“Bodily exercise profiteth little”. We’ve probably all heard this quote from 1 Timothy 4:8 at one time or another. Some quote it to give them license to sit around. Others retranslate it to say “bodily exercise profits for a little time”. Both take the fragment of verse out of context. As you read the following quote, notice the entire context.
“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.” (1 Timothy 4:7-9)
First God commands us to reject false teaching, which destroys us spiritually, and instead exercise to Godliness. “For,” He says, “bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Finally, He sums it up. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.”
God tells us that it is more beneficial to exercise ourselves to Godliness, because that will benefit us for eternity, while bodily exercise only profits for our time on earth. God is not talking about how much or how little physical exercise you have. It has nothing to do with how much Timothy would have walked and done other such bodily exercise 2000 years ago.
I know of a family whose father and husband went jogging one morning. While he jogged, a truck hit and killed him. He left behind a large family, with one child born shortly after his death. Bodily exercise truly profited him very little. Instead of prolonging his life, it drastically shortened his life.
Or consider President George W. Bush. He had to have his knees replaced because he jogged them to death. Bodily exercise profited his knees absolutely nothing – actually, it produced a loss. Other people have injured themselves while exercising. Jordan Rubin writes in The Maker’s Diet that jogging and running can weaken a person’s immune system. He reports that marathon runners often are more susceptible to illness during training periods.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that exercise is good for your body if properly done and not overdone. God designed us to move about, not to sit around all day.
However, in the realm of eternity, there are far greater rewards in spiritual exercise than in physical exercise. It is much better to be on fire for the Lord, an obedient disciple and disciple maker while confined to a wheelchair with a ventilator in your nose than to be able to run a 25-mile marathon at age 80. The former prepares rewards in Heaven that will last for eternity to be enjoyed with a body that will never wear out. The latter has glory, health and rewards on earth, but try telling God on Judgment Day that He should reward you for taking good care of your body, even though you neglected your spiritual fitness. I can just imagine the Great Judge saying: “So?”
So to the couch potatoes: are you exercising yourself in Godliness as hard as if you were training for the Olympics? Or at least as much as if you went jogging for exercise? In other words, are you reading, meditating on and obeying God’s Word to become more Godly? Or do you use the time you would spend exercising to watch TV?
For the bodily exercisers: do you use your exercise time to exercise yourself in Godliness as well? Do you meditate on Scripture, listen to an audio Bible and seek how you can please God while exercising? And does going to the gym and walking on a treadmill in a room full of scantily clad people draw you closer to God? Or do you merely aim to build strength, stamina, and speed?
“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8