The Physical has SOME Value

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Living in the Extremes

Some people give their physical bodies a lot of focus from extremes with exercising, weight lifting & dieting to an obsessive focus on appearances through things like clothing, hair, nails, etc. By the same token, I know many who don’t attempt to care for themselves physically much at all past the bare minimum. They pay little attention to what or how much they eat, and physical appearance seems last on their list of priorities.

At one extreme, there are people in top shape physically but doing little for their spiritual fitness because the “some value” placed on the physical is choking out any attention on the spiritual. At the other extreme, many people, while effective for God, limit their potential by neglecting the “some value” placed on the physical self.

In no way am I saying that attention toward the physical and the spiritual should be equal. Balance does not mean equal. What I am saying is that while that which lasts into eternity should hold a larger portion of our life’s focus and should be a higher priority, the physical aspect of this life does have “some value” right now. And we do ourselves – and God – a disservice if we completely neglect or give too much focus to our physical selves.

Understanding the Value

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To help better understand the balance between priority toward the spiritual and giving “some value” to the physical, consider how a life focused largely on the eternal must also live in as healthy a way as possible in the physical here and now. Let’s look at what 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 & 2 Corinthians 4:1-5:10 say about this balance.

  1. We do need our physical bodies – our tents – even if only temporarily.
  2. Our physical bodies house the Holy Spirit.
  3. We don’t own our bodies, God does.
  4. We are to honor God and aim to please Him with our bodies.
  5. Our bodies also hold precious treasure, namely, the light of the truth of Christ as Lord.
  6. The struggles of our bodies connect us with Christ’s death & His life is seen through them.
  7. The frailty of our physical bodies creates a longing for Heaven.
  8. The troubles in our bodies point to great glory beyond them.
  9. We will be rewarded based on what we do and don’t do in our physical bodies.
  10. Christ bought us with a price. We now show gratitude for His sacrifice through our physical selves.

The more I read in Scripture about the value placed on my physical body, the more I realize the importance of doing the best I can with what I am given in this life. Doing so demonstrates good stewardship of this temporal life given me.

At the same time, what I do in and with my physical body also demonstrates my eternal focus, the even greater value placed on godliness and the honor I can give God in this life even as I long for life beyond this temporary dwelling.

DISCUSSION: How do you see the balance between our physical & spiritual selves playing out this side of Heaven?

26 thoughts on “The Physical has SOME Value

  1. Remember context. When Paul wrote there was no lack of daily physical work. Life presented daily challenges…walking, manual labor, survival was for everyone to be engaged. The focus on the physical then was different and more metaphorical. Think how different we look at life by our context.

      • Paul addresses in both of these letters to the church of Corinth that had a lot of "fleshly issues" in their daily lives to deal with and for many to let go of… He was not obsessed with the physical condition as in athletics but morally and spiritually speaking. Engaging our physical bodies in carnal desires causes the body to not be worthy as the "abode or temple/sanctuary" for the Spirit of God. To get too focused on physical conditioning is missing the point of these passages. Even Paul says to Timothy, some training is good for body but spiritual training is far better.

        • Very true. Being too focused on physical condition steals our focus from God. Yet, I can't escape the fact that giving at least some attention to our physical selves helps us in our service this side of Heaven. I see too many people who neglect their physical selves to the detriment of their individual purpose & ministry. And, I have been to a place where neglect of the physical stood in my way of progressing spiritually. Yes, I know that's a spiritual issue too, but I had to get both worked out at the same time to be effective. Just saying the physical does have some value and deserves some attention as far as it helps us be more effective this side of Heaven.

  2. I tend to agree with you Kari. i have taken the physical to an extreme a time or two, giving little attention to my spiritual. I went through where I rode in the am…the prime time for my study and personal time. I rationalized it for awhile until I realized i was cheating my spirit of the nourishment it needed to be alive. I now do most of my riding at noon which allows me to get things done, then exercise and gets me going (for the most part) for the afternoon time. Finding the balance is tricky but important. I would even say necessary.

  3. I believe God wants us to enjoy the life HE has given us here and now. Jesus said He came to give us life, physical and spiritual in the here and now. I certainly agree that balance is important in life! In all things it helps if we can stay in balance, but I believe if we are doing activities that are physical they can also strengthen us spiritually at the same time. A hike in the woods or a walk around the block or a bike ride, all allow us to have quiet time to reflect on God's creation, to pray, to listen to Him. In these trecks we can often find ways to serve as well, when we look around with God's eyes._I believe it is about focus. Keeping our eye on Jesus. I keep going back to the blog thought of THIS DAY and THAT DAY, and reminding myself to be grateful each day. My problem is finding the time to do the exercise I need with my new lifestyle of riding a lot. I think we worry to much about doing it all right instead of just enjoying the life God has given us and using it where we are planted, however that may be._

    • Two points stick out from your comment, Mary. First, physical activities definitely impact our spiritual lives. While I bike & run and do whatever exercise to make my body work as well as I can for the purposes God has for me this side of Heaven, I also find tremendous spiritual connection while doing them. Some of my best times of worship come on a run or long bike ride. Something about defeating the physical allows me to better hear – and just listen to – God. Second, we do worry about doing it right so much of the time. That's a battle I've had a lot actually. I have many friends, including my husband and sons, who have so much more stamina and ability than me, and I wore myself out and got injuries trying to keep up and do what I thought I was supposed to do. Once I realized that it wasn't about the numbers, I relaxed and discovered the purpose God has for me through exercising. Great points, Mary!

