“STEWARDS OF OUR BODIES”

I CORINTHIANS 6:19-20; ROMANS 12:1

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            Think about it for a moment.  When you think about yourself what five words pop into your mind?  Who are you as a person?  What five words capture you? 

            Well, if God had written down five words for you and me, I venture to say those five words would be loved, forgiven, gifted, disciple, and steward.  We are loved, forgiven and gifted by God, and we are to be his followers, disciples, and we are stewards.

            It is my contention, however, that we don’t usually think of ourselves as stewards.  We might think of ourselves as loved, forgiven, gifted, and even as a disciple, a follower of Jesus, but as a stewards, not so much.  But, I hope as a result of this sermon series we will add this word to our vocabulary when we think about ourselves, and not just stewards of our money and material possessions, but a steward in every phase of our lives.

            In this series we are looking at eight areas of life where God has called us to be stewards.  Last week we looked at God’s call upon our lives to be stewards of the earth.  Today we turn to our being stewards of our bodies.  

            Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul from first, his letter to the Corinthians, and then from his letter to the Romans.  I Corinthians 6:19-20 ...

 

            Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

 

            Now Romans 12:1 ...

 

            I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 

            I love the story of the visitor to Rome who was eating lunch near the Vatican.  He was sitting on a bench and a local resident was sitting next to him.  They struck up a conversation and the local happened to be a tailor.  In fact, he was the Pope’s tailor.  Seizing this rare opportunity to get an inside glimpse of the holy man, the tourist asked the tailor, “Tell me.  What kind of guy is the Pope?”

            “Ah,” the tailor said.  “He’s a perfect 40 long.”

            Now that tailor knew bodies, and our bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  We have short ones, squat ones, long ones, thin ones, fat ones, muscular ones, flabby ones.  Some have lots of hair, some very little hair.  Some are black, some brown, some white, some red, and each have a variety of intricate, interlocking parts, most of which move, and affect the others.  An elementary school boy described our bodies this way when he wrote an essay on the anatomy of the human body.

 

            Your head is kind of round and hard, and your brains are in it and your hair on it.  Your face is the front of your head where you eat and make faces.  Your neck is what keeps your head out of your collar.  It’s hard to keep clean.  Your shoulders are sort of shelves where you hook your suspenders on them.

            Your stummick is something that if you do not eat often enough it hurts, and spinach don’t help none.  Your spine is a long bone in your back that keeps you from folding up.  Your back is always behind you no matter how quick you turn around.  Your arms you got to pitch with, and so you can reach the butter.  Your fingers stick out of your hands so you can throw a curve and add up rithmetick.  Your legs is what if you have not got two of, you cannot get to first base.  Your feet are what you run on, your toes are what get stubbed.  And that’s all there is of you, except what’s inside, and I never saw it.

 

            And as much as we like to think of our bodies as our own, they ultimately do not belong to us.  They belong to God.  Remember the Psalmist from last week?  “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it?”  That includes our bodies and the Apostle Paul picks up that very thought.  He said, “You are not your own ... you were bought with a price.”  If we  are Christian, God bought our body by giving up the body of his Son.

            Of course, that’s a troubling realization.  I say that because we do not like to think of giving up control of our bodies.  Have you ever been hospitalized?  That’s a humbling experience.  They give you hospital gown open in the back, exposing our sitter-downers to anyone who would care to look.  Then people come into our room and peer and poke and probe.  When we are hospitalized our bodies are subjected to the logic of doctors and nurses and we don’t get them back until we leave.

            And that’s how it is as Christians.  Our bodies, which are so near and dear to us, don’t ultimately belong to us.  They belong to God and we are to present them to God for God’s purposes.  Paul puts it clearly.  “I appeal to you ... present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”

            Why does Paul make such a big deal about this?  Let me venture a guess.  I appeal to my wife’s world, the world of real estate.  If you have ever listed your home for sale, you are told to keep it looking nice because someone may want to see it at the drop of a hat.  And we’ve listed a few houses in our time, and I always hope that when prospective buyers walk through our house that they will look at how tidy and clean it is and think, “Wow, some really cool people live here.  They really care about their house.”

