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Body Stewardship: A Missing Piece of Christian Culture

Let’s discuss the topic of body stewardship and what it means in our culture today.

A note from Katie: When we think about body stewardship, and what we can see externally, I do want you to understand that both Mary and I know that everyone who is obese isn’t necessarily in control of that external factor. There are childhood habits at play. There may be trauma, known or unknown. And some folks have some tricky genetics. Notice in the post that Mary doesn’t use body size as the only metric for her observations. She listens to people’s words and watches their actions as well.

I’ll never forget the first time I stepped into my friend’s church in junior high. She had invited me to a Halloween party with her youth group. I had never been there before and wasn’t sure where to go.

I opened the door that led into the gym/fellowship area. The first person I saw was one of the youth leaders, dressed as a bumblebee. She was morbidly obese.

The next person I saw walking into the gym was the pastor. He was even more obese, to the point he couldn’t walk very well.

I just stood there, eyes wide, not knowing what to do or where to go. All I could think was, “This is your church?”

What Is Body Stewardship?

I walked back outside, my seventh-grade brain a bit stunned. I did eventually find my friend and had a great time. But that situation was forever imprinted in my mind.

Over time I got to know the pastor and the youth leader – both very kind and godly people who had a big influence on my life. But I just never could get over how they treated their bodies. It didn’t line up for me. I didn’t really know what body stewardship was at the time, but it’s a topic that has been on my heart ever since. And it led me to pursue a career in health and wellness.

Maybe this is something you’re also passionate about. Or maybe it’s something you’ve never really considered – that caring for your body is not just physical, it’s also spiritual.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Your body is a living sacrifice where the Holy Spirit dwells. That is not something to take lightly!

green shoots in soil

Why Stewardship of the Body?

If you ask any Christian if they believe we are to be good stewards of creation, they will likely say yes. It’s a pretty universally accepted mandate. We are to care for God’s creation.

But if you ask them what that looks like in action you’ll likely hear answers such as:

  • Treat animals well.
  • Don’t use pesticides.
  • Avoid pollution.
  • Don’t litter.
  • Recycle.
  • Plant more trees.

We even talk about stewarding our time and our finances. These are all fine ways to be good stewards. But there is something missing from the list – us! We are part of God’s creation. In fact, we are the most important part of God’s creation. And yet, we often don’t make the list when it comes to stewardship.

girl with giant lollipop

Embracing the Concept of Stewardship

Body stewardship has been forgotten. We’d rather fit in with the world than face the issue. Even within churches, caring for our bodies has been swept under the rug.

I see it every week – chemical-laden suckers for the kids, processed pizza for the youth, and sugar-filled coffee for the adults (with some churches even running coffee shops … selling in the church on the Sabbath …). These are all accepted parts of church culture. Nobody gives it a second thought. Not even the church leaders.

We had a guest pastor a few years ago who joked about how much he loved fast food. He basically mocked people for caring about the quality of their food. I just sat there, stunned. Was I the only one who heard what he was saying? A pastor saying he could care less about what he puts in his body. And people just laughed!

While it may not be common to care for your Holy Temple, that doesn’t make it right to ignore this part of Scripture. Churches have fallen into the cultural trap of ease and pleasure.

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Aspects of Body Stewardship

So what does stewardship of our bodies look like? What do we need to consider?

Just like with health, giving glory to God through your body may look a little different for everyone. But here are some general principles of caring for your Holy Temple.

  • Eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods as much as you are able. God gave us nourishing, real food for a reason.
  • Getting sufficient sleep every night. Don’t fall for the cultural trap of pushing until you can’t push anymore.
  • Moving your body daily through regular exercise and general movement. God created us to move!
  • Focusing on proper nutrition to fuel and support your body.

By caring for your body, you will be better equipped to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. You will avoid sinful behavior like gluttony. And you will be more likely to avoid modern diseases such as diabetes and obesity. If you need a starting point, these simple tips for keeping your kids healthy offer a perfect place to begin.

