"Losing weight" or "getting fit" will likely lead many New Year's resolutions as we head into 2012. Balanced eating and enough exercise is an outcome of obedience and discipleship, Gary Thomas argues in Every Body Matters (Zondervan). Matthew Lee Anderson, author of Earthen Vessels, spoke with Thomas about the connection between body and soul.
What prompted you to look at food and fitness?
I've been steeped in the Christian classics, and they have a consistent message challenging gluttony and sloth that I hadn't heard addressed much in modern times. Also, gluttony wasn't an important issue in my life for a while, because when you're younger it's easier to look like you're okay. But when I turned 40, I gained three or four pounds a year. That was fine for a while, but then I started notice both the personal effects and the spiritual consequences as well.
Focusing on gluttony and sloth as we age is almost a natural evolution in life. If you look at Augustine, he talks about how lust was a struggle early in his life. But when he became a monk and put himself in a situation where lust wasn't an issue, gluttony became a far more intense temptation. If you can create a sexless life, you can deal with lust, in one sense. But we can't create a foodless life; we are always on the precipice of having to manage this temptation rather than just kill it.
What do you mean when you suggest that our efforts should not be for fitness per se, but building a "silver soul"?
The goal is not an athletic looking body or a magazine-worthy body, but understanding better how these struggles affect our soul. We keep up our bodies because our bodies carry our souls. They are what we minister out of, what we speak out of, what we travel out of, and ...1