I was at the gym the other day (which is impossible to say without sounding pretentious… but then again you can’t really say the word ‘pretentious’ without sounding pretentious either, it’s just a lose-lose situation).
Anyway, I stopped and thought to myself, “Why am I here?” It sounds like a weird question, but I think that occasionally checking our motives is a good habit. I like to think I workout for the health aspects and so that I’m in good enough physical shape to do whatever God asks of me, but in reality I doubt that is purely my motive, actually I know it’s not.
If I miss a few workouts, I don’t motivate myself to get a workout in by saying “Think how much healthier you’ll feel or think how much more you’ll be able to do for God without getting tired!” Honestly, most of the times I get motivated to workout are after I pass a mirror.
On a quick side note, does anyone else think it’s a little over the top that gym walls are almost entirely composed of mirrors? As if lifting large amounts of weight for the sole purpose of making your body look better isn’t conceited enough. And don’t try to tell me you use the mirrors to make sure your form is correct, I’ve heard that one before (mainly from myself).
Okay, back to the point. Exercise is a good thing, even the Apostle Paul said it was of “some value” (1 Timothy 4:8). Exercise is a great way to show your flesh who’s boss, but we have to be careful that we don’t allow exercise to fuel the idol of “self.”
Exercise can teach you discipline, it can prolong your lifespan and improve how you feel physically and mentally, but it can also become a giant flashing arrow that points straight at you. If our sole purpose in exercising is to improve our appearance, we might as well be kneeling before a statue of ourselves for an hour instead of going to the gym, because spiritually there’s really not much difference.
If our physical appearance improves as a result of exercising for the purpose of staying fit as a point of stewarding our bodies, great. There’s nothing wrong with having a fit body, but if our appearance is our goal we’re missing the point. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
It’s not necessarily what you do that makes something glorifying to God… it’s why you do it. It doesn’t have to be exercise. It could be your sports team, it could be your musical pursuits, it could be your job, it could be the clothes that you wear, but if at any time that arrow reappears and starts pointing towards you instead of God, you can be sure that the idol of “self” is alive and well.