For five years my wife and I owned a gym called Temple Builder Fitness. While our clients came to put in sweat equity, their children would often accompany them to the gym. Toys and television usually captivated these tiny audiences, but there was something more salient that piqued their interests - the call of adventure found in the iron and implements of the gym space.
They loved the challenge of rolling heavy medicine balls, trying to pick up a kettlebell, doing pull-ups on the rig, or swinging on the rings. This eventually led me to run a class called Tiny Temples which was kid-centered fitness. We ran obstacle courses, lifted some weights, and moved in all sorts of fun ways.
We all used to be like this. We loved running, climbing, and moving. We loved the thrill of trying to pick up a heavy rock, jumping off objects, or swinging across the monkey bars, because God designed us this way. To move. To push ourselves to our limits and beyond. To experience the world with our body…and then we grow up.
We have a habit of moving slower and less. We lift fewer things. We run less, jump less, and climb less. With the exception of the few adult athletes, we get caught up in the responsibilities of adulthood. Go to work. Clean the house. Take the family to church.
Our “adult responsibilities” make us forget about our spiritual responsibility of fitness. There was a time in the Old Testament when the Israelites forgot about their responsibility too. The book of Haggai takes place after Babylon conquered Israel, and they were returning home to rebuild. Rebuild they did. They rebuilt their comfy paneled homes, but they failed to rebuild the temple.
Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” – Haggai 1:3-4
One of the jobs of the priests in the Old Testament was the maintenance and upkeep of the temple. Haggai shows how they succeeded in one area while failing in another. Their dwelling places were comfortable and enjoyable, while God’s sat in shambles. But that began to change after Haggai’s prophecy.
Fast forward to the New Testament and we see the temple moved from a place of wood, stone, and metal to flesh, blood, and bone. The temple now dwells within living bodies. You and I are the temple of God (See: 1 Cor 3:16 and 6:19; Romans 8:11).
Hit the fast forward button again for about 2000 years, and look around today. I know statistics aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they can be a shot of espresso to wake us up if we allow them.
According to the Census Bureau, the median single-family home size in America in 2018 was 2386 square feet. 1 That is an almost fifty percent increase from 1979, which was 1645 square feet. 2
When we set this number next to our current physical statistics, we see that the US obesity prevalence was 41.9% from 2017 to March 2020. 3 In addition, a study published in 2015 conducted at Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences has suggested that around one-third of clergy members in the United States are struggling with obesity. 4
Furthermore, in his book Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity, Peter Attia says the odds are overwhelming that we will die from one of the “Four Horsemen”: heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, or type 2 diabetes and related metabolic dysfunction. 5
While correlation isn’t causation, it would seem that as our property lines have grown, so have our waistlines. We have built paneled homes of comfort and enjoyment for ourselves while God’s dwelling, our bodies, has fallen to ruins.
This is not meant in any way to be a word of condemnation, but rather a call to arms echoing that of Haggai. When we take that Old Testament story and prophecy and hold it in tension with our modern condition, my hope and prayer is that it propels us forward to a brighter and healthier future.
As the priesthood of believers, it is now our job to maintain the temple. The Church should be the healthiest group of individuals around. It is exterior evidence of interior change.
God has designed us to run, jump, climb, crawl, throw, lift, roll, and twist. Let’s not waste the wonderful abilities God has endowed us with to experience the movement of life. The movement of our bodies. The temple on the move.
If we want to inherit the Kingdom, we must become like children again. We must remember our spiritual responsibility to fitness and movement.
- “Characteristics of New Housing,” United States Census Bureau, accessed October 12, 2019, https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/highlights.html.
- “Median and Average Square Feet Of Floor Area In New Single-Family Houses Completed By Location,” United States Census Bureau, accessed October 12, 2019,https://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf.
- Peter Attia, MD, and Bill Gifford, Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity (New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2023), 10.