Friday, July 08, 2022

Pastors, bodily training is of some value

In one of the Bible's Horrible Histories moments Eglon the tubby tyrant is put to the sword by Ehud the left-handed judge. See Judges 3:12-30 for the lowdown. When Ehud stabbed the King of Moab in the guts with his sneakily concealed blade we are told, "And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the excrement came out." (Judges 3:22). Nice. 

Now, I don't think this episode is in the Bible first and foremost to shame us into keeping ourselves in trim. But it does seem that mention of Eglon's weight is meant to tell us something about his character. Similarly, when Eli fell backwards off his chair on hearing the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, we are told, "his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy." (1 Samuel 4:18). Eli and his sons had previously been accused of, "fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’" (1 Samuel 2:29). 

Gluttony is condemned in Proverbs 23:20-21, 28:7. According to Paul a distinguishing mark of "enemies of the cross of Christ" is that, "their god is their belly" (Philippians 3:19). Meanwhile, among the fruit of the Spirit is "self control" Galatians 5:23). While Paul urged Timothy to "train yourself for godliness", he also admitted, "bodily training is of some value" (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Too right. 

A recent government report revealed that around three quarters of those aged 45-74 in the United Kingdom are overweight or obese. Being overweight leads to a range of other serious health problems. According to a report in thebmj, "Covid-19 death rates are 10 times higher in countries where more than half of the adult population is classified as overweight". 

The answer to question 73 of The Baptist Catechism on the sixth commandment ("you shall not kill") spells out what is required in that commandment, "The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life (Eph. 5:28,29) and the life of others". That's why self control in diet, plus regular bodily exercise aren't optional lifestyle choices for followers of Jesus, but a matter of obedience to the Lord.

Now, the reasons why people become overweight are complex. Physical exercise isn't a possibility for people with debilitating illnesses that severely limit their movement. We know that. But in general terms regulating weight is about eating sensibly and taking regular exercise. Elders/overseers should model a life characterised by self control (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8). How can we preach to others on that virtue (Titus 2:2, 5, 6, 12) when self control is conspicuously lacking in us?

Perhaps all this is easy for me to say as I've never had to battle with being overweight. My teenage nickname was 'Ribs the Mod' because I was skinny and a mod. Shortly after getting  married in my mid 20's I went up a waist size from 32" to 34", but I've remained that size until now (mid 50's). If I did one of those 'before and after' photos, all you'd notice is I now have less hair than 10 years previously. In fact few things bring out the Pharisaic 'older brother' in me than the hearty congratulations elicited by 'after diet' snaps, "‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving [slimming] for you and never disobeyed your orders [rarely ate biscuits]. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.'" (Luke 15:29). 

You want to know the secret of the 'Davies Diet & Exercise Regime'? Sorry to keep you in suspense until the end of the post. Here it is. Eat less stuff as you get older and your metabolism slows down. Rarely eat between meals. Spurn biscuits. Mostly. Enjoy a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg. Have a bit of a workout with some reps & a spin on an exercise bike most days. Go for a decent walk with your wife on your day off. Climb a mountain every now and again. Because bodily training is of some value. 

1 comment:

Ben said...

On the other hand, Proverbs 11.25 (KJV).

Or to make a serious point, attitudes to BMI are very different in our time from those that prevailed even a short time ago, let alone in the ancient world. Historically a fuller figure was associated with prosperity and with being properly nourished; it was the poor people who were thin. Nowadays you can never be too rich or too thin, and obesity is often the condition of those in the West who are said to be living in poverty, an extraordinary reversal of what used to be the case.