  4. God chose to have us live in a physical body for some reason albeit for a short season. There is no doubt our spiritual and our physical are intertwined. One affects the other in good and bad ways. Learning discipline in our spiritual lives can help with discipline in our physical lives. They enhance one another. Strengthen one can help strengthen the other. Weaken one can weaken the other. Certainly there are those that overcome physical limitations to soar in a spiritual sense and are much to be admired. Discipline in our spiritual lives trumps all I would think since that is what we are and will always be but making the most of our physical lives has a lot of benefits not only to us but to those we love as well.

    • Terrific summary of the point I was trying to make. Physical and spiritual are intricately intertwined but spiritual has eternal and therefore greater significance and priority.

  5. When I think of the saints of God who wore their physical bodies out seeking the lost souls all over the world I am convicted. They were not balance in any way…they gave their physical bodies as a sacrifice for the cause of Christ. I'm telling you it's only in developed countries we Christians have this discussions on balance. Ask any Christian in a remote village about exercise…they do not even know the word. They will walk for hours to reach another village to tell them about the good news. I have seen them even crawl to tell someone about Jesus. Women laying out side the teaching house having their babies so they won't miss the teaching.

    Please don't take this wrong, I just have a hard time with all the focus on self when it comes to exercise. I personally think if we spent as much time on our face before a Holy God seeking Him just for the sake of who He is our lifes would be more productive for Him. Every word I type Kari is striking my heart with conviction. I know this truth but trust me I struggle with trying to live it. I have taken up swimming because it is easier on my old joints and I love it. I will work my day so I can get my swimming in but it does not make me any more holy, more fit , yes, but not holy. Maybe my struggle is more with spiritualizing exercising.. One of the curses of being a civilized country is we no long need to walk to work, work a garden for food, carry water, hunt our food, cook it from scratch. When one has to do all that there is no time left to exercise and no need to either. The only way a tribal believer spiritualists all they have to do to exist is to thank the Lord for it all. Maybe that is where my struggle is, I need to thank Him for the fact I can exercise, maybe that would make me want to do it more. My outer man is in need of losing a few pounds and after 67 years of wear and tear it's pretty frail. Yet I must tell you, my inner man is bursting in my heart just from a blessing God sent my way in the form of chocolate. If you get a chance, I wrote about it on my post. My inner man is also full because I got a chance to witness to a young 34 year old women the other day. Filled because last night I met with several ladies at a pizza place to say good bye to one of the women who God had brought our way. I try to not get bent out of shape that I am out of shape. Very thought provoking post Kari, your words always stir my heart and cause me to think beyond myself.
    My recent post Chocolate Is From The Lord

    • Very important points here, Betty. We too often forget and take for granted how much we have here in abundance. Making a point to be good stewards of that abundance is so important. Part of that is taking care of ourselves in a way that allows us to be even better stewards but an even greater part is sharing that abundance with the oh so many who have far less. Thank you for your passion in expressing this. I too am convicted to be a better steward of my body and of my material blessings.

  6. Hello Kari,

    I think we should have a holistic approach. To be stewards of everything that God has given us. This includes our spirit, body, talents, purpose… and the list could go on. Great post!

  7. Kari, great thoughts. I believe if we are to do the work of the kingdom, we must strive to remain healthy. It's hard to pursue both a Christ-centered and others-focused life if we are unhealthy, especially if due to our own poor choices. God has given us the ability to make the choices that can improve or diminish our own health.

    It's like the airplane example. Before every flight, the crew teaches us to secure our own oxygen masks first before helping others. Why? Because you are not going to be very effective at helping others for very long if you yourself cannot breathe.
    My recent post Five Reasons Your Heart is Restless

    • Thanks, Chris. And, you're right. It's all about increasing effectiveness. Now, I know many tremendously effective people who are not healthy or in shape physically, so I'm not saying it's a must for God to work through a person. However, I do believe He wants us to make the best choices we know how to make with our physical selves while keeping the spiritual a much higher priority.

  8. I wonder if our obsession with the physical is because we worry about what others think. Beauty and youth are given the highest value. So we exercise, buff, polish, tint, color, etc. All to boost our value. When God says we are valuable because we are His . . . loved, created, redeemed. I've given myself the goal of remaining active, eating healthy, and focusing on being a good steward of every gift God gives. Great reminders Kari!
    My recent post Blessings, Moments, and Love Around the Blogosphere

    • I think an obsession with the physical can result from a focus on comparisons. I know it has for me, and still does, at times. But when we focus on Christ and being good stewards of what we're given, then comparisons and numbers don't matter; instead, we become obsessed with Him.

  9. Your reasons are good here for stewarding our physical bodies well. However, I think there are so many more that motivate me as well. I want to set a good example for my kids. I want to have enough energy and vitality to serve God well and enjoy life. I think it's good financial stewardship to avoid a lot of health issues. And let's be honest, there are others whether or not we want to admit it. People respect a fit person more than one who is unfit. That's just the truth. So perhaps being fit will help people to take me more seriously when I teach, preach, rebuke, encourage, etc. And another one to be honest on: how we look matters to our spouses. Taking care of your physical body is a way to love your spouse well.
    My recent post Busy Is Good

    • Excellence points here, Loren. You've brought up other really good reasons to value our physical health. I think it links back to what you said in another comment on another post about simply doing our best. When people know we are doing our best, it earns respect. At least, I have tremendous respect for those who always do their best no matter what.

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