Everything from our money to our time to our gifts to our relationships is not only a means of exercising our stewardship but it is our responsibility. In fact, stewardship at it's essence is responsibility. It is not a choice. It is our charge and our calling to be good and faithful stewards.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Like everything else that God has made, our bodies do not belong to us. They are ours on loan, to use as faithful stewards. In fact, as believers, our bodies are doubly not ours.
We Are His by Creation
God created and crafted every part of me, right down to the smallest cell (Psalm 139:13). Because He is my body’s Designer and Maker, He owns me. The Apostle Paul affirms God’s claim of ownership when teaching the doctrine of election in Romans 9.
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Romans 9:20-21
I may not verbally question God’s ownership over me, but my actions often do just that. I’ve no claim to use or abuse my body as I see fit. When I do, I am essentially questioning God’s authority and sovereignty over my life. My body is not mine. It is His.
We Are His by Redemption
When Jesus saved us out of our rebellion and reconciled us to the Father, we were yet again made His. No longer slaves to sin and its wages, we are now bondservants of Christ.
“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.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Every part of me belongs fully to God. Because my body is God’s and not my own, I have no right to insist or behave otherwise. My task as a steward is to care for this temporal body and use it to bring Him glory and further the kingdom. I must not neglect it or abuse it. I must provide for it and nurture it. In my journey to better health and learning exactly what it means to steward my body for Christ, I found it really boiled down to one very important question--what idols are preventing me from stewarding my body well? As I searched God’s Word and looked at my choices and actions, I saw that there were 3 areas of idolatry that I needed to confront and change.
My struggle with my weight and the resulting health problems I faced were ultimately the result of how I viewed food. Food’s primary purpose is to fuel the body. Have you ever considered that God could have made food completely tasteless, simply perfunctory and it would still fulfill its purpose? Yet God, in His kindness and generosity, gave food taste. And not just taste, but flavor! He gave us the gift of being able to enjoy our food! We should enjoy our food and be grateful for it.
The problem comes when we look to food for our joy.
I discovered that I had started looking to food to be something for me it was never designed to be.
Food had become my idol.
I had effectively put it in God’s place. Only He can soothe my sorrows and give me true joy. Only He can give me the security or happiness I desire. And because my body is His, I absolutely must answer to God for what I do with it.
Additionally, food was my idol because it held power over me. I refused to say no to my impulses and desires. Paul addresses the importance of avoiding this in 1 Corinthians. He even mentions food when he explains,
“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Food is a wonderful gift, but not something greater than the Giver.
Food allows me to live, work, serve, and fulfill my purpose. God has made it so I can enjoy it, but at the same time, I must not let it rule me. Instead, I ought to follow Paul’s example when he says,
“I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:27
This means I must exercise self-control and even self-denial. I appreciate the practical advice of Pastor John MacArthur on this subject.
“Learn to say no to your feelings and impulses. Occasionally deny yourself pleasures that are perfectly legitimate for you to enjoy. Skip dessert after a meal. Drink a glass of iced tea instead of having that banana split that you love. Don’t eat that doughnut that caught your eye. Refraining from those things reminds your body who is in charge.”
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a favorite meal, dessert, or treat. But exercising discipline and control means we ought to be able to abstain or forgo at times, so that we never believe the lie that we must have it in order to be happy, fulfilled, or find joy. Only God can do that for us.
Physical exercise is vital for our bodies. We were designed to be creatures in motion. Yet more than any other society in history, we tend toward living a sedentary lifestyle. To be sure, we ought not to focus on the physical body to the exclusion of the spiritual, as Paul explains in 1 Timothy 4:7-8. But neither should we avoid strengthening our bodies through physical activity.
Our bodies are temporary, they will fade and one day fail us. However, faithful stewardship of this body means we ought to be reasonably committed to doing what we can while we can to ensure good health and strength.
We often avoid exercise because, frankly, we love comfort, too much.
It didn’t begin as something I loved. I started because I knew it was good for me and would help me develop the self-discipline I desperately needed. As I committed myself to push myself through running, I suddenly found that I was actually enjoying it. I even looked forward to it. Strengthening my body through exercise not only improved my physical health and helped me to lose weight, but it also allowed me to learn the value of discipline and the reward that comes from being willing to do hard and uncomfortable things.
As much as our bodies were made to move, we were also made to rest. We can only work so hard for so long. All too often we try to pack our days, and even our nights, with so many activities and to-do’s that we encroach into the time we ought to have set aside for rest.
Just like our body needs good food and activity to be strong, we need sleep and even periods of rest to help us do and be at our best.
God Himself even showed us how important rest is when He finished creating the world. The fact that God rested on the seventh day might seem odd at first glance. After all, we know that He is all-powerful and doesn’t ever grow tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28).
So why did God rest? As Tim Challies succinctly explains,
“He rested to establish a pattern, to establish a flow. There would be times for labor and times for rest . . . God did not intend all work and no rest; He did not intend all rest and no work. He intended both to flow in a pattern, a dance.”
God wants us to work, both hard and well. But He also intends that we take time to rest, not only to recharge our bodies and minds but also as a reminder of our limitations and our dependence on Him.
As a young adult, I definitely didn’t understand the importance of rest. I didn’t discipline myself to set good sleep patterns, and my health suffered. During this season, I was pushing myself to stay up late to finish work. I created many bad habits in the name of getting things done. Eventually, my body had about all it could take and spoke to me the only way it coul— pain. I was constantly sick, sluggish, and suffered from headaches and even fainting spells.
I began to realize that I was prioritizing activity over rest.
While there were many things on my to-do list that were good and necessary, there were many things that were not. I had fallen into the idolatry of self-sufficiency and autonomy. I erroneously believed I could do anything and everything without stopping to remember that I’m a finite being.
Unlike my Creator, I grow tired and need rest.
When I began to prioritize sleep, not only did my health and energy improve, but I learned how to let certain things go and accomplish what must be done more efficiently. Additionally, I was able to serve God and others better because I had a reserve of energy rather than an empty tank.
The result of abandoning these idols and embracing the stewarding of my health yielded much fruit.
But most importantly, I discovered there were parts of my heart and life that I hadn’t dedicated wholly to God. Recognizing that was a crucial moment in my life and my walk with God. It made me aware of just how easy it is to not live in complete dependence and submission on God in even the most basic and mundane areas.
Consider 1 Corinthians 10:31.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
What’s more mundane than eating or drinking? And yet, Scripture tells us that even those things are to be yielded to Him and done in such a way that He receives honor.
The way I treat my physical body matters. As its steward, it isn’t mine to use as I see fit.
When we borrow something, don’t we usually strive to take better care of it than we would something that is our own? Our bodies are no different.
Yes, they will fade and pass away, and we must be careful to avoid the extreme of prizing our earthly temples too highly or believing we can avoid the inevitable decay. Furthermore, we won’t all be a size 6 or complete a triathlon. But God has gifted us with different capabilities and abilities, and knowing that, we ought to give ourselves and others grace as we seek to be good stewards of our bodies.
But there is work we can and should do to use what God has given to us to the best of our abilities.
Let us work while we can, rest when we should, and eat and drink to His glory.
Let us live in such a way that shows gratitude for the gift of our bodies and the privilege to honor Him through how we use them. Guarding and caring for the bodies we’ve been given ought to be a priority. We are stewards with only one life with which to serve God and others.
Let’s make the most it!
How are you stewarding your body today?
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