What Does the Bible Say about Our Bodies and Health?
In describing the person as made in the image of God, the Bible does not prioritize spirituality or spiritual health from our bodies and our physical health because Scripture defines the person as holistic or whole in body, soul, and spirit, inseparable. The attempt to distinguish spirituality from physical reality, promoting the spirit or soul as good and the physical body or flesh as bad is the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, creeping into the church within the first century and negated by John in his epistles (Jn. 1:14; 20:27). Being made in the image of God means that all aspects of the self, from the emotional to the nutritional to the psychological to the spiritual, matter to God because they are intricately connected with one another and influence, for good or for bad, all the other parts.
Paul uses the parts of the body in his analogy of the church, describing all the parts as performing essential yet different functions for the necessity of health and operation (1 Cor. 12: 12). Jesus is described in Luke 2:52 as “increas[ing] in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” showing the cooperative maturation of mind and body with social and spiritual relationships. Our bodies and health matter to God because it is with our bodies that we demonstrate His love to the world in Word and action (Mt. 25:31-46). Jesus demonstrated the importance of the body from His virgin birth through His resurrection, taking on this same body (Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7), addressing the needs of the body in direct connection and in demonstration of His power to forgive sins (Matt. 9:2-8), and in retaining a real but glorified body in His resurrection (Jn. 20:27). The body matters to God, He made it and took on flesh, retaining human flesh in His bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39). The holistic connection between all these elements means, however, that each component affects the others for both good and for bad. This is why I believe God does care about our weight, because our ability to freely exercise the range of capabilities within each component is dependent on the disciplines we apply to strengthen each resource.
As Donald Whitney explained in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,
“The Spiritual Disciplines are God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness… We recognize that even the most iron-willed self-discipline will not make us more holy, for growth in holiness is a gift from God. On the other hand, we can do something to further the process. God has given us the Spiritual Disciplines as a means of receiving His grace and growing in Godliness. By them we place ourselves before God for Him to work in us” (pp. 18-19).
The spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, fasting, or service are dependent on our physical capacities as well, demonstrating the connection across each component and how freedom comes through discipline. Freedom to run and play with children comes through discipline in our nutrition for energy, our work for time, our thinking for margin, and our body for capability. In connecting our food intake with our spiritual life, Paul recommends restraint and discipline, pushing against the Corinthians' use of freedom in their expression, “All things are lawful,” but noting how "'All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor… So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:23-24; 31). Paul is reiterating the intention of Jesus from Matthew 6, directing our attention from ourselves and the basis of our needs and desires to God’s kingdom purposes in loving Him and others well.