How should Christian women exercise?
We live in a culture that is obsessed with appearance. Yet, we also live in a culture where way too many of us are overweight, and too many of us are unhealthy. What is a Christian woman to do? What should we model for our daughters? I want to contend that the biblical goal for Christians is to focus on strength.
“She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.”
– Proverbs 31:17
Our social media is obsessed with the human body and how the ideal body should look. So many of these images are not real. The bodies are enhanced through surgery or make-up. Even our models are airbrushed and presented as even more beautiful. Where once curvy women were lauded and painted on canvas, now boyish young women are lifted up.
Women work so hard to lose the weight that time and childbearing have added to their bodies. We cover ourselves up with layers of clothing to mask our insecurities.
In contrast, if you have worked so hard to shape and tone, this part or that part, you often what to show it off. Then, the cult of appearance causes some to struggle with issues of modesty.
What does the Bible tell us about outward appearance?
First of all, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all beautiful to our Creator. There is a beauty that is unique and special to each one of us. We are also each created in the image of God. Our outward appearance is not what defines our value.
“Do not let your adorning be external …. But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Our spirit and the condition of our heart are much more important to God than our outside appearance. The world looks on the outside, but as Christians, we should train our eyes to see and value what God does. God focuses on inward beauty rather than outside beauty.
What do we know about Jesus’ appearance?
Let us consider Jesus himself. When God chose to take human form and become one of us, what did he look like? The New Testament doesn’t really tell us. It wasn’t significant to the first-century church to record that information for us.
People didn’t come to listen to Jesus because he was good looking. They came for his teaching and his healing. His appearance was likely very average, like other Jewish men of his day, and didn’t stand out from the crowd.
God, the originator of beauty, who designed the world with so many natural wonders – didn’t think it was essential to make Jesus beautiful by worldly standards.
So, should we as Christians ignore the body?
No, our bodies are a gift from God. The Gnostics held a dangerous belief that the early church battled for the first three centuries. They believed that the spiritual life was superior and that all material things, including our bodies, were inferior. This meant you could “sin” with your body because it didn’t matter.
Gnostics also didn’t believe that Jesus really became a person. Why would God be born of a woman? Why would God actually die on a cross? They thought that if Jesus were a physical person, He would be tainted.
The early church strongly testified that Jesus was fully human, and fully God. If we are looking forward to sharing in Christ’s resurrection, then I would prefer that it be a real one and not the illusion of one!
Conclusion: God doesn’t focus on our appearance, but our bodies are essential and created by God.
Should Christian women exercise?
Let’s look at the Proverbs 31 woman. Often we find that she is a model of womanhood that we just can’t attain. She is wise and smart. She is good at business and can develop real estate. This woman can do amazing things with her hands. In addition to a green thumb, she can weave and sew. Her kids are even awesome and publicly announce how great she is. (Wouldn’t you love to sit down and ask her how in the world she accomplished that!)
This idea of this mythical woman feeds our insecurities as women. However, notice that in all of this lengthy description of this woman’s virtue, the Bible says nothing about her beauty! The only reference to beauty at all is found in verse 30.
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
This verse is about beauty in general but not a description of the Proverbs 31 woman. What reports are given of her physical person?
“She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” – Proverbs 31:17
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” – Proverbs 31:25
She has strong arms that she uses for hard work. This wonder woman is laboring mentally and physically. The Bible mentions her strength twice. Strength. Strong is beautiful.
Yes, we should exercise!
Christian women should exercise to be strengthened to meet their calling. We need to have stamina and strength to serve others. This often involves lifting, pulling, carrying, etc. We are not called to be weak, but to be strong.
Exercise strengthens our hearts. We need healthy hearts so that we can stay healthy for as long as God calls us to labor on this earth. We have significant work to do in building the kingdom of God, and we need the energy, strength, and longevity that exercise brings.
Exercise must be done in moderation.
Exercise is vital, but it can’t become an addiction. (Sounds crazy to some, but to others, this is a struggle.) Exercise can become an idol. Lulled into a lie, we think that the perfect body will heal the brokenness in our marriage or if we lose weight we will have more friendships.
“Rather train yourself for godliness; for 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 be strong godly Christian women.
May we raise strong godly Christian women (and men).
Our strength is needed to build the kingdom.
How do you make time to get in your exercise? Do you feel selfish if you do? How do you strike a balance?