Maintaining our health is probably the most important duty we will have in our life, that is of course after our spiritual life and it is a very serious responsibility. St. Paul tells us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit; “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). 

Our body is a gift from God and it is our responsibility to take care of it. To eat healthy, exercise and treat our body with kindness is a way of thanking God. By keeping God at the center of our life, a walk in the woods or the joy of a cup of coffee with a friend can be an act of worship to the God who created us in his own image.

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ecclesiasticus or the Book of Sirach. This book is a part of the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament and is a training manual for how to live one’s life and to raise children. It was used in the early church by parents as a guidebook for teaching their children how to behave towards God, their parents and how to interact with other people. It was used to build character in the child and it also contains important teachings on health and how to live a healthy life.

“Better the poor in vigorous health than the rich with bodily ills.

I would rather have bodily health than any gold,

and contentment of spirit than pearls.

No riches are greater than a healthy body;

and no happiness than a joyful heart.

Better is death than a wretched life,

everlasting sleep than constant illness.

Good things set before one who cannot eat

are like food offerings placed before a tomb.

What good is an offering to an idol

 that can neither eat nor smell?

So, it is with the one being punished by the Lord,

who groans at what his eyes observe,

do not give in to sadness,

or torment yourself deliberately.

Gladness of heart is the very life of a person,

and cheerfulness prolongs his days.

Distract yourself and renew your courage,

drive resentment far away from you;

For grief, has killed many,

and nothing is to be gained from resentment.

Envy and anger shorten one’s days,

And anxiety brings on premature old age.

Those who are cheerful and merry at table

benefit from their food.”

Sirach 30:14-25

What is Sirach saying to us who live in these so-called modern times? He is telling us that health is more important than wealth. That a healthy body is our greatest treasure. A joyful heart is the greatest pleasure. By not taking care of our health, we will one day find ourselves unable to eat the food placed in front of us and this will eventually cause depression and sadness which is our own fault. 

He says to us that we should be people of joy and cheerfulness and that our days will be long if we are so inclined. Don’t be resentful of others, this only causes grief and hinders growth in our life. Envy and anger effects our health, causes stress and anxiety that makes our body’s old and effects our digestive system.  

What Sirach has to say about how we should live our life is very different from what the secular world or even some sectors of Christianity are telling us. Materialism should not be our goal in life. Becoming rich should not be our goal. Saying things like “it’s my body and I can do what I want with it” should not be our attitude. Indulging in food, alcohol, drugs, sex and entertainment should not be our way of life.  God created humanity and called us good. He created us in His own image and the bodies He gave us are sacred. We cannot over indulge in harmful behavior, treat our bodies poorly and still proclaim that we are Christians and expect not to be held accountable for the miss handling of a gift created in the image of God.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. It is meant to be fruitful and cheerful. We are not supposed to pursue greed and be envious of other but we should be content with what we have. We should pursue a good and simple life, enjoy our families and our friendships, reduce our anxiety and stress and keep ourselves healthy and if God grants it, we will live in happiness to a ripe old age. If he doesn’t, so be it. We can at least say; we’ve had a good life with the time given us. 

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