Did God give us human bodies to use and abuse as we like, or does He expect more? How does He expect us to view and care for the marvelous bodies He designed?
Why is the body likened to a temple?
For a converted, baptized Christian, the human body is a “temple” of sorts for God’s Holy Spirit.
Many people believe, “It’s my body, and I can treat it any way I like.” But what does our Creator God say?
Fearfully and wonderfully made
“Fearfully and wonderfully made” is how King David described God’s creation of human beings (Psalm 139:14). David praised God for this marvelous work called the human body. There are several references in the Bible where the body is actually likened to a temple (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
There is a purpose behind everything God does, and the creation of the human body is no different. A major purpose in this life is to grow in the righteous character of God. Through His dwelling in us by the power of His Holy Spirit, we are helped in achieving that purpose in life that will enable us to live forever in His family.
The apostle Paul shed light on the purpose of the human body when he told the brethren in Corinth, “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17).
Paul explained that God will dwell in men by the power of His Spirit. If our bodies are to serve as a temple or dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, does God have specific expectations about how we treat and care for our bodies?
Does God care how I treat my body?
Yes! The human body is likened to a temple in Scripture, and maintaining that temple requires the right habits from us. We are accountable to God for the way we treat our bodies.
There is more published today on health matters than at any other time in human history. The many studies and advances in the health sciences mean we have a much better understanding of what we can do to gain and retain a level of good health. This includes regular exercise, proper diet, getting enough rest and proper emotional health.
When we do what is necessary to maintain physical health, we find our minds are sharper and better able to think, remember, learn and focus. The need for a sharp mind is just as important for spiritual matters as physical!
But our world is filled with opportunities for us to abuse our bodies. Many of the typical “fast foods” are quite limited in important vitamins and minerals and are instead filled with fats, sugars and chemicals that actually destroy good health.
High-stress lifestyles require people to push harder and work longer hours to accomplish more and more. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drivers who are drowsy are just as impaired as drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Researchers have discovered that chronic sleep deprivation contributes to high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity and likelihood of a stroke, in addition to significantly decreased cognitive function. Lack of proper rest equals health problems!
While the Bible does not condemn all use of alcohol (see “Is Drinking Alcohol a Sin?”), it does condemn the abuse of alcohol (see “Alcohol Use and Abuse”). Modern research is replete with descriptions of the negative consequences of too much alcohol.
Likewise, the results of abusing drugs and other substances, legal or otherwise, have been abundantly documented. Some substances attack the muscles, some attack the lungs and heart, and many attack the brain itself (for example, see “Is Smoking a Sin?”). In time, the result will be health that is diminished and a body that may be broken beyond repair. This is not how God intended that we care for His wonderful creation!
Your body is to house the Holy Spirit
We human beings are accountable to God for the way in which we care for our bodies. The analogy of a temple points to the temple in Jerusalem that Paul knew at that time. This temple was a rebuilt version of the magnificent temple Solomon had built long before.
Later on, in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul warned the Church about sexual immorality, stating: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!” (verse 15). And again in 1 Corinthians 6:18 he wrote, “Flee sexual immorality.”
His meaning is clear: Sexual immorality is a sin that defiles our bodies—making a mockery of the temple in which the Holy Spirit is to dwell.
Care for the body
The human body needs to consume food for energy virtually every day. But not everything that crawls, runs, flies or swims was designed by the Creator to be consumed by people. For an explanation of what foods God did intend people to eat, see our section on “Clean and Unclean Animals: Does God Care What Meats We Eat?”
We also care for our bodies with proper sleep and exercise and appropriate social activities. It is no secret that even the things we think about can impact our health. Solomon wrote, “A good report makes the bones healthy” (Proverbs 15:30). What we choose to think about and even the words from family and friends can affect our health.
Paul wrote: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
God promises to give a peace of mind that can help us cope with stresses and trials that sometimes war against our temple of the Holy Spirit. Thinking about things God wants us to think about will promote spiritual health to the temple.
Of course, there may be limitations to what we are able to do to preserve our health. Part of the equation is genetic or may involve environmental factors that are beyond our control. For example, the New Testament gives us the example of a man blind from birth, through no fault of his own (John 9:1-3).
In the same manner, some health weaknesses may not be caused by lack of self-discipline or failure to follow practices that would honor God, but may result from genetic predisposition or factors in our environment or life situation over which we have no control. However, given those constraints, God expects us to do as we are able to follow balanced guidelines pertaining to diet and exercise.
A temple like no other
The temple Solomon built was magnificent! Many parts of the temple were overlaid with pure gold, including the altar and the inner sanctuary (1 Kings 6:21-22).
Our bodies, which are to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, are also quite special. Anything that contains God’s presence is deemed holy. The body that receives the gift of the Holy Spirit is special to God and is to reflect His nature.
How would you describe the current state of your temple—your body? We have the freedom to choose how we will care for this precious body lovingly designed by the Creator. It is His intent that we care for it and use it properly. Fearfully and wonderfully made is this body God created—the temple of the Holy Spirit!
Learn more about how we receive and are to respond to the Holy Spirit in the articles “What Is Baptism?” and “How Do You Know You Have the Holy Spirit?”