bought. The Greek word for “bought” is “agorazo” which literally means to purchase in the marketplace. The word for “price” is “lytron” and translates as ransom. These terms are used metaphorically to describe our redemption through Christ’s blood. If you want to know how valuable your life is to God, just look at the cross. You’re worth dying for, and God wants you to take care of yourself. If you bought a million-dollar car, would you put cheap fuel in it and never do maintenance? Of course not! You would protect your investment. Jesus made the biggest investment in you. He paid with His life. He expects you to take care of His investment.
4. God expects me to glorify Him with my body. I may not be the owner of my body, but I am the steward of it. Taking care of my body is an issue of spiritual stewardship. In fact, God says that one day I will have to give an account for how well I managed everything He gave to me. I will have to answer the question, “What did you do with what I gave you?” This life is preparation for our life in the next world. God is watching how we use our time, talents, minds, and bodies. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Are you making the most of what you’ve been given?
Taking care of our bodies and making lasting changes is never easy. And, guess what, taking care of the temple or tabernacle in the late seventh or early sixth century BC wasn’t easy for the Levites. Imagine minding your own business as part of the twelve tribes of Israel headed to the promised land and all of a sudden you’re in charge of disassembling the tabernacle. You lug all the poles, curtains, lampstands, bases, alters, loops, clasps, and more to the next spot the pillar of cloud or fire points to. Then you have to set it all up again. Talk about a cumbersome task! Likewise, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are like the Levites caring for that temple. Sometimes it’s just maintenance and sometimes we have to rebuild and repair.
Believe me, I know it sounds like a lot. After I embarked on the mission to remedy what ailed me, I realized that dietary changes and lifestyle modifications really could be my “medicine.” While the current model of healthcare left me without answers and more frustration, I did find answers and my way back to health. I researched, made changes, and got results. Friends and family watched my transformation and started asking questions. The Bible speaks of “putting off our old self and putting on a new self,” (see Ephesians 4:22, 24). The transition I made was meant to last. It was not a fad diet or a sprint to an elusive “fix”, but a transition and lifestyle I could sustain.
Lasting change requires making wise choices, small steps, new ways of thinking, God’s spirit in your life, and honest community.
God desires us to trust Him one day at a time (“give us this day our DAILY bread”). No need to think about tomorrow until tomorrow. There’s no reason to stress about all the future steps necessary to discover a healthier you. Being present where you are and doing the next right thing in the care of your temple is what’s most important. It’s one way we ascribe honor to the sacrifice that was made for us. And it’s ok to ask for help along the way, it’s meant to be a journey.
We have a saying in our house that’s, “today is Tuesday” (or insert whatever day it is) to help us focus on what we can influence on that day and that day alone. Honestly, one of the biggest things you can influence comes from what you put in your body because you do that multiple times a day. I learned this firsthand and I’ve made it my mission to be an example to my family of what I now know in my bones.
Now it’s your turn! There’s no telling what God might want to do through you as you gain more energy, think more clearly, feel more confident, and grow physically stronger through lasting change. I’ll be praying for and with you, specifically the words of 3 John 1:2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” Are you ready to start your journey to a healthier life? Is it time to make some changes? Go ahead; make the commitment to yourself and to God.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.
© 2023 Kate Smith. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. Every effort has been made by the author and publisher to ensure that the information contained in this book was correct as of press time. The author and publisher hereby disclaim and do not assume liability for any injury, loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, regardless of whether any errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. Readers are encouraged to verify any information contained in this article prior to taking any action on the information. For rights and permissions, please contact: Kate Smith 16108 Penn Central Way Monument, CO 80132, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Smith is a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor (CFNC), Certified Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner (FNLP), Educator and Speaker in Monument, Colorado. But Kate wasn’t always in the field of health and healthcare. She has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education. She graduated with distinction from the United States Air Force Intelligence Weapons Instructor Course and worked for many years as a United States Air Force Intelligence Analyst and instructor. Kate is also a military spouse of over 25 years, a mother of two, has deployed around the globe, and lived all over the United States, as well as overseas. Through a series of her own health challenges, Kate is now part of the movement to transform healthcare into a system that WORKS. She has her own private Functional Nutrition practice and volunteers her services at the Dream Centers Women’s Clinic in her area. Although her faith, work, and mission very much define her life, she does have a few other loves. When she’s not focused on helping people achieve the results they’ve been searching for, you can find her outside, in the gym, at a thrift store, in the kitchen creating meals for her family, reading Star Wars novels, listening to podcasts (or creating social media “shows”), and spending time with her husband Brad, daughter Zoe, and son Zac.
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