Does God Care How Healthy Your Lifestyle Is?

February 20, 2014

Scripture teaches that the proper reception of the words of God is to those who so receive them “health to all their body”:

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh (Prov. 4:20-22).

This amazing verse teaches infallibly that the health of a person’s entire physical body is affected by that person’s relationship to the Word of God. Thus, from the mind of the only wise God, we know that His Word is salutary for the physical health of the entire body! How brightly does the care of God for the comprehensive well-being of His own shine forth from this marvelous text!

When we consider that our present earthly bodies are corrupted by sin and will some day either be destroyed or be changed (at the Rapture), why does God even bother to speak in such terms about the health of this transient body? Such a statement probably seems at odds to the notions of those who espouse the view that health is just not that important of a spiritual or Scriptural issue.

Seemingly supporting that notion that only limited concern for the welfare of the physical body is appropriate is a Scriptural statement about the lowly belly (stomach, NASB):

“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13).

In this verse, God explicitly says that He will some day destroy both the belly and the foods that go into it. Reasoning along the same lines, how many have concluded that the present earthly body in all its parts is not much more than something to be put up with until we get our glorified bodies?

Does God concur with such thinking? How would we know? Incredibly, under inspiration, Scripture records God’s concern for the stomach[1] of a minister: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23)!

Understanding the Power of First Timothy 5:23 Properly

Many do not appreciate the power of 1 Timothy 5:23, and a proper understanding requires a brief rehearsal of the nature of Scripture. Scripture teaches about itself that the will of man was not at all involved in its origination. Everything that is in the Bible is there by the will of God (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Scripture also teaches about itself that all Scripture was breathed out by God and is profitable for us to be righteous before God (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Scripture teaches us what we need to know and do for the salvation of our souls. It also teaches us what we need to know, do, and be in every aspect of our lives so that we would fulfill all of our obligations to God and man.

Paul wrote to Timothy to teach him how he should conduct himself in the church:

“These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:14, 15).

Thus, this pastoral Epistle specifically teaches how a minister should carry out his ministry.

For us to understand the importance of 1 Timothy 5:23 properly, we must keep in mind that not one verse of this book is human thinking about proper ministry. Every verse teaches us what God has to say about ministry in the church.

That being the case, Paul’s statement to Timothy in 5:23 is striking. Under inspiration of God, Paul authoritatively directs Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus, concerning his health, including the welfare of his stomach![2]

Paul relates that Timothy had a stomach problem and was frequently ill. Significantly, Paul does not merely note Timothy’s health problems—he commands Timothy to change his lifestyle for the sake of these health problems.

Specifically, Paul directs him no longer to continue drinking only water, but also to drink a little wine. That the purpose of this authoritative direction is clearly for the betterment of his health is plain from the words “for thy stomach’s sake“ (cf. NASB, “for the sake of your stomach”).

Thus, in this one verse of Scripture, God has recorded for all time in His eternal Word His mind concerning the physical well-being of the pastor of a church. He has also given us clear teaching about pastoral ministry from the example of how Paul ministered to his son in the faith, Timothy. Moreover, God has also plainly revealed his mind concerning changing our lifestyles for the sake of our health.

The Great Contemporary Importance of First Timothy 5:23

Were this one verse[3] of Scripture (1 Tim. 5:23) to be taken seriously, the health of many multiplied thousands of believing people would surely be greatly improved. If it be objected that applying this teaching to our lives should not be taken seriously merely because of the reference to wine, let us consider how many even today use medications with significant alcohol content, such as Ny-Quil and cough syrups, for the sake of their health, and without any apparent qualms concerning the propriety of such medicinal use of alcohol.[4]

Amazingly, God has recorded in His word that is forever settled in heaven His care for the stomach of a minister, a stomach that God Himself destroyed at the death of Timothy. This verse is not at all surprising if we take care to keep in mind the mind of God revealed in Proverbs 4:20-22. The God who spoke in Proverbs 4 of that which was “health” to the entire body is the same One who gloriously demonstrated His interest in such comprehensive well-being of His people by recording in 1 Timothy 5 one minister authoritatively confronting another concerning his health.

The God who inspired both Proverbs 4:20-22 and 1 Timothy 5:23 is the same God who also stated to His own, as encouragement for them not to fear, that His care for them extends even to every hair on their heads: “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:30, 31). Such care for the health of those whom God is watching over shines forth especially from Acts 27:34: “Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you” (cf. 27:24- 25, which indicates clearly the hand of God in the situation).

Thus, Scripture indicates the astonishing care of God for the health of His own. Yes, He cares for the health of the believer’s whole body, even his stomach, even for every hair, which all are destined for destruction; shouldn’t we likewise care for the health of our entire body?

Plainly, we should be concerned for the comprehensive well-being of the people of God. Like Paul did with Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23, ministers must minister to the people of God appropriate authoritative direction to change their lifestyles for the sake of their health.

Significantly, the terseness of the teaching in 1 Timothy 5:23 wonderfully suggests that why a person is in ill-health need not even be mentioned or perhaps even known for it to be appropriate for them to be exhorted concerning their health. Regardless of whether someone has health difficulties because of heredity, or as the result of accident or injury, or from unhealthy lifestyle, or from some other cause, 1 Timothy 5:23 still applies. If a believer’s health could be helped through some appropriate lifestyle intervention,[5] Scripture here strongly shows that they should do so for the sake of their health.

