For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8
Many couch potatoes use this verse to deflect from their physical needs. I have heard a number of reasons for not even engaging in a basic fitness program. Some are tongue-in-cheek, while others are serious. I've used one or two myself.
At the moment, most of Australia is out exercising. Spring is here, and summer is on its way. But the main reason is the lockdowns.
I have joined them. When my kidneys went downhill, my overall health joined them. After approximately four years of serious trouble, I am now coming out the other end of that dark tunnel. To me, I must do physical exercise to regain lost health and condition. I need to walk and lift weights and diet (ouch).
The Apostle Paul, when writing to Timothy at Ephesus, added this cautionary passage, and it would have been helpful for him to explain why. Maybe he went into greater detail in a further letter not included in scripture. Or perhaps it was that apparent explanations were unnecessary, like numerous issues in the Bible.
Ephesus was teeming with idol worship and had no lack of worshippers. Being only 5 Kilometres from Athens, it also became committed to the fitness craze that engulfed Greece. Advertising was everywhere. The Olympic Games and the worship of Zeus were powerful motivators for physical fitness, along with the desire to live long and healthy. At the time of this epistle, Ephesus had a representative in those games. Self admiration and appearance became a religion that was and is only applicable to this life. History shows us that open sexual promiscuity follows.
Like today, people then were obsessed with body image, and it consumed their life. How they looked became all-important. They were fortunate not to have botox. The further we get from God, the greater our desire for body image. Our minds and hearts move from spiritual to sensual.
Keeping fit and healthy and eating right is also a part of Godliness. It doesn't need to be one or the other—fitness or godliness. If we read the Bible with health in mind, we would see many scriptures on food, fasting, and total wellbeing. It is essential to stay healthy. A healthy body can do much more than an unhealthy body in providing a quality of life and getting the work of God done. But when it takes up too much mirror-time, our worship subtly moves from God to self. Instead of reading and praying, we commence the day with a fitness or diet magazine.
Paul wasn't decrying physical exercise so much as stating it is an inferior substitute for Godliness. He seems to point out that bodily exercise is only one principle of life, so it's pointless making it an object of worship. The aspects of life come from a godly perspective. Along with our physical robustness, also come our mental and spiritual health, character, business prowess, and family contentment. We apply Biblical fundamentals. We exercise more than just fitness and bodily looks, but all those foundational teachings.
Our honour and approval come from God. When we seek out and use His principles in His name, it pleases Him.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, I have found some principles in Your Word. Please help me find and use faithfully all those that apply to me.
Photo by Anastase Maragos