October 31, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Genesis 1:27-28, 31 (NRSV)
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” . . . God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
We get peculiar and mixed messages about our bodies from the culture. These messages can keep us from living fully and fruitfully. But Scripture gives us a better way to think about our bodies. The creation account in Genesis shows us that God created us as embodied beings. Our bodies are part of God’s “very good” creation. Yes, sin messes things up. But the basic goodness of our bodies remains, and this is both good and important news.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
I’m taking a short break from Luke this week in order to share with you some things I’ve been thinking about recently. As part of my work in the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative, I’ve been reflecting on how we as Christians should think about our bodies.
We get such peculiar and mixed messages about our bodies from the culture. On the one hand, there’s a widespread tendency that we could call the worship of the body. We idolize a certain kind of physical beauty. We admire those whose bodies count as beautiful, even though we realize that what we see has often been digitally doctored. Reality is often not what it seems. Yet, many of us evaluate our bodies according to the unrealistic standards of the media, ending up with shame and self-condemnation.
On the other hand, besides worshiping the body, we often act in ways that are hurtful to our bodies, choosing to do things that are dishonoring if not destructive to them. We tend to eat foods that aren’t good for our health, often excessively. Many of us take substances into our bodies that can be harmful. The Addiction Center estimates that 21 million people in the United States have at least one chemical addiction (not including food or other addictions).
I could go on, but I think you get the point. In light of all the mixed messages we’re getting all the time, we desperately need a biblical perspective on our bodies. We need to see our bodies as God sees us, to value them as God values them. When we do, we’ll be on the right track for stewarding well and wisely the gift of our bodies.
Today, I want to lay a foundation for our thinking about our bodies. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I want to identify the foundation already laid for us by God. I’m talking about what we learn from the creation account in Genesis. There, God created the physical world. The pinnacle of God’s creation was humanity, the beings created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27-28). This image was embodied. It took shape in human bodies. Genesis 2 provides a bit more insight into the nature of human life. We are a combination of the physical (dust of the ground) and the spirit (the breath of life; see Genesis 2:7).
The biblical account does not teach that the spiritual part of us is somehow more important or more valuable than the physical part. Rather, who we are as beings combining dust and breath is all part of God’s creation. In Genesis 1, after creating all things, including human beings, God “saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:28).
Now, when sin enters the picture, beginning in Genesis 3, the goodness of all things gets messed up, including the goodness of our bodies. We know all about this, not only from the Bible, but also from our own experience. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that we recognize the fundamental value and goodness of our bodies. They are not unimportant, as some religions would claim. Nor are our bodies basically evil, as some philosophers have argued. Though we do not deny the negative impact of sin on our bodies, we who are taught by Scripture continue to affirm the basic, underlying goodness of embodied life.
So, though we should not worship bodies, whether for their beauty or any other reason, we do esteem them as something created by God. In fact, we could rightly think of our bodies as one of God’s good gifts to us.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at another foundational biblical passage having to do with the body. Today, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
What messages about the body do you hear from the culture?
To what extent are you influenced by those messages?
How do you respond to the idea that our bodies are originally and fundamentally good?
Can you think of ways that our bodies make goodness happen, even in a world broken by sin?
Use your body today to do something good, something that honors God.
Gracious God, thank you for creating all things good, including human bodies. Thank you, in particular, for creating us in your own image. What an honor it is to reflect you.
Help us, Lord, to think rightly about our bodies. As we do, may we put aside the false stories and practices of our culture. May we learn to think of our bodies as you think of them, and to use them in ways that glorify you. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God Sees that His Work Is Good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
October 31 devotional, second to last paragraph, first sentence should read “so though we not worship our bodies…”