Today we begin a new series entitled “The Generous Life” in which we will be talking about the biblical concept of stewardship. Stewardship is defined as the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care. So often when churches and pastors begin to talk about stewardship, everyone thinks that we will be just talking about money. But there is so much more to stewardship than just money. Yes, it includes begin a good steward of money, but it also covers our bodies, the environment, our time, our talents, and our relationships. So for the next few weeks we’ll be covering all of these things and learning what it means to be a good steward. We’ll learn what it looks like to steward these things well so that not only will our lives be changed but also how the world around us can be changed by followers of Jesus stewarding their resources (time, talent, relationship, environment, bodies, and yes money as well).
The first thing that we’ll be talking about in relation to stewardship is stewardship of our bodies. I’m not sure if I have ever heard a sermon revolving around being good stewards of our bodies or not. Have you? But today, maybe for the first time, we’ll unpack and dig into what it looks like to live a generous life in relation to our bodies. To do that we’ll look at two passages of Scripture. The first one being 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and the second being 1 Timothy 4:8.
Let’s first look at 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Now before we jump too much into this text, there are a few things that I need to say regarding stewardship of our bodies. Last week we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Do you know that Easter is not just a one week celebration in the Christian church and the Christian calendar? It is a 7 week celebration called Eastertide running from Easter to Pentecost.). Jesus bodily died and he bodily rose from the dead. We talked about the fact that if he rose bodily from the dead, than that means that there is something important about our bodies. I quoted NT Wright when he said, “The point of the resurrection is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a good future in store for it.” If the resurrection does anything it affirms the importance of this world and of the material. All too often I believe the contemporary church has bought into a more Gnostic philosophy that says spirit is good but physical/material is bad/evil. But the resurrection of Jesus completely denies that possibility. Our bodies, like Jesus, will be resurrected (verse 14) at the end, and so what we do with our present bodies matter. What we do in and with our present bodies will have consequences, not just arbitrary rewards and punishments in the life to come.
So let’s do some unpacking of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. First of all when we look at the context of this text, Paul is referring to sexual immorality. Corinth was known as a very hedonistic city. It could probably have been called the Sin City of it’s day. So Paul in this section is addressing what it means to be Christian in relation to sexuality. What Paul is getting at in this section is about followers of Jesus learning to use the human body in the right way, for the right purposes. And he is also getting at the fact that our bodies are meant for the Lord. Paul makes it plain that the Christian’s relationship with the Lord Jesus is not simply a “spiritual” one, but also a physical one. He is getting at the sense that Jesus wants to know us and work through us as fully physical human beings, both here and in the hereafter. And since verse 14 lays it out pretty clearly that our bodies will be raised, just like Jesus, that means that there will be some sort of continuity between the present body and the future one.
Paul is making a claim, that to us, doesn’t seem all that radical but it was very radical for his day, and if we take a step back and see what our language that we use tells us, than what Paul is saying is still radical for our day and age as well. Paul in verse 19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” In Paul’s day in the world of many gods, there was this concept that deities lived in buildings of stone and wood. And Paul is radically challenging that and he says, No. God doesn’t live in special buildings built for him. Just look at Acts 17:24, which says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” No, God himself lives in a temple alright. But that temple is our bodies. The bodies of those of us who have made Jesus our King, Lord, and Savior. Even in our own day, it is not uncommon to hear people during a worship gathering call the place where they gather as the house of God, meaning that God somehow lives there and only there. God, in someway, when we open our lives to him, makes our bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the temple. If you are in Christ than the Spirit takes up permanent residence within you. Not just showing up when you “do religious activities”
And because we have the spirit of God living in us, and because of the fact that Jesus died for us, we need to honor God with our bodies. Our bodies, not just our souls or spirit were bought with a price, definitely referring to Jesus’ death on the cross. And so those of us who have been bought with a tremendous price or cost must remind ourselves of what special people we are, what it cost Jesus to redeem our bodies, and to learn what it means to be good stewards over the body that God has given to us. Paul puts it like this at the end of our text, “Therefore honor God with your bodies.” We are to glorify God with our bodies and to discover how to live the truly human life which brings glory to God in whose image we are all made and whose own unique image, Jesus, died to rescue us from all that will stop us from being the person that God longs us to be.
But what does it mean to honor God with our bodies? This is the question of stewardship, to honor him with what he has given to us, and in this case our bodies. What does ti mean to be a good steward of the body that God has given to us as a gift? I think the wider context of chapter 6 verses 12-20 gives us some possible ideas. Part of being a good steward of our body definitely has to do with sexuality. Paul makes the point that what we do sexually happens to our whole selves, not just a portion of our bodies (verse 18). People can think that our physical bodies and our spiritual selves are separate so what we do in our bodies doesn’t affect our spiritual lives, and vice-versa. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our bodies and spirits are intrinsically connected. So what we do with our bodies does affect us spiritually, and what we do spiritually affects our bodies. To honor God with our bodies in this text refers to sexuality. Many of you are single in this community. To honor God with your body in terms of sexuality means biblically speaking that you keep the future marriage bed pure, by abstaining from sex before marriage. It is also more than just about the physical act itself. It doesn’t mean to get as close to the physical act as you can, stopping short of actual sex. No, it means keeping our bodies and spirits pure by fleeing from sexual immorality which encompasses sex before marriage but also things like pornography, etc.. For those who are married honoring God with our bodies means keep the marriage bed pure as well, by abstaining from sex outside of marriage and keep our bodies and spirits pure as well.
But is honoring God with your body just related to sexuality? No. I mentioned at the beginning that we would look at two different Scriptures this morning and this is where the second one comes in. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Know that this passage is talking about the importance to viewing spiritual development and discipleship as training and work. Discipleship takes as much training and work as physical training; But notice what Paul is saying here. Physical training is of some value. It has importance for this life. Just ask a doctor how important physical exercise is. Verse 8 is one of the clearest references to physical exercise in the New Testament. I believe a huge part of honoring God with your body revolves around physical training or exercise. When you get exercise you will become physically fit and able to work harder and enjoy more of life. When we train our bodies, I believe it can affect our spiritual lives. My wife when she gets in the habit of running, uses that time as prayer time. Just her and God out on the road, running and praying. I personally try to run somewhere between 3 and 5 days a week running around 3 and a half miles each time that I run for a total of between 10.5 and 17.5 miles a week. And I have noticed a difference, not only physically in my own body (energy level, weight, etc..) I’ve noticed spiritual growth from running as well. So another way to honor God and be a good steward of the body that he has given to us is to get regular physical exercise. What do you do to get physical exercise? How can that help your growth and development as a parson and in your spiritual life? That is one of the questions we’ll come back to in a minute.
There are a ton of other ways that we could talk about being good stewards of the body that he has given to us to use. We could talk about sleep, food, moderation, drugs and alcohol, and a few other things related to our bodies. But let’s turn now to thinking about what it means for you and I to be a good stewards of our bodies. Let’s talk about physical exercise and how we can help encourage that area in our lives together. Let’s talk about what areas of stewarding our bodies do we struggle with the most. Let’s talk about what God might be saying to us about how he wants us to steward this gift, this temple, that he has given to us.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. do you have regarding the Scriptures and/or the message?
2. What do you do to get physical exercise? How can that help your growth and development as a parson and in your spiritual life? How can this community help in relation to physical exercise?
3. What area in relation to stewardship of the body do you struggle with the most? How can this community help you grow and develop in the stewardship of your body?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?