The book Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul, by Gary Thomas, was recommended to me by a friend who has a similar interest in the area of faith and fitness.
I have read the book twice in the last couple months and have found it to be very beneficial as I explore what the Bible has to say about stewardship of the body. Gary Thomas penned many of my own thoughts about faith and fitness, but also expanded my views by articulating ideas I hadn’t considered.
Major Themes of the Book
The thesis of Every Body Matters is clearly laid out by Thomas on several occasions:
This entire book is focused on becoming “holy, useful to the Master, and prepared to do any good work.”
This phrase comes from verses that are used centrally in the book:
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
Throughout the book, Gary Thomas does a tremendous job of identifying with the readers. He shares numerous real-life examples to illustrate his points, including many from his own life. Thomas isn’t afraid to reveal his own struggles with lethargy and overeating, but also provides motivation as he describes how God has helped him apply Biblical principles and discipline his body (he has now run several marathons – very impressive, though it certainly isn’t a Biblical requirement).
Beyond examples from his own life, Thomas discusses several Christians who have struggled to be good stewards of their bodies, but have made progress as God changed their hearts. The examples range from mothers struggling with weight gain after having children to pastors who are convicted that they are not modeling the discipline that is called for in the Bible.
Thomas also contrasts the Christian’s motivation for physical fitness with that of the world’s:
…we stop treating our bodies like ornaments – with all the misguided motivations often displayed by those who build their bodies out of pride and ambition – and start treating our bodies like instruments, vessels set apart to serve the God who fashioned them.
This idea is very challenging to me, as I can struggle with an attitude of pride as I pursue physical fitness. The goal of fitness for the Christian shouldn’t be to become as awe-inspiring and beautiful as possible. We have a greater motivation – honoring God and being equipped to serve him in every area of our lives. Service to God will reap eternal benefits.
Lesser reasons for taking care of the body (looking younger, being more attractive, living longer, etc.) are why the world pursues physical fitness, but these shouldn’t be the Christian’s sole aim.
Importantly, Thomas emphasizes that our salvation isn’t dependent on our quest for physical fitness:
Our motivation isn’t being accepted by God or cultivating his favor. Christ has already taken care of that. It’s about wanting to run the race with intense focus, purpose, and passion.
How we treat our bodies is a question of stewardship even before it is a question of health, enjoyment, comfort, or pleasure.
Every Body Matters is so chock-full of great thoughts, verses, and quotes that I wanted to write another post with a few major points from each chapter. You can read that post here.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It has been incredibly valuable, in conjunction with searching the Bible, as I have been learning about God’s desires regarding how His people care for their physical bodies. I found the book to be very thought-provoking, and there were numerous statements, verses, and ideas that were impactful.
I think that any Christian who is serious about honoring God could benefit from this book. If you are already a fitness enthusiast, this book can help you examine your heart to see if the your motivation is Biblical. If you struggle to be motivated to take care of your body, this book can help draw your attention to the great motivation we have as Christians: obeying God’s commands and being useful to Him.
If you want to read more about the points from the book that stood out to me, you can read my second article, which highlights some major themes, quotes, and verses from each chapter of the book.
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (ESV)