Should Christians Exercise and Workout?

What is the Bible’s view on Christians exercising? Someone wrote in saying, “By the time I drive to a gym, work out, shower, change clothes, drive back, it is almost a two hour ordeal. I don’t want to spend that much time each day in something unless God affirms it as good, and not just neutral.”

Original question:

What is your view on Christians exercising?
I find this difficult because I think 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 gets pulled out of context a lot.

Also 1 Timothy 4:8 says different things in different translations.

By the time I drive to a gym, work out, shower, change clothes, drive back, etc. it is almost a 2 hour ordeal.

I don’t wanna spend that much time each day in something unless God affirms it as good (not just neutral).

Is there anything that can give me clarity?


Dear Pastor Tim, "What is your view on Christians exercising? I find this difficult because I think ..." Anybody know those texts right off? What they deal with? There the ones that have to do with our body being a temple of the Holy Spirit. It's dealing with sexual immorality, but specifically it has to do with our bodies being a temple for the Holy Spirit. Jamie says, "I find this difficult, because I think 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 gets pulled out of context a lot. Also, 1 Timothy 4:8 says different things in different translations." That's the one that speaks about bodily exercise as being a little profitable, or profits a little or it's of some value, but godliness is valuable, godliness is good; godliness is profitable in all things. "By the time I drive to a gym, work out, shower, change clothes, drive back, etc. it's almost a two hour ordeal. I don't want to spend that much time each day in something unless God affirms it as good. Not just neutral. Is there anything that can give me clarity?" And I thought that's a good one because we have a young church and young people especially - not just young people, if you can believe it, I heard a rumor that Brother Andy was bench pressing 400 pounds even after he was 60 years old. There is a group of the reformed Baptist pastors, including Al Martin who really took staying physically fit serious. But, there are obviously a lot of pastors who don't take it serious as their shape would testify to. Even some that we highly esteem were rather stout men. So, some men stay fit, some men, not so much. But what does Scripture have to say? Different men take different positions on these things. What does Scripture have to say? If we want a good balance... on one hand, we want to promote holiness; we want to promote redeeming the time; we want to promote godliness. We want to promote a good expenditure of our time, our effort, our hours. You don't get them back. We recognize the outer man is wasting away. You can't stop that. No matter how much you go to the gym, you cannot stop what you're going to look like years from now. You can't stop that. So, 200 years from now, whether you went to the gym every day or whether you didn't; the worms are coming for you. So, what do we want to think about when we think about, before the Lord, how exercise or even proper eating - how that fits in? One thing that comes to my mind, Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards would not eat certain foods because it gave him a headache. I'm not the first guy that gets headaches. Jonathan Edwards would get headaches. And he knew, there were certain things that he could eat and he would get headaches. So he stayed away from it. I also have read about him that he specifically would go out and chop wood. Now, he had servants, in fact, he may have even had slaves. That's another topic for another time. He didn't have to chop the wood, in other words. But he would purposely go out and chop the wood. For one, chopping the wood was great exercise. That was the primary reason that he did it. Two, it wasn't just pumping iron. Do you know that work is actually a force that moves across a distance. That's work. From an engineering standpoint. I know, we define it differently when we talk about going to work. But I'm talking about work. You've got force. I can exert a force on here on this table and it not move at all. Force and work are different. Work is when you apply a force and it actually goes somewhere. You could go outside, and you could press against this house, put all your weight into it, put your shoulder into it, and do that for 24 hours, and come in here exhausted. Oh, I was working. Well, no, actually you didn't do any work. You applied a force, but you really didn't do any work. And see, that's kind of like lifting weights. You're not really doing any work. You say, yeah, but there's motion. Yeah, but in the end the weight ends up right where it was. The thing is he actually exercised in a way that he was producing some real work, where the wood was split and that was necessary in those days. That's how they heated their home and he was up in the Northeast. And that was necessary. So he was doing a necessary labor. It's just interesting. I'm just bringing up the fact that he did that. He sought to eat in a way to keep his head clear. And he sought to exercise in a way that was actually