The Bible and Health
(Romans 12 & 14, Mark 7)
Introduction: Everyone wants to be healthy. At the same time, it is a lot easier (and more enjoyable) to eat and drink whatever you want. It is a pain (sometimes literally) to exercise. If wearing your seatbelt is not a habit, then it is intrusive. We have more time to ourselves (and maybe Bible study) if we cut back on sleep, or so it seems. God spent a lot of time in the Old Testament giving what are obviously "health" messages to His people through Moses. God spent a lot of time in the New Testament seeming to downplay the importance of what goes in our body as opposed to what goes out. (See Mark 7:18-23) Obviously, if we have clear minds and strong bodies we can better serve God. But, is this a moral matter? Or, is it just a matter of common sense? Are Christians who focus on avoiding certain foods rather than avoiding certain evil thoughts playing into the hands of Satan? Let's dive into our lesson and see what the Bible has to say about health and the Christian walk!
- Mind versus Body
- Read Romans 12:1. What comes to mind when you read the words "living sacrifice?" (First, Jesus' sacrifice of His life on our behalf. Second, the sanctuary service with its sacrifices.)
- What principle of Christian living comes to mind when we read these words? (The idea of self-sacrifice. The principle of unselfishness. Our life should be a tribute to God.)
- In the introduction, I mentioned that health diet and exercise can be a "pain." Are they subjects that should be considered as part of our self-sacrificing (holy) lifestyle?
- The Bible has this theme that giving results in getting( Luke 6:38). Does "self-sacrifice" in what we eat, whether we exercise, how much we sleep, how much we weigh, end up giving us more in life?
- Read Romans 12:2. Although Paul writes about our "bodies," what is he really talking about? (He is speaking first about our mind. We renew our minds with spiritual things and our bodies follow the path of our minds.)
- Read Romans 14:1-3. What is the subject matter which follows? (Disputable matters.)
- What is the relative importance of food in these verses?
- Read Romans 14:5-8. What does this suggest about the importance of the debate over what we eat?
- What do you think was the "disputable" issue over diet? (The New Bible Commentary points to verse 6 which refers to giving thanks to God while eating meat and suggests the issue is eating meat offered to idols. The "weak" Christian would be so concerned about eating meat offered to idols that he would refrain from eating any meat because he could not be sure of its origin.)
- This text, of course, is of great interest to those who think God commands a weekly day of worship. Do you understand from this text that God eliminated a special day for worship during the week? Did He eliminate the importance of one day of worship over another? (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments, like other commentaries, says "no" to those questions. It points out that Jesus announced He was "Lord of the Sabbath Day" ( Mark 2:28) and thus the Sabbath of the Decalogue could not have been part of the "disputable" issues. Rather, Romans 14 refers to the "vanquished Jewish festival days, which only 'weakness' could imagine to still be in force.")
- Let's continue with this line of argument. Read Romans 14:13-17. What is Paul's primary concern in these verses? (What you eat may create a spiritual problem for someone else. Be careful not to injure someone else because of your convictions on diet.)
- Read Romans 14:19-21. What relative ranking does Paul make between mind and body? Between diet and spiritual matters? (Diet comes second.)
- God's Priority
- Read Mark 7:1-5. How important is cleanliness to health?
- What do you think was God's purpose in the "washing" regulations given through Moses? (To help them to be healthy.)
- Read Mark 7:6-8. What two competing claims does Jesus see? (The commands of God and the traditions of men.)
- Which bothered Jesus most - letting go the commandments of God or holding on to the traditions of man?
- Read Mark 7:14-15. When considering issues of diet, health and fitness, are these matters of common sense or matters of sin?
- Read Mark 7:17-23. Will food affect your spirituality? (Common sense tells you that a healthy body makes it easier to think clearly. But, Jesus is saying something very important about diet issues. He teaches that food goes into our stomach and then out of our body. Food, does not cause sin. On the other hand, the evil thoughts of our hearts form the basis for our evil actions. Thus, what is produced by our minds and our hands should be the main focus of spiritual health - and not diet, fitness, health and exercise.)
- Read Romans 14:22-23. Should we even be discussing these issues in our lesson? (Paul devotes a whole chapter to it. I think it is in the specifics of diet that God advises us not to create problems in the church by sharing controversial views with "weak" fellow church members.)
- Which Temple?
- Whenever issues of health, diet and fitness arise, someone shouts out "Your body is a temple." Is this a correct statement of Scripture?
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Is this "temple" reference to our body or our local church? (If you are uncertain, read the entire chapter (1 Corinthians 3). The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says "the temple is the local church." Quite clearly, the context shows that Paul is not speaking about health, diet and fitness, he is speaking about the spiritual progress of the local church.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. Is this "temple" reference to health, diet and fitness? (No. This is dealing with sexual sins. If you doubt this, read the context: 1 Corinthians 6:12-17.)
- Notice that Paul sets sexual sins apart and says that they are different. How are they different? (Read 1 Corinthians 6:16-17. Paul refers to God's original plan for marriage in which two become one. This spiritual/physical unity in marriage is unique. Thus, sexual sins are also unique and especially harmful.)
- Health and Healing
- Read Matthew 4:23-25. Why did Jesus take time to heal people when He could have spent the time warning them about the sin in their lives? (God wants us to have health and life.)
- What, if anything, does that teach us about our ministry? (If Jesus was concerned about health, so should we be concerned about it. If Jesus made health part of His ministry, we should make it a part of ours. Health, diet and fitness, in their proper place, should be a part of our witness.)
- Are there any other reasons why Jesus might have healed the people? (No doubt that helped to attract strangers to hear His message. People who might not otherwise have come, wanted to be healed or see healing.)
- Is there a lesson in that for us? (The health, diet and fitness message may be the way some are attracted to God's spiritual message.)
- Read 1 Timothy 3:2-4. Are all of these requirements spiritual necessities for all believers?
- If you say, "no," why does God set these requirements for the "overseer" of the church? (This is the picture of a temperate and holy person. God is not only interested in all aspects of our life, He believes that His followers will be attracted to those who are temperate. The "total package" is a witness to others.)
- Friend, what about you? Will you make diet, health and fitness part of your Christian walk? Will you understand its proper place in your life? Will you avoid getting into disputes with those who see things differently?
- Next week: The Bible and Happiness.