I enjoy a good run or being able to exercise with my wife, and I love that God has wonderfully made us body-soul beings. We are material and immaterial. We walk, work, see, touch, go, taste because of the physicality with which we were created. And, we think, dream, discern, judge, choose, want, love, delight, hate, bond, etc. because God has given us souls or what the Bible so often calls the “heart.”
Though there is a marvelous and mysterious interconnectedness of body and soul, the Bible, without discounting or denying the body, places the emphasis and priority on the soul. That’s why Jesus said that we “must be born again,” (Jn 3:3, 7) and why Paul wrote, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). We need this reminder of emphasis and priority because we live in a culture that worships the body. People all around us are driven by image, shape, health, and nutrition not so much as good stewards, but because of restless hearts and guilty consciences.
We need to hear the wisdom of Proverbs, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Pv 14:30). My paraphrase of this verse is, “A whole and contented heart is beneficial to the whole person, but a restless, unsatisfied heart will inevitably destroy the body.” Exercise and physical health is good, but it cannot give life to the soul. Only, the grace of God can heal our inner self (Eph 2:1-5). Like Augustine learned, our hearts can only find rest in God. For, only the blood of Jesus can cleanse our consciences (Heb 9:14), and only the Holy Spirit can make our hearts new and continue to make them new (Titus 3:5).
So, go ahead and enjoy being a good steward of your God-given physicality, but never forget that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8). May we not forget the priority of the soul.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.