productive. That's it. I'm throwing it out for thought. Ulimately, what we want to do is we want to look at Scripture. One of the texts that I threw out that I think we need to deal with is "redeem the time." So let me ask you this: if a guy were to spend two hours a day, five days a week or six days a week in the gym, is he redeeming the time? Here's the thing you want to think about. He's pumping weights that don't go anywhere. He's doing it with a body that 100 years from now is going to be worm-eaten. Pumping weights is not a fountain of youth. So, is that redeeming the time? Did I hear a [no?] (from the room) Say if I have a situation like I'm a fire fighter on duty and I'm sitting around the fire house with nothing to do, but I'm able to go and work out and get paid for it, to me, that's a different factor there based on the fact that I don't really have anything else to do at the fire house, I'm a fireman waiting for a call. We can go work out at a gym and wait to get a call, and then we'll leave from there. Tim: If you have a job where remaining healthy like that is pretty essential to your effectiveness in the job. Chip Hewitt - military. Those guys have to take PT exam every so often, and so they have to maintain a certain level of physical fitness, or else. Why? Because when you're a fire fighter, or when you're in the military, there's an expectation of maintaining a certain level of health. You see some of these police officers... it's like they've been spending way too much time at Dunkin Donuts. And you just wonder if they had to chase a criminal, would they even come close to catching them? Did you see that big guy that was in the wedding? Evan's friend. That guy was a fire fighter. I'm thinking if my house is on fire, I'd love to see about 12 of those guys show up. Why? They can move walls. They can make things happen. (from the room) For people who weren't there, it wasn't big like "fat," but big as in strong and tall. Tim: Yeah, just a monster of a man. So, what we're basically establishing here is there's not one specific rule. But think about this: All things are lawful, but... not all things are expedient or helpful. All things are lawful, but... I will not be brought under the power of any. See, I guess the thing is we have to look at life like that. Ok, these are things that fall into the gray areas. All things are lawful, that are not unlawful, all things are lawful, but see, what Paul's doing there, is he's apparently taking a colloquial expression. Some kind of cliche saying that's getting thrown around by the Corinthians. All things are lawful... It comes up in 1 Corinthians 6 and again in 1 Corinthians 10. It's like it was something that they would say to justify what they did with their lives. And he came along and said this: All things are lawful... Ok. But... there's more to put into the equation than just that. Boy, this is what we've been talking about often times in living the Christian life over these last several months in this Bible study. It's not just a matter of: "Show me in the Bible where I can't do that." See, you're way too shallow if that's how you're living your life. It's got to do with: Does it edify? Does it build up? Is it helpful? Does it bring me under its power? Like, some of you know the story of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and what transpired in his life. He's a pastor and he smoked. My understanding was he smoked a pack a day. What happened? He got to the point where he recognized, he was under the power of this. And I'll tell you what, weight lifting is the kind of thing that can pull you under it's power. It's the kind of thing that's almost like a drug. You need to have it. There's an adrenaline rush. You take your protein powder or your creatine or whatever and there's a high connected with that. And guys thrive on that. But what we have to ask ourselves is, there's a little profit in it, but there's primarily profit in godliness. So, you want to ask questions like, well, rather than spending two hours going to the gym, what if you bought some dumbbells and you worked out for fifteen minutes here and there during the day when you had a little bit of free time, and you gave the rest of that two hours a day to memorizing Scripture? Think about it. When you're fifty years old... brethren, let me just tell you this. Because some of you are young, and you don't recognize what happens when you go from twenties to thirties, thirties to forties, forties to fifties. I haven't got to sixties or seventies yet, but I'm telling you, what is happening in my mind is all the Scripture I memorized when I was 25, 26, 27 years old, that is what I can recall. The stuff I've tried to remember in the last few years. Very difficult. You want to think. If you're spending hours and hours and hours of your life in the gym, what would happen if you spent all those hours memorizing Scripture? Or learning to play the guitar, where you could minister to God's people by way of song? We just want to look at the value. There's something to be said for exercising so that you're not tired in the middle of the afternoon. There's something to be said about exercising so that you maintain a certain level of fitness. We should take care of our bodies. When you