I’m well aware that 1 Timothy 4:8 says: “For bodily exercise profits little, but godliness is profitable for all things” (N.K.J.V.). I’m also well aware that overweight Christians love that verse because it seems to dismiss the need for exercise. The fact is, though, when we consider the totality of scripture, we find that God is all for Christians keeping themselves in good physical shape.
First, there are passages that vividly paint gluttony in a bad light. Proverbs 23:21 says: “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty.” Likewise, 1 Samuel 4:18 makes a point of saying that Eli, Israel’s high priest, was “old and heavy.” Judges 3:17 does the same with Eglon, king of Moab, saying that he was “a very fat man.” As proof of how fat Eglon was, Judges 3:22 says that when Ehud stabbed him with a dagger, “the fat closed over the blade.” We don’t have to think too hard to get the visual imagery of that line, do we?
Second, there is the Bible’s great teaching that the Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. According to multiple passages, the moment an individual believes in Christ as Savior, God the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside that person’s body. This experience is known as “Spirit baptism,” being “born again,” or “regeneration” (1 Corinthians 12:13; John 3:1-8; Titus 3:5). The experience is so necessary to authentic Christianity that Romans 8:9 flatly says: “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
The presence of God the Holy Spirit inside a Christian’s body automatically makes that body the temple of God. That’s why 1 Corinthians 6:19 asks the profound question: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” You see, it isn’t the bodybuilder, the yoga expert, or the aerobics instructor whose body is a temple. Only the Christian can rightly say, “My body is a temple” because only the Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Years ago I heard Charles Stanley preach on this subject, and the outline he used stuck with me. He said the Christian’s body being the temple of the Holy Spirit should affect three things:
#1: what the Christian puts in his or her body
#2: what the Christian puts on his or her body
#3: what the Christian does with his or her body
Point #1 covers sins such as gluttony, drunkenness, and drug addiction. Each of these sins involves the Christian putting something (or at least too much of it) literally inside the body. As for me, I agree with those who would add smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and dipping snuff to this list of sins. You might get mad at me for saying that, but I think the medical evidence now clearly indicates that all of these activities are bad for one’s health. Putting it simply, they do harm to the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Point #2 covers the sins of immodest or unholy appearance. The Christian female’s wardrobe shouldn’t be a showcase for short skirts, skimpy bathing suits, spray-on jeans, low-cut tops, skintight shirts, shirts that expose the midriff, crude tee-shirts, etc. A Christian male’s wardrobe shouldn’t be a showcase for low-riding pants, immodest shorts, spray-on jeans, skintight shirts, shirts that expose the midriff, crude tee-shirts, etc. I’m not trying to be the fashion Gestapo here, but some looks are just out of bounds for the Christian.
Furthermore, I don’t think tattoos, even Christian ones, are becoming to the temple of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God forbade them among the people of Israel (Leviticus 19:28) shouldn’t be completely dismissed as Old Testament, idol-worshipping, antiquated stuff. (For a much more thorough treatment of this topic please read my post “Should a Christian Get a Tattoo?”) Also, any “look” that gives the impression of gaudiness (Isaiah 3:16-23) or worldliness (Romans 12:2; Titus 2:11-12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) should be avoided. This gets into the realm of excessive jewelry, body-piercing, and hairdos that are designed to induce a reaction.
Before you accuse me of legalism or label me a fanatical Puritan, ask yourself this question: “Should the Christian’s appearance bring attention to the Christian or honor to Christ?” You know the answer. We shouldn’t be trying to impress members of the opposite sex; we should be trying to please God. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 talks about women adorning themselves in modest apparel and taking a low-key, toned-down approach to hairdos, jewelry, and clothing. Similarly, 1 Peter 3:1-6 says a woman’s outward holiness should spring up from her inward holiness. I like that. The Christian (man or woman) who is wrong in some way in outward appearance isn’t where he or she needs to be in inner holiness. As the old saying goes, the heart of the problem is usually the problem of the heart.
Point #3 covers the incredibly broad area of sinful acts done with the body. Certainly sins such as murder, adultery, and theft are on this list, but so are sins such as flying into an ungodly rage, lying, gambling, using profane language, and looking at pornography. Basically, whenever the Christian takes the indwelling Holy Spirit along for a ride He doesn’t want to go on, that Christian defiles the temple that is his or her body.
What we, as Christians, must realize is that Jesus wants lordship over every area of our lives. That includes how we eat, how we look, and how we act. Sadly, far too many Christians simply don’t do their part to keep their temple unspotted and acceptable to the Lord. To help with this problem, let me offer a tried-and-true piece of advice: Christian, before you put anything in your body, on your body, or do anything with your body, ask yourself, “If I do this, will it upset the Holy Spirit who dwells inside me?”
Read James 4:5 sometime. That verse says that the Spirit who dwells within us yearns jealously. Yes, Christian, you can make the indwelling Holy Spirit jealous. When you overeat, you make Him jealous because He gets the idea that you love food more than Him. When you let your body get out of shape, He gets jealous because He gets the idea that you don’t care about His temple. When you put something sinful in your body, He gets jealous because He gets the idea that you’d rather have that something than Him. When you put something sinful on your body, He gets jealous because He gets the idea that you are more concerned about impressing others than impressing Him. When you do something sinful with your body, He gets jealous because He gets the idea that His opinion of what you should and shouldn’t do means nothing to you.
And so, in closing, I’ll ask you, the Christian, “How’s your temple looking these days?” Is it a place the Holy Spirit is proud to call home? If it’s not, you need to make the necessary repairs. For some of us, that might mean starting something (for example, an exercise program). For others, it might mean giving up something (for example, cigarettes). But whatever action the repairs call for, do it without delay. After all, nobody, even God, likes to live in a house that causes them shame.