Interestingly, the specific teaching of 1 Timothy 5:23—that of no longer continuing in merely doing what one has been doing to date, but adding a practice to the life that would help one’s health—is exactly so often what is needed for the effective treatment of many health problems, especially lifestyle-related ones. Many who are suffering from ill health are doing so because of the omission of one or more of the well-established health-promoting lifestyle practices. Scripture indicates plainly in 1 Timothy 5:23 what is to be done in such cases—add to one’s life the health-promoting practices that up to this point have not been engaged in properly in the life!

Moreover, the teaching of 1 Timothy 5:23 especially indicates that those who have without full justification set aside authoritative direction from their Christian doctor or other qualified individuals concerning changing their lifestyles because of their health needs should amend their ways. Such behavior is plainly contrary to the mind of God, who would have them to change their lifestyles for the sake of their health.

Let us ask ourselves how many ministers and other Christian leaders are presently righteously caring for the health needs of the people of God by giving them authoritative direction concerning lifestyle changes for the sake of their health. How will they do so if they do not understand that Scripture teaches that they should do so? How can they do so effectively if they do not have a personal testimony of caring properly for their own comprehensive physical well-being?

Moreover, how will they do so apart from proper sufficient training concerning physical health of the body? What’s more, were they to do so, how many Christians would even be submissive to such direction when it is given?

Let us also consider how many parents are letting their children engage in unhealthy lifestyles, not wanting to take the trouble to confront them or thinking that God has not really spoken to such matters? In addition, let us consider how many spouses allow their spouse to go on living in self-destructive eating habits, wishing there were some way to get them to change before something terrible happens.

God Does Care How Healthy Your Lifestyle Is!

Let none who are facing any of the situations discussed above (or other similar situations) dismiss, make light of, or neglect the glorious teaching that God commands us to make lifestyle changes for the sake of our health (1 Tim. 5:23). Apart from a proper reception and observance of that teaching, what will we have left whereby to wisely minister to such needs of our loved ones: “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?” (Jer. 8:9).

Only the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is able to pierce to the innermost being of man and lay bare to him the true state of his heart before God (Heb. 4:12). In 1 Timothy 5:23, we have just such a wonderful “sword” that God will mightily use to quicken both us and our loved ones so that we all will change whatever lifestyle habits are hurting our health.

Only through a proper reception of the mind of God through the careful handling of numerous passages concerning health, etc. in Scripture could such proper ministry become a reality in the church, in our homes, in our schools, etc. By such hearing and obeying of what God says in those verses, including especially 1 Timothy 5:23, many more believers would experience the glorious promise set forth in Proverbs 4:10 (and elsewhere): “Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.”

May God help us to live properly in the light of His concern for our comprehensive well-being. O yes, He cares how healthy your lifestyle is—will you?

 


[1] “Stomach” in 1 Timothy 5:23 = “belly” in 1 Corinthians 6:13; for our purposes even though different Greek words are used, the reference is clearly essentially to the same thing.

[2] That this is only one verse in a book of six chapters concerning pastoral ministry should not lead us therefore to dismiss, make light of, or neglect the truth taught by God therein. Certainly, proper ministry is much bigger than merely the health concerns of the people of God. As this verse plainly shows, however, adequately ministering to the health concerns of the people of God is part of the ministry! Consider also how much time and money go into addressing the health issues of believers in a church, and therefore, how needful and valuable is authoritative direction from God concerning those issues.

[3] This verse is only one of several in Scripture that show God’s mind concerning comprehensive well-being of His people: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 35:27; Proverbs 3:7, 4: 22, 14:30; Ecclesiastes 11:10; Isaiah 58:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 3 John 2.

[4] Proper treatment of all the Scriptural considerations concerning the propriety of contemporary use of alcohol by Christians is far beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, the teaching in 1 Timothy 5:23 plainly indicates the medicinal use of a small quantity of wine in the specific setting that Timothy faced at that time. If the reason for this admonition stemmed from concerns for water quality, given the proper facilities available to us today for water purification, no such use of wine can be justified except in the most exceptional of circumstances. All things considered, this writer believes that Christians should abstain from all consumption of alcohol, except for legitimate medicinal use, including such preparations as noted above, which are to be used only in a limited fashion at those times when legitimate need exists. In any case, this verse gives no support whatever to social drinking as legitimate for believers. For differing viewpoints concerning the propriety of the use of wine in the observance of the Lord’s Supper by believers today, please consult appropriate works that deal with that and related issues.

[5] Potential concern for discerning properly what the appropriate lifestyle intervention(s) for any given health concern(s) is/are should not lead us to discount the teaching of 1 Timothy 5:23. For the vast majority of cases, proper attention now to any of the basic well-established tenets of healthy living, such as regular physical activity, healthy diet, sufficient rest, etc. that have not been adhered to in the past, will yield great benefits. For numerous people with health problems, one pertinent application of 1 Timothy 5:23 would be along the following lines: “No longer just serve in your church, at work, and at home, but also do a little regular physical activity.” The case for such advice being of benefit has been established through hundreds of studies for decades, including many recent ones that powerfully show the value of even a little regular physical activity. Consider especially that the case for regular physical activity is so strong that the Surgeon General has even issued an advisory report detailing the facts supporting such a practice. Keeping in mind that believers generally hold that smoking is ungodly behavior because of the damage to one’s health, it is striking that research has demonstrated more than once that a sedentary lifestyle is as damaging to one’s health as smoking, or even more!

See also Christian Health/Fitness Quotes I

Rajesh

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