“Physical therapy might help to jump start you,” suggested my doctor after having zeroed in on a current disorder of my bodily “earth suit.” Apparently my calendar-challenged body needed more exercise....
That launched me into a three times a week encounter with a young trainer chap named Kevin at the Kinetic-Balance Center. The trajectory he prescribed for me was not what is commonly thought of as body building and pumping iron with bulging muscles as the goal. I was to concentrate on trying to rescue, strengthen, and then maintain what puny muscles I had left as a nonagenarian after sitting for protracted periods for too many years at my computer in my writing studio.
Kevin told me to continue my prescribed regimen at home daily and buy some dumbbells for weight lifting. I had visions of the torture equipment in workout rooms depicted on TV, I asked how heavy they should be. “Two pounders,” replied Kevin. I bought them for a dollar apiece at a local thrift store. It didn't take me long to realize that was about all I could manage to lift anyway.
In addition to the P.T. program, I was to continue my thirty minute daily trip to nowhere on my recumbent stationary Schwinn 270 bike which time period was equal to five miles in distance—and gave me a few paltry calories to spend. In the flush of my initial enthusiasm for success, I was beginning “to take thought” that I really might be able to “add to my stature” (i.e. alter my body) if not by “a cubit,” (18 inches!..Jesus, were you exaggerating on purpose?) at least by a smidgen of strength for my mushy muscles.
After some weeks on that program I concluded exactly what Jesus had already told me in Matthew 6:27. “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?” One Bible version paraphrased it, “Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?” Some translations expanded the meaning to include “adding a single moment to your life, a single hour to your age, to your span of life.” The Message Bible applied it vividly: “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?”
Bottom line? Nothing could be accomplished by simply “taking thought” (or being anxious, worrying). Even sweat and discipline and perseverance wouldn't cut it. That's true even for the man who by arduous training (or taking steroids?) attains a bulky body like the one pictured with this blog post. If he doesn't maintain his regimen, his exaggerated muscles degenerate to flabby again. So what's Jesus getting at?
Bible scholars differ in their interpretation of those verses, but some light is shed when the Matthew 6 verse is taken in context with 1 Timothy 4:7-9. Comparing translations, some read “bodily discipline, physical training of the body, exercise” “has some value, in some ways, has limited benefit, helps a little, is somewhat profitable, is not entirely useless.”
Bodily exercise is contrasted with godly exercise or “training in holy living.” Spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, useful for everything.” “Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.” The Message Bible hits the mark again: “Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both for today and forever,” both for the present and the future.
So? I'll at least try to keep on hoisting those two-pound dumbbells and continue pushing those bike pedals to nowhere. It does “profit a little.” I know that I ought to exercise my temporal body because it tends to drag me toward the slippery slope of inactivity which in turn hinders my health and ability to do the work for which God called me.
Without exercising myself to internal godliness, even if I was able to pump serious iron, such physical exercise would be of little and temporary advantage. My priority daily spiritual exercise must be to present my mortal body, my "earth suit" to God in spiritual worship (Romans 12:1) for the welfare of my soul, to the pursuit of a holy life, since godliness is profitable in all things in the present and in the future.We can't beat that for a lasting result!