            You see, our houses say something about us, the people who live in the house.  And our bodies say something about the Holy Spirit who lives in our house, our body.  As a result the Apostle Paul says, “Remember your body is the dwelling place of the living God.  When you accepted Christ the Holy Spirit took up residence inside of you, so make sure that body of yours is holy and acceptable, so that when people look at your body, they think good thoughts about the Holy Spirit.  Be a good steward, a good caretaker of your body.”

            What will that mean for us?  Well, first of all, it means we will watch what we put into our bodies.  Does it make any difference if we constantly eat cheeseburgers, fries and shakes?  You bet it does.

            We are a nation of frustrated fatties.  Approximately 90% of us feel we need to lose some weight.  We spend $5 billion dollars annually battling bulges.  We are the only nation in history that has more people die from overeating than under eating.

            And for most of us the thought of eating less or eating better is about as attractive as running barefoot through a cactus patch.  I think of the little boy who was asked, “Son, what do you want to do when you get a big as your daddy?”  The little boy replied, “Diet!”  And I know it’s tough.  At least, it’s tough for me.  Our landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches.  There is a Pizza Temple on nearly every corner.  It’s tough, but being stewards of our bodies will start with watching what goes into them.

            Second, being stewards of our bodies will impact our sexuality.  The Puritans lived like there was no such thing as sex.  Our generation lives as though there is nothing but sex.  We live in an age of fast food and fast sex.

            Ken Chafin, a Southern Baptist professor of preaching, was invited to speak to his daughter’s high school English class.  The class had been studying moral values in American literature.  Rather than use the occasion to talk about the distinctives of Southern Baptism, he decided to talk about what all the various denominations have in common in their view of wholeness.  He talked about how God created our bodies with appetites, our minds with reason and questions, and our emotions with their responses, and our wills with their capacity for decision and how Christ came to create wholeness in our lives. 

            When he completed his talk, a young man near the rear of the room asked him a question that was more of a statement than a question.  He said, “If God made the body with it’s appetites, then why are you preachers always hassling me about sex?”

            Now, Chafin’s presentation was so general, he hadn’t even mentioned sex, but it was certainly on this high schooler’s mind, and evidently someone was hassling this young man and the young man said, “My sexual needs are just like all my other needs.  If I get hungry I drop by MacDonald’s for a quarter pounder with cheese, and if I feel the need for sex I get a date with someone who is willing.  Now what’s wrong with that?”

            Well, as I said before in our Ten Commandments sermon series, the problem with sex outside of marriage is not that we have gone too far, it’s that we haven’t gone far enough.  We haven’t committed enough of ourselves to the other person.  Fast sex is as good for us as fast food.

            Third, we are good stewards of our bodies when we make sure we are giving our bodies proper rest.  That begins with determining how much sleep we need each night to feel rested.  Some people need ten hours of sleep, others eight, others six.  Most need eight hours of sleep, but the amount varies, and if we constantly wake up to an alarm clock, that’s a sure sign we are not getting enough sleep at night.  The ideal is to wake up fifteen minutes or so before the alarm goes off.  Someone aptly said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  If we are not getting proper sleep at night, we start to think negatively, and that affects our state of mind which in turn affects our bodies.

            Getting proper rest also involves practicing the art of relaxation.  What refuels you?  Reading your Bible?  Playing a video game?  Fishing?  Reading?  Watching TV. Meditation.  Searching the internet?  Cross-stitching?  Remember Jesus comment in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Consider the lilies?”  Well, Emily Dickinson, the poet, commented, “Consider the lilies ... that’s the only commandment I haven’t broken.”  That woman knew how to relax.

            Finally, getting proper rest also means taking time away from work.  There is no virtue in never taking a day off or never taking a vacation.  Furthermore, did you know that a studies have shown that a vacation needs to be at least ten days long.  Any shorter than that and our bodies do not have time to recover.  A day here or there, a weekend here or there, a week here and there won’t cut it.  Our bodies need more than that, at least yearly to recover from the demands of our jobs.

            I’ll close by quoting C.S. Lewis.  In this quote he reminds us of how our earthly bodies will differ from our heavenly bodies.  He writes,

 

            These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys and schoolgirls.  We must learn to manage; not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the king’s stables.[1] 

 

            As wonderful as these bodies are, something even greater awaits us.  Amen.



[1] C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 16.