Food For Thought…Suggested Reading

A Reading suggestion from TheEchoLife.com (September 12, 2012)

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…

“Man Up, Christians” by Mark Galli, Christianity Today, March 2009

 ..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

 -TM

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  • http://www.theworshipcommunity.com Russ Hutto

    Personally, I’ve always looking at “buffeting” the body as a way to face trials, troubles, persecutions, etc. with more “ammo” so to speak. I don’t think it’s a waste of time to promote (and apply) principles of health & fitness from a Christian perspective.

    In fact, I’d say that many of us (me included at times) struggle with the other end of the spectrum which is apathy and complacency (in health and fitness areas AND in Kingdom areas of our lives).

    • TabMiller

      Russ, I would agree. I do not think it is an either or situation. Sacrifice and persecution strengthen our resolve and spirit. Likewise, proper diet and exercise strengthen our bodies.

  • http://twitter.com/DrKurt1 Kurt Perkins

    I would agree with Galli that most that undergo a radical treatment are in attempts to extend life because of being afraid to die. But when someone is incorporating lifestyle to build health, it can be about preserving health but more so because you want a great quality of life to do the things you desire, like serving in ministry effectively. I don’t know anywhere in the Bible that says we are to be loser, ineffective, stressed out Christians. I think there’s a side issue to go along with it. When you look at the Greek work Pharmakia, this is Witchcraft. In the Old Testament, witchcraft was used to attack the Temple. Jesus came to redeem and restore and now we, the people, are the Temple. Pharmakia is the root word for pharmaceuticals. I say more Christians have faith in their drugs they are taking as a result of poor lifestyle choices, then the God given health potential we were all born with. Go to any church the #1 prayer request is for health issues. We are a Christian nation in bondage by pharmakia. Until this changes, through your continued efforts here at the Echo life, our nation will be filled with a host of loser Christians.

    • TabMiller

      Dr. Perkins, in regards to the first
      portion of your reply. I agree with you that “most” undergo radical
      treatment for fear of death. Of course, wanting a long life is not inherently
      wrong. As motivation for living a Godly life, the Bible often appeals to the
      added benefit of longer life. In other words, even God recognizes our inbuilt
      desire to avoid death. Death is an enemy of God and not natural for us to go
      through. Although we must pass through death now, and we should be able to face
      it with a great sense of hope in Christ, I think God understands our aversion,
      as long as it does not rob us of our ultimate trust and joy in Christ. So,
      Christians perhaps should not always think of wanting to live longer as an
      utterly terrible thing, an insult to God, as if we are trying to avoid “going
      to heaven.”

      In the end, this is to say that I am
      with you. No need for the loser Christian: That God is a God that wishes for us
      to be happy (or, at least, joy-filled), whether in health, sickness or death,
      is foreign to many. I do not think God is out to simply say, “Man
      up.” While we know that our ultimate hope is in Christ, we can hope for
      fulfilled lives, even long fulfilled lives, without worrying we are
      angering God.

      As for pharmaceutical medicine and
      witchcraft, that is a bitter pill to swallow. 😉 I would like some clarity.
      This will surely be a sensitive subject for our readers. So, would you consider
      all pharmaceuticals as witchcraft?

      I have not given much thought to the matter,
      but allow me give you my initial reaction.

      First of all, let me say that a big
      reason for The Echo Life is to promote a thoughtful managing of the body, and I
      do believe our society is overly dependent on medication. Having said this, I
      am not sure I would toss it all out the window.

      I know the etymology of the word would
      suggest that drugs and witchcraft are linked. I have often heard this used to
      argue against illicit drug use, but never against legal drugs, although I am
      not sure how the legal state changes the fact that a drug is a drug, if you are
      using this argument.

      I am not sure, however, that the
      etymology proves that modern pharmaceuticals are simply witchcraft. You may or
      may not agree. I know that drugs were and are still used in witchcraft, but it
      is the purpose that mainly concerns me, not merely the substance. Like idols,
      which are merely little statues, were used to replace or manipulate gods, so
      too was drug induced worship an attempt to tap into the divine for the pagan
      world. Little statues are not always idols, and I am not sure all drugs, as we
      understand them today, are used for witchcraft. In other words, witchcraft is
      often more about the spiritual use of the physical rather than the actual
      physical object, whether idol or pill. I do, however, think that modern drugs
      can be used as witchcraft:

      As I said, my understanding of
      witchcraft has always been defined by any attempt to manipulate the divine for
      human purposes (and, yes, I do agree it was used in attempts to attack the
      temple as well). Therefore, any
      attempt to usurp God’s power or His place in our lives is tantamount to
      witchcraft. I do agree that many if not the vast majority of Christians’ first
      thought when they are ill is to turn to medicine instead of the great
      Physician. However, if we place God in His proper place, as the one who truly
      heals, I would not think (and I know you would agree here) that turning to
      human help if and when one feels led by God to do so would be an attempt to
      replace God, even if the person recommends medication.

      Those are my initial thoughts. I would
      love to hear more from you if you have the time.

      • TabMiller

        Also, I think your point is more that we should not be a people who assume we will inevitably need medicine, but we should be a people that make right decisions from our God-given intuition and God given instruction. In this we can avoid a lot of our medicine fetish altogether. So, once again, I concur :)