Dusting the Temple
The similarities of the 30 or so pastors gathered in the parking lot were striking. There they were bald or balding with beards that housed small families of birds. Many of them wore glasses that were an asset to any camper who needed to start a quick fire. Some had tattoos in Hebrew or Greek, their meanings now the only remnant of their ancient language studies from seminary. And they were all about the same shape too. All at least 40lbs overweight with a sandwich in one hand and a menu in the other. Ok I made that last part up.
Honestly, I was shocked at how unhealthy these men looked and not just in a ‘ministry-is-an-endless-job’ kind of way. They laughed and smiled and had a quiet confidence about them but it was apparent from their shirt adjusting and movements that something was off. They didn’t look comfortable in their own skin. I took all this in as I dropped off my mentor/boss to this Pastor’s retreat, casually mentioning some of my observations. He chuckled and made some retort about bacon wrapped in butter as a staple meal item.
About a week later I picked him up. I was 25 at the time and I was on my first ministry assignment, so admittedly I was a bit judgmental. The kind of judgment that only comes out when you’ve just finished Bible college and you feel you’re the only one empowered to bring order and good theology to the thirsty masses. I felt bad about the comments I had made and mentioned it to my boss. Surprisingly, he said I was just stating some painful realities that they all needed to hear. They were all ‘out of shape’, and they were ‘all unhealthy’. They were ‘irresponsible’. This last comment caught me off-guard. Apparently during the retreat the speaker (who we knew quite well) decided to chuck his script and speak on the health issues of these men who were leaders in their respective churches. Instead of giving an encouraging message of comfort or some sort of 3 step ultra-secret spiritual plan that was only privy to pastors, he dealt with the elephant in the room – their health.
They were fat. He proceeded to tell them that they were mistreating their temple – their body – and in doing so were robbing not only their church and the people who needed them, but their families of years of their life. It wasn’t a possibility, it was a guarantee that dying early was in their future with their current lifestyle. Don’t plan on retiring, plan on high medical bills and an abrupt heart attack.
This story has stuck with me over the years. I’ve been an athlete, I’ve been fat, I’ve been injured and unable to walk, I’ve been amoeba-like in my physical appearance, and I’ve been ripped. So basically I’ve been inconsistent. It takes a toll on our bodies. Even the famous actor Tom Hanks commented recently that the rapid gain and loss of weight that have been called for in his roles is too much for his body to handle. He wont do it anymore. If a successful hollywood actor who relies on roles for a paycheck won’t do it, how much more should we (all Christians, not just Pastors) pay attention to our physique as a means of our work that could have eternal remifications? If a movie involving a talking beach ball can convince Tom Hanks, can’t we be convinced by somone a little more authority – namely God?