In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit, comparing them to the deeds of the flesh.
As stewards or caretakers of our bodies, God knows we require help in managing them. The very fact God equips believers with fruit of the Spirit shows that He has to impart qualities to us that we do not naturally possess.
Our natural propensity is to engage in things over which we should exercise greater control. Self-control means expressing restraint over desires that fight to rule the body.
Exhibiting self-control is needed daily, yet how often do we allow ourselves to be victims of inner desires and sinful cravings?
If you recognize self-control is pertinent to stewarding the body, ask yourself when was the last time was you heard a sermon on it?
In the short book of Titus, Paul mentions the necessity of self-control five times specific to overseers, older men, younger men and older women. Paul expects the congregation in Crete to be self-controlled— in direct contradiction to the Cretans whom he calls lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12). Cretans had awful reputations as a result of their lifestyles.
The juxtaposition here is critical. Paul beckons all believers in Crete to live differently than the brutish Cretans who lack any semblance of self-control and temperance.
His important message reverberates for evangelicals today. Rightly stewarding the body — practicing self-control and moderation in physical matters — is a key area of our witness to an unbelieving world.
So, does your lifestyle stand out for the right reasons? As a Christian, are you caring for your body in a way that evidences your faith and devotion to the Lord — a motivation unique to Christ-followers?
One final note
The Apostle Paul wrote everything I highlighted from the New Testament. The body is a critical part of Pauline theology, as it’s a theme that brings together many of his teachings for the church.
But in addition to the body, a concept of activity is also seen in his writing.
Throughout his epistles, his word choice in describing Christian responsibility is intriguing, as several connote an idea of physical activity. His employment of action words like train, discipline, fight, battle, beat, present, run, offer, stand, practice, etc., all seem to indicate qualities of initiative, self-control and activity in living out God’s commands and growing in personal faith.
He employs analogies of athletes, soldiers and runners.
For Paul, in all of his letters, he speaks in a way that promotes the believer’s intentional, active role in sanctification.
If we are passive in living out the faith, we will likely not be striving for obedience, walking by the Spirit or producing much fruit. Our fallen nature and fleshly habits will most certainly rule us if we are not engaged in fighting the good fight of faith.
The activity theme in Paul’s writing calls for intent and self-control. His physical analogies speak to stewarding the spiritual life. Obedient faith is an active, participatory calling extending to all areas, including the physical body.
Given Paul’s mindset towards the Christian life, I believe body stewardship is a natural link.
Lainey Greer is a Ph.D. student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her blog is https://greerlainey.wixsite.com/ embodiment.