The idolatry of chasing the perfect body. (h/t Coastal)
As many of you know, I work in the fitness industry. So articles like this amuse me as a Christian. Amuse me a lot. Let’s deconstruct this, shall we?
There is a certain accomplishment in achieving your fitness goals. You’ve been working hard on that fitness program and are finally seeing the fruits of your labor. You also may start to get some attention from others who are also noticing your fitness progress. And you like it. A lot.
In our world of constant social media updates, we often view fitness-related images with arms and legs bared. Skintight clothing. Muscles bulging.
It makes sense to a degree: People are proud of their hard work. With all arguments for modesty set aside, I think that it is crucial to consider, from a biblical perspective, why we post or share these fitness achievements.
While many desire encouragement from friends to reach their goals, and others have a mission to inspire others to live healthfully, there is an underlying trap of vanity amidst these displays of fitness. We like to see ourselves looking good, and we like for others to see us looking good as well. This tendency to crave attention can quickly devolve into making our bodies our idols.
Or, you know, you could just not post attention whoring posts to Facebook and Instagram. I’ve never once posted a picture of my fit body to any social media website or blog. On the other hand, I have posted on developing good habits and discipline as a key to healthy living. Perhaps some of that discipline should be applied to not “being vain.”
It’s ironic to talk about modesty and then actively ignore the solution.
I haven’t even talked about how disciplining the physical body helps you be disciplined spiritually as well. Why yes, working out and eating healthy helps your spiritual walk as well. Surprise!
Toll on Relationships
I am a bit of a healthy eating fanatic. I’ve tried just about every “health food” out there. I love it because I find it enjoyable. However, there have been times when I have put my healthy eating before people.
God forbid one of my family members forgets that I cannot eat pinto beans while completing day three of Whole30! I can be at a party, and there’s not a single, decently healthy side-dish in sight—aside from the depressingly predictable veggie tray. Don’t they know me at all? I guess I’ll have to starve until I get back home, I whine to myself.
When I look back on these events, the defensive side of me cries out, “Wait! Isn’t eating healthy food a good thing? Doesn’t God command us to take care of the temples of his Spirit?”
Well, yes. But if I allow myself to revisit these events with a lens of honesty, I have a few recurring thoughts: How immature. How selfish. How very unlike all of the virtues that Christ has commanded me to cultivate in my life.
I have avoided social events because I knew that nothing on the menu would fit within my meal plan. I have bemoaned friends who are in need because they have derailed my leg-day plans.
It’s in these moments that I am forced to face my true motives, which unfortunately often value the temporal rather than the eternal.
There is such a thing as meal prep, bringing a healthy snack, or even fasting if you don’t want to eat out. You can even suggest healthy restaurants to go to. I do it when I go to places with nothing I would want to eat. Even if you don’t and miss a healthy meal? Fine. Miss a day of workouts? It’s pretty easy to make up. You don’t have to throw people away completely when living a healthy lifesetyle.
It’s a lifestyle for a reason. If you get a bit sidetracked, it’s not like you’ve not living a healthy lifestyle anymore. It’s not like you’re going to sink into not working out, not eating healthy, not sleeping, and stressing over everything… unless you believe the lie that healthy living is incompatible with being a Christian.
The false dichotomies are dumb.
Focus on the Temporal
In the same way that we can neglect relationships because of our fitness needs, we can waste two precious resources: time and finances.
No, I am not arguing that fitness is a waste of those two things, but I am saying that too often I find myself spending more time on fitness than I do on my relationship with Christ.
I also find myself spending more of my finances on fitness and healthy food than I do on furthering Christ’s kingdom. That realization convicts me and challenges me to transform my mentality. Because even though that acai bowl tastes heavenly, it isn’t actually taking anyone to heaven.
And even though my gym membership may help me feel confident, it’s not bringing anyone to the knowledge of the Gospel.
We will never reach either physical or spiritual perfection in this lifetime. However, Christ has declared that he will be judging us in only one of the two categories.
Sure, I might slightly resemble the guy on the shoddy treadmill trying to achieve Christ’s perfection. But I’m okay with that.
This is just getting more and more absurd.
Here’s the thing with a healthy lifestyle. You can use it minister to people too. Many of my fitness and hobby friends know I’m a Christian, and I know they aren’t Christians. I talk about my faith with them sometimes when I get a chance. I’ve invited them to Church.
Life isn’t supposed to be some compartmentalized phenomenon where this healthy living business is “some other thing you do aside from being a Christian.”
Ever heard of budgets? That’s what a budget is for. You plan out your tithes and offerings to God, so that you can put Him first. You don’t just give Him leftovers of what you don’t spend. I budget so that I can much more than 10% of my “disposable income” to God. Scripture says God will bless me for it, and I have seen that He already has.
Malachi 3:8 “Will a man [m]rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and [n]offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are [o]robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be [p]food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until [q]it overflows. 11 Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not [r]destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. 12 “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.
As of this post, 1300 people have shared this to Facebook. I hope that 1300 those people, their friends, and their families will not have deluded themselves into believing this nonsense and destroy their good eating and working out habits. All of the posts like this discouraging healthy living reeks of excuses to be lazy under the guise of being godly. In other words, false humility.
As Coastal said in his comment, I’ve said before that Christians in general are more prone to obesity and lack of exercise because they think anything remotely healthy is supposed to be made into some sort of idol aside from God. I’ve seen more obesity within the Church than in events outside the Church. It’s just a sad fact of life to me now. Most of the friends I have in fitness or sporting hobbies are non-Christian, and it’s hard to find someone who is a serious Christian. Honestly, it’s an untapped field for witnessing.
If only some Christians could look past their false humility to be good stewards of their bodies and actually use their healthy lifestyles to be salt and light to their non-Christian friends.