Brain function is another important aspect of health and stewardship. When the Bible states to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” what comes to my mind is brain health. How many people (both kids and adults) are being diagnosed with brain disorders such as ADHD and autism? Even something as simple as brain fog is related to your physical health. It has an impact on your ability to read and understand Scripture, to renew your mind and understand God’s will.

How you live and what you eat has a huge impact on your brain and the health of your mind!

chalkboard brain and healthy foods

Where Does the Bible Say We Should Steward Our Bodies Well?

Body stewardship is not merely about good food. It is all aspects of our health – physical, mental, and emotional. Let’s see what Scripture has to say.

Proverbs 3:7-8 states, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

Giving glory to God through your body brings life and nourishment, as do healthy food and lifestyle practices.

The Bible also addresses sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 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.”

Bottom line – how we care for our bodies is a top priority as Christians. Yet, it is oddly missing in many churches.

girl on couch with tea

Concepts of Stewardship for Kids

Body stewardship is especially important to teach kids and young adults in our current culture. I teach the preschoolers every few weeks at my church. Not only is it distracting, but it’s also sad to see all of these little kids with neon mouths and faces from suckers. Food dyes are neurotoxins, impacting their brains.

I also teach a class on health and nutrition at a local Christian homeschool co-op. There are some kids that come to class every Monday morning with an iced coffee drink, loaded with caffeine and sugar. The irony is lost on the kids. But I sure see it! And I pray that the information I’m teaching about how and why to care for their bodies will eventually sink in. I sometimes wish I could teach the parents as well as the kids.

We have a generation of kids starving for real food and real health. Yet churches are often totally silent on the matter, and oftentimes enable. We see obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, mental health issues, and more rising in kids. And we know that diet and lifestyle play a contributing role in all of these. I believe churches have an opportunity and a call to step in and start teaching youth about body stewardship. It’s much easier to change habits and views during childhood than it is as an adult.

Body Stewardship in Church

The point of this post is not to point fingers (I used to be a junior high youth leader that served kids chips and soda weekly without a second thought). The point, instead, is to bring awareness to an important topic that I wish I had been taught when I was younger.

The goal is not perfection or making food or health into a god itself. Instead, the goal is to bring better care for our bodies back to churches. This is an act of worship.

There are so many confused and sick kids in our world, from gender confusion to mental health issues. One big way churches can help is by teaching kids about and modeling body stewardship. God has given us these Holy Temples to care for. Let’s make it a top priority.

I recently listened to an episode of the Christian Health Club podcast where the host, Chelsea Blackbird, interviewed Joel Salatin. I loved this quote:

“In many Christian communities, there seems to be a disconnect. While subjects like sexual abstinence are prioritized in Bible studies, little thought is given to the food we consume. It’s paradoxical that we can so easily indulge in junk food orgies while striving for spiritual purity.”

While it sounds harsh, it’s true (and I encourage you to listen to the full episode, especially if this post is stirring up some emotions for you). As Christians we must change the way we view the care and stewardship of our bodies. It is a significant part of our faith walk.

Does Stewardship of the Body Really Matter?

You may still be wondering if all of this really matters. I can tell you it most certainly does. God cares about every detail of our lives. How we care for our bodies impacts our abilities to fulfill our callings.

Back to my seventh-grade encounter with morbidly obese church leaders … Sadly, they both died at a young age from cancer. They both had a lot of love and knowledge of Christ to share. But their work was cut short by not caring for their bodies. Note that cancer can hit even those who are truly treating their body as a temple of the Holy Spirit because we live in a fallen world, one full of toxins that we can’t always control.

They had the opportunity to influence many kids and teens. Sadly part of that influence was showing kids it’s OK to neglect your body. In youth group we learned about spiritual warfare … and nobody ever mentioned the war Satan is winning over our bodies.

Let’s bring God’s call to steward our Holy Temples back to Christian culture and churches. We need it more than ever.

Have you seen evidence of body stewardship in your church?
body stewardship: does it matter?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
Category: Faith Nuggets

17 thoughts on “Body Stewardship: A Missing Piece of Christian Culture”

  1. What about tattoos, body piercings, holes in your body, ect ?That is a big part of body stewardship that is not only ugly but dangerous to your body. And yes, making churches coffee/donut shops is irreverent.

