Idolatry Of The Body
Last week I wrote about the difficult process of aging. It’s accompanied by new aches and pains, a changing body shape, loss of energy, and the inevitable reality that you are one day closer to death. How cheerful!
In addition to this physical decay, we are being bombarded with “spiritual” messages from a culture that idolizes youthfulness and is addicted to flawless body composition. No wonder getting older is a struggle!
We will physically feel our body aging, and we will sense the pressure from media and culture. But let’s return to the gospel: none of these factors would have the power they have to disorient and discourage us if a fundamental condition of our heart did not empower them.
There’s a little phrase in 2 Peter 1:4 that is tremendously helpful here. Peter says that God has given us everything we need so that we can “escape from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (emphasis mine).
Let this phrase sink in. Consider how radically different its viewpoint is from the way we want to think. We all tend to blame our surroundings for what we believe or do. Although it is appropriate and wise to understand and evaluate the influence of the surrounding culture, it is vitally important that we get the order right.
What Peter proposes is humbling. He does not say that we are corrupt because the culture around us is. We do not struggle with body image or the process of aging primarily because of media pressure and messaging.
No, we must first examine our hearts.
The insights of Scripture on the human heart are simultaneously convicting and encouraging. Romans 1:25 says, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
Like 2 Peter 1:4, this single sentence packs such a theological punch. Romans 1:25 alerts us to the fact that there is an innate tendency in every human being to replace the spiritual with the physical.
We seek to find life in the material things, in this case, the physical body. In its simplest form, idolatry is when I replace the worship of God with some physical image or object that I can see and touch.
The reason this is so tempting should be obvious. The idol (the body) can be seen, touched, or somehow physically experienced.
We were never wired to live for the glories of what is seen. At best, these shadow glories were meant to point us to the only glory worth living for: the glory of the Lord.
There is always a terrible price to pay for this great replacement. It destroys relationships, throws us into debt, distorts culture, scars people, creates addiction, and ultimately leads to death.
Wanting to be physically attractive is not an evil desire. Eating well and exercising so that you can have more energy is good stewardship of your body. Enjoying the benefits of youthfulness is not a sin.
The problem is that any of these can take God’s place in our hearts. A desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.
As you grow old, don’t fight or deny the aging of your physical body. Preach the gospel to yourself with the Apostle Paul and say:
“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV)
Paul David Tripp
1. What sinful thoughts or desires have you had this week regarding the body? Did you act on any of them?
2. Did any of these start as a desire for a good thing? How did they become a ruling thing? In what way did they morph into a bad thing?
3. How can you be a better steward of your God-given, earthbound body? What are some of the benefits that might result for the Kingdom of God?
4. In what other areas of life are you blaming the corruption of the world on your sinful desires? How is it actually the opposite?
5. How does eternity provide a heart-centered solution to these sinful desires? Be specific.