One of the most popular hashtags on Instagram is #fitspiration. If you search this hashtag, you’ll find millions and millions of photos of fit, tanned and toned men and women, working out, sitting by the pool or lying on the beach.
#Fitspiration is a word that means “content (words, pictures etc) that inspires you to get fit”. But so often, these images don’t inspire people to get out and active, or eat more veggies. They cause people to hate their own bodies, to go on extreme diets, to push themselves while exercising to the point of injury and to even consider things like plastic surgery or liposuction to get that ideal body.
Even though we might know that Photoshop and Instagram filters do a lot to make people look far more perfect than they actually are, when you look at photos that show the “ideal” man or woman, it can be so difficult not to be disappointed in the body God chose for you.
But as Christians, we know that Instagram is not supposed to be our source of wisdom, and it’s certainly not where we get our standards of living from! So what does the Bible say about fitness, getting healthy and achieving the “perfect” body?
God made wonderful creatures
In Psalm 139:14, the Psalmist reflects on the fact that he was created by the amazing God of the universe, and he praises God for that fact: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Even if you hate your cellulite or despise your muffin top, there is no denying that God created a wonderful thing when he made humans. We can communicate with one another, many of our organs work without us even thinking about it, and two humans can get together and produce more humans! We really are wonderful, and we should never forget it.
Because we are wonderfully made, and made in the image of God, we can be grateful for the bodies that God has given us, even though we aren’t perfect. This is a very freeing thing to remember when your flaws are getting you down!
Our bodies are temples
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul talks about how Christians must not sleep with prostitutes or commit other sexual sin because… “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
This same idea can be extended to other things we do with our bodies, including what we eat and how we stay healthy.
But here’s an important clarification. What is a temple for? It’s a place for worshipping something. The temple itself isn’t to be worshipped! We should take care of our bodies because we use them to worship God, but we shouldn’t worship our bodies or the idea of having a perfect body.
And we should take care of and respect our bodies because we are not ultimately their owners – we belong to God because Jesus bought us with his blood.
So we should eat healthily and get exercise, yes, but we should do those things to bring glory to God, not to bring glory to ourselves.
It’s better to be godly than fit
Here’s one of my favourite verses on this topic. Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Notice Paul’s important caveat: physical training is of SOME value, not COMPLETE value or MORE value than anything else. Training your body so you’re fit and healthy is important, but something else is much more important: training yourself in godliness.
Ultimately, what is going to bring more glory to God: being able to lift 50 kilos or spending time loving others, reading the Bible and preaching the word? Never let your desire for a fit and strong body overcome your desire to glorify God.
At the end of your life, I bet you’ll be more thankful for the time you spent worshipping God and enjoying fellowship with other Christians than the time you spent in the gym.
Three things to remember
Next time you’re scrolling through #fitspiration pics, here are three important messages you can tell yourself:
- I am already wonderfully made, because God made me
- I should treat my body with respect, eat healthy and get fit, to bring glory to God (not myself)
- Being godly is more important than having the perfect body
And maybe you should consider not looking at #fitspiration too much – inspire yourself with the word of God instead!
This post was originally published at Fervr.net.