As I wade through issues of stewarding our health, I am constantly trying to figure out how these issues rightly relate to the gospel. What does God think of this? Does this even matter?
A message by John Piper on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, really helped me. Here are some excerpts that relate particularly well with the idea of stewardship of health, specifically of self-control.:
The Body Is for the Lord
The body is for the Lord! Your body has been given to you for one reason: to be an instrument for glorifying Christ (6:20). The way you use your body and the way you take care of your body should communicate that the glory of Christ is all-satisfying.
The Lord Is for the Body
Then he says that not only is the body for the Lord, “the Lord is for the body.” That is, Christ is not indifferent to the body. He cares about it. He puts a premium on how we make use of it. He makes the body his temple (6:19). He is “for the body”—not against it, and not indifferent to it.
God Will Raise Our Bodies
Finally Paul says (in verse 14), “God raised the Lord and he will raise us.” In other words the body will never lose its importance. It may decay for a season in the grave. But it will be raised and restored. God gave Jesus a resurrection body and God will give us a resurrection body. The resurrection is God’s final declaration that he is for the body.
“Food for the Stomach and the Stomach for Food”
Some of the Corinthians had a view of the body that made what they did with it morally indifferent. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 they actually boasted about an act of incest in the church. In 11:21 some of them even got drunk at the Lord’s Supper. They reasoned: the body and food and drink and sex are going to be destroyed in the end. There will only be free spirits. So the body does not matter. You can eat and drink and have sex any way you like because the body is morally irrelevant. It’s what you know and think that really counts (8:1–3).
Paul opposed this view with all his might. He gave them a new and radically different slogan: “The body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body.” The body is not just going to be destroyed; it is going to be raised. The body is not morally indifferent. It is for the glory of God.
Two Guidelines for Living
Paul answers in verse 12 with two guidelines which I have called the law of love and the law of liberty.
1. The Law of Love
First, he says, “All right, all things are permitted in one sense, we should not live under external legal constraints; BUT NOT ALL THINGS ARE HELPFUL.” In other words, don’t ask, “What do I HAVE to do?” Instead ask, “What is HELPFUL to do?”
2. The Law of Liberty
Second, Paul says in 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.” In other words, not only let your actions be guided by the law of love, but also let them be guided by the law of liberty. Don’t ask, “Am I permitted to do this as a Christian?” Instead ask, “Am I a slave to this act? Is this food or drink or sex or hobby or work becoming my master instead of my servant?”
Two Biblical Motivations to Live in Freedom
I close with two biblical motivations for why you should strive to free yourself from all enslavements, whether to food or drink or lust or laziness or work. First, because slavery is so dangerous. And second, because freedom is so wonderful.
1. The Danger of Slavery
First, slavery is so dangerous. Here is what I mean. The persistent refusal to say no to an enslaving habit (like overeating) runs the risk of hardening your conscience so that you no longer feel guilty for that enslavement. And then others become more easy to justify and pretty soon it can happen that the whole biblical concept of spiritual warfare and vigilance and self-denial and self-control drops out of your life.
“Let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall!” Do you think you are beyond the possibility of making shipwreck of your faith? Where do you think backsliders and apostates come from? They come from people who, little by little, in things that are seemingly unimportant, ignored the voice of God in their own conscience. “Food for the body, the body for food—both will decay in the grave someday; its not important how I eat or drink.”
Why does God record for us in Hebrews 12:16–17 the tragedy of Esau with these words: “Do not be . . . like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears”?
How did Hymenaeus and Alexander fall away from the Lord? 1 Timothy 1:19 tells us: “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander.” What do you expect the spiritual consequences to be when day after day you reject the voice of conscience and yield to the enslavement of food or drink or lust?
What did Paul mean when he wrote to the Philippians, “I tell you now with tears that many live as enemies of the cross, whose end is destruction and whose god is their belly” (Philippians 3:18–19)?
Why did Paul command the Corinthians, “Run that you may obtain the prize. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:25–27)?
Why, in his first and perhaps only sermon to the governor Felix, did the apostle Paul choose for his sermon outline: “Justice, SELF-CONTROL, and future judgment” (Acts 24:25)? If you had one sermon to preach to a governor from prison, would your second point be self-control?
Why did Jesus say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell”?
God has said all these things for our sake! They are written that we might realize that bringing the body under control is no minor matter! “All things are lawful for me, BUT I WILL NOT BE ENSLAVED BY ANYTHING!” Cast off the bondage of your body. You were not meant to be led like a dog on the leash of lust or hunger.
2. The Wonder of Freedom
The second reason we should strive to free ourselves from all enslavements is that freedom is so wonderful.
“Happy is the man who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves,” says the apostle Paul (Romans 14:22). Persistent yielding to the inordinate desires of the body against the voice of conscience is a life of misery!
But to turn and do the opposite: to avail yourself of the law of the Spirit of life within, and to feel yourself bearing the fruit of self-control, and to pommel the rebel body into submission until it is no longer a master but a servant—this is victory and this is joy!
Brothers and sisters, you were bought with a price. Your bodies count. They are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Glorify God in your bodies: receive his gifts of pleasure with gratitude, and deny yourselves all excesses by the liberating addiction of his majesty.