“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”1 Timothy 4:8
When I was younger, this was presented as the reason why it was okay to work out. It was alright to pump the iron, drink whey protein, and get “jacked” because there was a Bible verse saying so. “For physical training is of some value”, so…do it up!
How I wish I was taught differently. How I wish I knew differently.
I was given the smallest, least important aspect of this Scripture and told to major on it. As a small kid, that messes with you.
I was skinny. I’m still skinny. I wanted anything to be not skinny when I was in school. Not to be “skin and bones” as the white-haired women in the church would call me. When I heard that I was “supposed to” be physically training…I focused on that, worried about that, and thought about only that. Not that I was able to change my skinny-ness.
But I missed out on the spiritual training.
As a teenager, as a young man, a man with energy and unlimited time to spare, I missed out on doing something that had value far beyond my physicality.
The training of the spirit, the development of the spiritual life was underemphasized, made of lesser importance. It was a secondary item in a single sermon, but…here I am, sitting and looking at my arms, disappointed that they aren’t bigger.
Our world continues to focus on physical appearance. How one looks depends on how many likes or followers you get. How someone looks makes all the difference in a job interview. How one looks changes who hangs out with who, where one goes, how one behaves. And sadly, it has infected the church.
Verses such as 1 Timothy 4:8 become “proof-texts”, Scriptures that you can use to make your point more “biblical”. Thus, securing your rightness and letting you continue in that way.
But we have sorely missed the point. We have strayed so far from what is at the heart of God when we start maximizing on minute details. When we major on the first part of that verse and ignore everything that comes after it, we are willfully neglecting that is most important to God.
Yes, physical training is of some value…
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7
God isn’t that worried about the size of my biceps. God is not as concerned about my body fat index or the number of calories that I have consumed today as we may think he is.
And while taking care of our bodies is important, how much energy have we honestly spent worrying about our spiritual health?
Do we have an app for that on our phones?
Do we have accountability to make sure we don’t…what’s the spiritual equivalent of cheating on our diets?
Do we sacrifice, give up, and otherwise lay down any and all excuses to make God our priority and strive for bigger, better, and bolder in relationship to him? And not our waist sizes?
I can say for myself, I thought about spending time on the rowing machine I have in my basement. Because it’s been a few days and it’s a nice workout.
At no time did prayer, silent and holy time with God enter my mind…until I was convicted to write this.
The church needs to take a step back from the weights, from the mirror, from the keto diets, and whatever other healthy trends we’re caught up in.
We need to remember what God said before he picked the scrawny shepherd boy as the future king of Israel.
We need to remember that our Savior wasn’t a looker, and it wasn’t his appearance that drew the crowds to him (Isaiah 53:2).
We need to remember the whole verse from 1 Timothy 4.
Yes, physical training is good. But there is something of infinite value that you should not be neglecting. Something that you need to be putting more, so much more energy into than your bicep curls, your stomach crunches, and your calorie counts.
The condition of your soul. The substance of your character. The treasures of your heart.
This article first appeared on Christian Thought Sandbox.