get fat, and you eat terribly, you don't feel good, it's bad on your health, you probably shorten your life. But you don't want to make weightlifting into a god. And I would say this. We need to ask ourselves motive. Isn't that the issue? What's the motive? What makes us tick? Why do we do what we do? Because God looks at the motive. To the Lord, that's the most important thing. If a guy says, you know what? When I work out, I don't fall asleep at church. That's good. If Jonathan Edwards says when I go out and chop wood for 40 minutes a day or 20 minutes a day, I feel a whole lot better when I sit down at my desk. I don't feel like I'm going to fall asleep at 3:00 in the afternoon. Great. Just like eating. He determined, if I eat that, I get a headache. I'm not going to eat that. We have to look at why we do what we do. If a guy is going to the gym primarily because he wants to appeal to somebody of the opposite sex, that's probably not a good motive. Because what's that saying? He's putting all this effort into looking good, looking attractive, and he wants to attract a wife or a girlfriend based on that. That's just not a good motive. Because if a girl is primarily attracted to you for that reason, then you're going to end up with a pretty shallow girl. In other words, you're not focusing primarily on the thing that is calculated to attract the best of wives - an excellent wife. Because that certainly isn't going to be the primary thing that she's going to be looking for in a guy. So, there's not any specific rule here. I heard Craig mention going to the gym on Sunday. I get into seasons where I go to the gym. It's seasons. And sometimes it's just simply because I feel like I'm getting out of shape. And then I've had other seasons where it's like, ok, I think I'm getting into that too much. I need to not do that anymore. But there's sometimes when I feel like I should do that. If you work out, and your mind is sharper, that's good. If you work out and you feel better, that's good. How we feel is connected tightly to our spirituality. If we feel good, if we feel healthy. Obviously, being strong and being able to do things, if you let yourself entirely go and then you have to exert yourself or do something, you'll pull a muscle, you're just a mess. Trying to keep some degree of physical fitness so you can operate well, as you try to run this race before the Lord, that certainly would be desirable. But it all comes back to motive. What is it that we're really after? And you certainly don't want to be brought under the power of anything. You don't want it to control you. Any other thoughts? (from the room) I'm just thinking, I remember how you said there were a lot of people out there that say show me in the Bible where it says that. And I ran across a lot of Christians - from a broad range, and they would say, show me in the Bible where it says not to do that. And recently I came across a brother that was like that. He's real into working out and I told him it looks like this has become the priority, and this is not your priority anymore. Seeking the Lord is not. And he said tell me in the Bible where it says I can't work out. Tim: You could say, Paul said that he wouldn't be brought under the power of anything. And it's got to do with is this helpful? And 1 Timothy 4:8 is a text that I recognize that what's being said here is that there's different translations, but I'll tell you, no matter what translation you have, the truth that comes across is this: The benefits of godliness - they benefit in everything. Do you recognize that? Do you all recognize this? If you become - if you can even quantify it - % more godly than you are now. It benefits you in everything. If you become 10% stronger, it's got a little value. And that's the truth. That's what Paul's saying to Timothy. Timothy's a young man. Why do you think he'd talk to him about physical exercise? This isn't new today. There were sports back then. Young people were young people back then. There's nothing new under the sun. Don't think well, we've got gyms today. They had what they had back then. They had Olympics back then. They had sports back then. Paul talks about wrestling, he talks about boxing, he talks about running. There clearly were sports back then. You'd hate to look back on your life and have spent, literally, when you add up all the time that you were in the gym, it amounts to days and weeks and months of your life, and now you're old and decrepit and you have nothing to show for all of that. It seems like what we want to do, is we want to maintain a level of physical exercise that's going to help us run spiritually as fast as we can. And if it's more than that, it's probably excess. Unless, of course, you do have a place in life or some kind of position in life. Some kind of employment in life where if your employer expects - like Zach's does. Zach's employer expects him to be able to take a half or a third of a grand piano and lift the thing. If Evan is working for the fire department, they don't expect him to be gorging himself on Big Macs all the time, and not working out. Same thing for Chip in the military. They expect something. So where you've got that kind of commitment, obviously, you need to be faithful to the employer.