Is A Pursuit of Health Selfish for Christians?
An earlier blog entitled “Should We Help Ourselves or Help Others,” argues that Christians should seek a lifestyle that promotes physical health, which could result in longevity for the sake of others, but one Christian author suggests that such pursuit can be done for the wrong reason, and our reasons for being healthy can just be justification for a deeper issue:
Check out the article, and tell us what you think…
..and while we are at it, here are my (Tab’s) two cents…
I think Galli certainly has reason to call motives into question; however, simply because we can hide behind a noble cause for our own personal gain does not mean that the cause itself is any less noble. Many persons have taken refuge behind the gospel for personal gain, but that does not mean the gospel is inherently flawed. Likewise, many might hide behind a holistic view of “stewardship” for personal gain, but stewardship of our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, is no less noble, is it?
In his article, “Man Up, Christians” published on Christianity Today’s website in March of 2009, Mark Galli argues that all the buzz in Christian circles about health is too often a cover up for our fear of dying, that while we say that we seek longevity for the sake of being “good stewards,” religious people are often simply covering up the fact that they do not wish to die. His solution, as his title suggest, is to “man up.”
As I said, to an extent I agree, but I find the analysis, as well as the suggested solution, a bit harsh and unbalanced…
In this article, Galli seems to assume he has unique access into the minds of religious people who choose risky treatment for otherwise terminal diseases. In a response to a Rev. McCray who has a different idea for why religious persons might choose risky and invasive treatment (see article), Galli suggests he knows the real reason people go to extremes to fight off disease: “Nice try, but the reason we seek invasive, risky treatments is to get our miracle—so we can live a few years longer.”
While I too find McCray’s explination wanting, and while Galli’s assumption might seem true in most cases, I think he is too bold in assuming that this is always the case. We are not in the minds of the suffering. Moreover, are we, as Christians, not a people against evil and its effects? Are we not a people that should err on the side of life if we are to err at all?
Galli suggests that we should be a people willing to be placed in harms way for the gospel. Yes. If being harmed is what is necessary for the gospel to be promoted, then I’m all for it. But, should we go seeking harm. No. We need to seek God’s will alone. Galli states:
Some of the devout argue that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our bodies. Yes, up to a point. But it seems clear that the height of discipleship is to put our bodies at risk for the gospel, no? If Paul’s priority was to steward his body, I don’t think he would have put himself in situations in which shipwrecks, beatings, and hunger were a regular part of the regimen. And throughout the church’s history, saints (the exemplars of faith) end up sickly, thin, ragged, and exhausted, and die prematurely precisely because they “left nothing on the floor” when serving God and others.
Should I really go out and “put [my body] in harms way for the gospel? If that is what God is calling me to do, then yes, but, just as physical health is not the highest goal of the Christian life, “being harmed” is not the ultimate goal of spreading the gospel. Making disciples is the goal. If taken too seriously, Galli’s statement above appears to suggest we should go out looking for physical harm.
We will suffer for Christ, but not always physcially. Sometimes the attacks are more psychological or emotional.
Will people promote stewardship in order to excuse their own lust for staving off the inevitable? Sure. But, does that negate the fact that we should steward our health? By no means. Galli says that he often wonders “if stewardship of our bodies—from keeping fit to living long—has become another way of trimming the hard edges off discipleship.”
We could turn the tables and say that ignoring the call to steward our health for some perceived, noble idea of sacrifice is only an excuse to be at ease with our undisciplined lifestyle, that while some might say they do not have the time for proper physical care because of their busy lives as disciples, they are merely being selfish, excusing their lack of discipline in the area of stewardship.
I am sure Galli would not wish to suggest his statements are his final thoughts on the issue. I agree with Galli’s admonishment. I think he rightly cautions us to call our motives into question, but I think he might go too far in dismissing the real thing. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. We should steward our health for the benefit of the Kingdom, but never should our health stand in the way of our purpose as disciples. If harm should befall us because of our calling, then so be it. But, just as seeking longevity for fear of dying is too self-centered, so too is seeking martyrdom (or the like) so that I might feel a sense of achievement in my call to serve God.
For now, I am living, so I will live my best, and hopefully when it is time to die, I will die my best.
“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” -Romans 14:8