“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 KJV)
No matter when we start our school year, most of us tend to have a sense of beginning or or transitioning to something new in September. Children usually move to a new grade, classes gear up, new programs begin. Even as home schoolers we have many patterns ingrained in us that adhere to the common cultural norms like this and there is nothing wrong with that. Having standardization works in a number of ways. However one area that I hope we can break out of standardized thinking is in ‘the check in the box’ mentality to learning in general and physical fitness in particular.
There are some subjects we want our children to learn simply to have a familiarity with the information, to help them be well-rounded, or to give them a taste of it to see if it might be something that would help them find their bent. Exposing them to that subject matter and moving on works fine. Other things we know we have to build upon like reading, writing, and arithmetic. In the early years these are foundational for what will come later, and most of us understand that these are not learn and dump studies. Spiritual development is a category all to its own. As Christians we should train our children to have their faith inform all of their studies and not fall into the trap of just exposing them and laying it aside. Bible study is more than a separate compartmentalized subject which may be foundational for more Bible study, but rather it is applicable to all of life, throughout the day, across all subject areas.
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking to them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 11:18-20 (NASB)
God’s Word, God’s perspective is not JUST a subject to be taught but a way of life to be inculcated, a relationship to cultivate and cling to, a submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit.
What about physical fitness? Is it a compartmentalized subject? Is it an area that is foundational to future physical education, but not really necessary for the other subject areas? Is it similar to spiritual development, necessary for informing the other subjects we study? Though clearly the Bible teaches spiritual discipline is more important than physical discipline, I would suggest, that a Biblical perspective teaches that stewardship of our bodies more closely aligns with how we would treat the subject of spiritual development than the other two categories I have mentioned.
“... rather, train yourself to be godly. 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. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.” 1 Timothy 4:7-9 (NIV)
Paul speaks of physical training here as being worthwhile but not as valuable as godliness. In 2 Timothy 2:5 and 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, he uses positive metaphors to compare the race of life with the discipline of the athlete who is pursuing worthy goals. These analogies are made because of the admirable pursuit of physical discipline. These Scriptural references imply a positive view of seeking excellence in athletics.
At the conclusion of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says,
“I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Though Paul starts this conversation talking about athletics, indicating that he appreciates the physical endurance of an athlete, he is not writing about physical fitness. He is however indicating the link between the a disciplined body and a disciplined soul.
We are whole beings. How we care for our spiritual side will effect us physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally. How we take care of our bodies will affect us spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally. Though this has the verification of much scientific research behind it and the benefits of an active healthy lifestyle are well documented and profusely touted all around us, we don’t need it to confirm what our bodies and souls proclaim to us readily. We are stewards of our bodies as we are of our souls. As stewards we should know how to care for ourselves properly, body and soul. Physical fitness is not just another subject then. And more than a matter of stewardship of our personal well-being, we are also the communicative vessel of the Lord Jesus.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Corinthians 6:19-20
We have a responsibility to take care of our bodies and to train our children to do so because through them we are called to glorify God. We cannot give our best to the Lord if we not caring for our bodies through proper physical fitness and nutrition.
Physical fitness, like spiritual fitness, is not just another subject. Teach your children the importance of stewardship of their bodies. Train them to get regular exercise. Include time to be outside and to get lots of physical activity in your day. Organized sports can meet some of this need, but when the soccer or basketball season is over, don’t get in the ‘school subject’ mindset that the PE requirement has been met. Go for walks as a family. Ride bikes or get the kids out riding. Trampolines offer great physical activity. Teach your children to play tennis. Let them get out and play tag with each other or simply run around. It doesn’t have to be organized, but it does need to be active. It is also wise to give them well-rounded fitness training in which they learn not only the importance of aerobic exercise but also stretching and strength training as well which will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
And isn’t that what we want? Let’s give our children the tools to help them make wise choices and to know how to live healthy for the rest of their lives.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1