PHYSICAL FITNESS & GODLINESS
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training (ἡ γὰρ σωματικὴ γυμνασία) 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 Tim 4: 4-8)
So, physical fitness (ἡ σωματικὴ γυμνασία) is of “some value,” according to St. Paul, “for everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” But it isn’t as important as “godliness,” in which I am to train myself, because it is “of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Does this mean that physical fitness isn’t important? No. It just means that it isn’t AS important as my spiritual fitness. And St. Paul makes this distinction to Timothy, because Timothy, apparently, thought physical fitness to be (perhaps disproportionately) important. But let me recognize that both are important, in our age of apparently-easily-accessible “spirituality,” and also-accessible (yet less attractive) fitness-clubs and gyms.
But let me not let myself off the hook today, when it comes to both physical and spiritual fitness, during this Nativity Fast. Because it does point me to wiser food-choices (like, cooking more for myself, and eating fewer processed foods), and wiser reading-choices (like, following the daily readings of the Church Calendar), as I prepare for the feast of Christ’s Nativity. I know, it seems quite obscure to many of us, this whole business of the Nativity Fast. But it’s a thing, you know, in our whole Tradition.
So let me be empowered by this fasting-season, and let it take control of my food-choices and reading-choices, “nourished on the words of the faith,” that I may be healthy and “sane” (from “sanus,” meaning “”healthy” in Latin) in usefulness to God and others, both physically and spiritually. Let me be healthy, and not insane, is what I am saying, – because I am especially invited to do that this season, as a member of this beautiful Tradition. Amen!