  2. Great article! I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints and have been so grateful for a part of our scripture called the Word of Wisdom. It cautions against consuming alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea and encourages us to eat healthy, in season foods. This doctrine is not always lived perfectly and our church activities often include junk food but the higher law is there for those who are interested.

    https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/true-to-the-faith/word-of-wisdom?lang=eng

  3. Thank you for the comprehensive article. My family is currently on a journey to cut out most processed foods. It’s easy to slip into bad habits, if you stop paying attention!
    I just wanted to express some caution in two areas. Firstly, it is possible to struggle with weight, even if you only eat whole foods and exercise moderately. Sadly these things a great part of a healthy weight, but not always enough.

    Secondly, there are four people in my family with high functioning autism, including myself, in three generations. My mother only cooked from scratch and we got plenty of exercise as children. I would not agree that our form of autism is a result of poor brain health. We are all, intelligent and deeply Christian people, who don’t process the world in quite the same way others do. I would agree that my autism means that I need to guard my mental health closely, as I respond differently to some things. However, it is also an advantage in other areas. If you want a problem solved, I am your woman!

    In Christ, Marilla

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I 100% agree that size is not always indicative of health. It was meant more as a general concept. There are many factors at play, for sure. The people I mentioned did struggle with food addiction/overeating. That was my point.

      I too have kids with learning differences/neurodivergence (not autism, but other things) and do my best to nourish them. I know that many people are born with brains that function differently. Genetics play a big role as well as God’s creation. And they have many amazing gifts! The point was that brain health is such a huge problem in our culture. And it’s hard to think clearly when you are living in a fog all the time.

  4. Oh, such an ironic and to the point post. I also frequently teach the preschoolers at our church. Snacks ONLY consist of cheetos, fruit loops and cookies (with the occasional cupcake or cake brought in to top off the sugar high)- this applies to Wednesday nights as well! We eat only whole foods in our house, and my 6 year old daughter is so well in tune with what she shouldn’t eat, that she just refuses all the “non- food” as we call it. However, the other kids have definately noticed this, and are very loud about saying “She can’t have that. Dont offer it to her”. ( Praise God that this does not bother my daughter at all, but the others think what they are eating is proper food unfortunately). We live in rural Oklahoma, and the diabetes rate is so high because of lack of healthy options, but we have insisted on eating real and nourishing foods. It is possible, and such a vital way of worship!

    1. Grammyprepper

      What a thought provoking post! A perspective I had not considered, but wholeheartedly agree with! (I would add health care providers who are not in the best of health shape.)

    2. Way to go making it a priority to worship through proper care of your family! It’s so hard when others make it an issue. When my kids were younger it didn’t seem to bother them that they couldn’t eat what others were having. But as they have gotten older it has become more and more of a burden to them. It’s sad that we have to choose between our convictions and allowing our kids to feel included. That should not be the case in the church.

  5. Melinda Stortenbecker

    Everything she said was on point. This definitely applies to Christians, but it is often true of this in the medical professions as well.

    I loved the Salatin quote and am reconsidering my food choices from a different angle now.

    Thank you for pushing us to think.

    1. This is definitely the tip of the iceberg and could lead to so many other great discussions! I wanted to just get the conversation going/bring awareness to this topic. I wish someone had taught me about body stewardship when I was younger. My life would be so different!

      I too have really changed how I view food in the last year. Now I come at everything from a Biblical perspective.

  6. YES!! I hate it when I see churches handing out donuts or selling coffee.

    We hear so much in church against various sins, esp sexual sin, but I’ve never heard anyone preach about taking care of the body

    Thank you so much for speaking out!

  7. I have often said this! We’re quick to point out vices like alcohol and drugs, but no one seems to care about things like caffeine or sugar. And Christians of all people should be caring (and stewarding their bodies well). Thank you for such an amazing articulate article on this. It’s much needed.

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