We are not our own, and therefore we need to steward everything we’ve been entrusted with, bodies included, well. But when people start talking about stewarding our bodies, I immediately get a bad attitude. This is largely because I have always reduced body stewardship to sexual fidelity and eating boring food. I understand the sexual fidelity part; it’s the modern-day torture that we call exercise that I understand cognitively, but do not enjoy physically at all. Maybe it’s the former athlete in me, or maybe it’s that passage about beating the body and making it a slave, but I have an “us versus them” relationship with my body. In yoga the teacher always tells us to our bodies, but I couldn’t help but notice that some people’s bodies seem to tell them to do a head stand while mine tells me that by attending class I have earned a reward of ice cream (which I am allergic to). That voice cannot be trusted. So I have to boss my bod around saying things like “Legs, you will fit into last summer’s shorts” or “Abs, get your crap together, you’re looking sloppy” “Metabolism, did you move out?” For the record, I recognize that this is neither a healthy nor helpful way to self-talk. I’m just deeply offended that I can’t eat salad and workout a few times and drop seven pounds. How rude.
But the body isn’t just our physique, and reducing stewardship to how fit we are doesn’t seem to be getting the job done. Mental health is a major issue in this day and age and the correlation between technological advances like social media and mental health doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. Our bodies also include components like our minds, eyes, mouths…. there’s actually a lot more to our bodies than our six packs, praise God.
Consequently, stewarding our bodies isn’t just a matter of whether or not we exercised in a given week, but rather how we are taking care of all of the whole of our bodies… how we are stewarding our minds, our eyes, our tongues, and so on.
I’m no diet guru, but I do know that what we ingest affects us and even changes us overtime. When we ingest too much of something, sugar for example, our bodies might quit producing things like insulin. I know, really advanced medical knowledge here. We don’t necessarily see results immediately, but overtime what we ingest changes us in ways we can see, such as sprouting new appendages called love handles and saddlebags. It’s not just food that affects us, though; it’s what we listen to, read, and watch that affects the way we think—the way we view ourselves, others, the world, and God— overtime it these will influence what we believe, and from the abundance of the mouth the heart speaks. So when we consider how to steward our bodies well, it would be wise for us to think of our bodies holistically, minds, eyes, and mouths included.
“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. He is at my right hand. So I will always be secure.” Psalm 16:8
What we ingest visually affects the way we see ourselves and see others. If we aren’t careful excessive exposure to the same sorts of images can dull our senses, leaving us immune to things like violence, hyper-sexualized everything, and how people should treat each other. What we take in visually distorts our concept of normality and our expectations… of how we should look, how we should dress, what our lifestyles should look like, and how we should be treated by Ryan Gosling. I have found myself wondering what I’m doing wrong that I can’t get paid a six-figure salary to try on clothes and travel, without considering that just because I have a steady feed of people with this lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s normal. Do you monitor what you visually ingest?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” Rom. 12:1-2
Romans tells us that we are transformed not by a fitness regiment, not by a diet or a new hair cut, but by the renewing of our minds. It makes sense too, since at its core stewardship is a matter of perspective. I believe our mental health deserves as much if not more attention than our physical health. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ… Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on whatever is true, lovely, noble, pure, excellent and worthy of praise. Colossians 3:1-2 tells us to set our minds on things above, not on the things that are of this earth. As with any other muscle in our bodies we need to exercise it to strengthen it and practice discipline to see results. Do you correct yourself with compassion when you have judgmental thoughts, or do you just make sure not to say it aloud? Do you combat worry by thinking on what is true, or do you buckle beneath it and let it have its way with you? Paul tells us to be diligent with our minds, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). How are you stewarding your mind and your thoughts?
“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” James 3:8-10
We know that the tongue is small but it can get us into big trouble both from scripture and from personal experience. But when I read that “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:48) I get all the convicted feels. My small talk is basically an endless string of negativity: “Could this line get any longer?”, “I would rather have my eyes pecked out by a bird of prey than sit at the DMV”, and other casual hyperbole I waste my breath uttering. Clearly, these poignant complaints are stemming from something within. So it seems like a worthy endeavor to take stock of how we steward our tongue. Do we use our words to build up or tear down? Do we speak about people and circumstances with grace and gratitude or with cynicism and negativity? Do we choose our words carefully or let them fly? Heck, would a random passerby have any indication that we might know Jesus based on our words? We’ve all been given access to some sort language, how are you stewarding yours?
We can all agree that there’s a huge difference between food that is good for you and good food. We develop an appetite for the things that we ingest. When I eat garbage, all I want to eat is more garbage. When I eat adult food, I feel better and I want to keep feeling better so I endure the kale. This concept—developing an appetite for the things that are good for us— can be applied to really any area of life. When I intentionally set out to develop an appetite for holiness, in what I watch, what I listen to, what I read, it affects the way I think, the way I speak, the way I view myself and those around me. But appetites for good things, as we all know, do not just happen by chance. They require intentionality, discipline, and cultivation. So how are you stewarding your body holistically? What appetite are you feeding? And how can you develop an appetite for holy things?