This one has always been with us. Decades ago, I remember a man who went through an ugly divorce in which he never really looked at his own culpability. A couple of years later, he called and said he had finally found the answer! He left a message on my phone and said that we needed to meet immediately. Always a sucker for a request that has a note of drama and intrigue, I set up a time to meet.
I was expecting to hear about a revolutionary spiritual insight, and maybe even an apology for being such a recalcitrant husband, but his professional briefcase suggested something else. As he put the first brochure in front of me, I realized that he came to sell me a nutritional program. This program he stated—with certainty—would have been the answer to his marriage, and he graciously wanted to spare me a life of future misery. He wanted to enlighten me. All I had to do was sign. He might have mentioned something about Jesus; I’m not sure. If he did, he probably said something like, “I’m sure Jesus would have used these supplements.”
His mistake: he believed a physical treatment would solve his spiritual problem. It didn’t and couldn’t. Physical treatments address physical problems and his particular marriage problem was not physical. I know because I witnessed his marital nastiness firsthand. So he might have felt better, but his spiritual problem was still unresolved and he was, in a sense, in greater peril than before.
Why? Because when you love physical treatments, you will spurn spiritual ones. And Scripture teaches that our spiritual interests actually outweigh our physical ones! Our spiritual health is more important and deserves more attention than our physical health.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8).
Scripture never demeans the body. Instead, Paul reminds us that godliness—spiritual growth—has benefit for all eternity while even the best combination of aerobic activity, weights and diet will have only temporary benefit. Likewise, physical treatments (medical or the like) can alleviate symptoms, but they can’t make us sin less or be more righteous. If they could, then I would have signed up for this nutritional plan and every other physical treatment that had a remote shot at being helpful.
Today there are even Christian mental health treatments that use sophisticated technology to provide precise brain diagnoses for which they deliver equally precise treatments. These programs claim much more than they can deliver.
Be clear—the more you search for and rest in physical treatments for problems that are spiritual—the less you find rich hope and joy in Christ.