Good news! Newly minted research reveals people can add years and years to their lives by adopting a handful of uncomplicated, health-minded habits. Perhaps I should say the AHA/Circulation Journal’s findings “confirm” instead of “reveal” these life-extending suggestions. This information, y’see, has been available to interested parties for thousands of years.
“Adults who follow a healthy lifestyle in middle age may extend their lifespan by more than a decade and have a lower risk of dying from cancer or heart disease, a U.S. study suggests,” announces Reuters’ Lisa Rapaport. “Researchers focused on five habits long linked to a lower risk of developing or dying from variety of chronic medical problems: not smoking, limiting alcohol, exercising, eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight.”
Once more, the most influential, most widely read tome ever written began transmitting the above insights centuries before modern science came along to underscore their utility. Yes, indeed, for those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” the Bible’s wisdom has inveighed for ages against tobacco addiction, drunkenness, gluttony and sloth. In short: a prescription for protracted and vigorous life — courtesy of God’s word.
Proverbs 9:11, among oodles of other biblical texts, extends promises like: “[B]y [God’s wisdom] your days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased.”
So, whether for cigarettes, wine, food, sex, television, sleep, amusement or anything else, a compulsive yearning that strips away one’s ability to say “No more” is frowned upon by Holy Writ. Self-control is a big deal, highly commended in God’s economy. It’s one of the fiercely prized qualities His Spirit determines to produce in the otherwise intemperate (Gal 5:22-23). The Creator didn’t fashion humans in His image in order for them to be animalistically dominated by their appetites; like those – to tap the Apostle Paul’s colorful phraseology — “whose god is their belly”, (Philippians 3:19).
Accordingly, addiction in general is a Scriptural no-no. Smoking — which almost by definition leads to tobacco dependence — would obviously land in this forbidden category. Avoid it and you dramatically jack-up the likelihood you’ll dodge the “Big C’s” deadly duo: cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Jesus-followers are instructed man’s body has been designed to serve a far nobler purpose than mere biological energies and instincts. “[Y]our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God”. (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV) The notion under consideration goes by the term “stewardship”: prudent responsibility for what has been entrusted to each of us. “[Y]ou are not your own,” continues the Apostle. “You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
It’s the biblically illustrated “Law of Use”, indicating physical exercise is a divinely-assigned obligation: every part of our person — including arms, legs, heart, lungs — consistently put into action. In His captivating and sobering “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25), Jesus sketches how His Father views those who are productive with the abilities and resources He vouchsafes them; and, rather terrifyingly, how He regards those who aren’t.
“[T]o whom much is given … much will be required,” the Savior solemnly intones in another place. We who’ve been privileged with this astonishing flesh-and-blood-and-bone-and-muscle machine have a duty to keep it going, busy, active. Remember 1990s health guru Susan Powter? Whatever one might think of her, back then or now, it turns out while she was trumpeting her philosophy of “Eat — Move — Breathe”, (emphasis added) she was onto something of downright heavenly vintage.
If that’s not explicit enough, Pau’s first missive to Pastor Timothy specifies: while “godliness” ought to be the primo objective for everyone, bodily exercise provides some benefits of its own (5:8). That little lifestyle gem was jotted down circa 64 AD – roughly two millennia before the corroborating AHA research.
The Being who originally came up with the remarkable idea of the humana corpus directs us to use it redemptively and care for it fruitfully. Hard work? Good. Laziness, too much sleep? Nope. (Proverbs 6:9-11).
Eating uncontrollably is another practice earning mega thumbs-down from the Inventor of our digestive system. As is His wont on many occasions, God’s warnings against food-fixation are dramatic:
“[P]ut a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite (Prov. 23:2); and “Do not be with … gluttonous eaters of meat; For … the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags” (Prov. 23:20,21).
As widely promulgated by fitness-enthusiasts worldwide, watching one’s diet and routine exercise are a dependable formula for weight control. As it happens, principles both Old Testament and New encourage these disciplines. Happily, Harvard’s Dr. Frank Hu, senior study author, underscores: “Eating right and exercising regularly are not only important for maintaining a healthy weight, but also contribute to a lower risk of chronic disease.”
And alcohol abuse? It’s pretty well-known the Good Book, anticipating ample, modern quality-of-life advice, roundly zings drunkenness (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18). Sobriety is not only healthful – but righteous, too.
Columbia University Medical Center researcher Keith Diaz summarizes, “This is … compelling evidence that, in the age of modern medicine, preventive strategies still greatly matter and should still be a focus of patients and their doctors.”
So prophylactic measures are preferable to counting on cutting-edge technologies when a health crisis crashes the party? Again, that conclusion echoes another scriptural maxim: “Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
It appears, then, the Bible delivers bunches of pragmatic input on issues related to physical well-being. You can add that bona fide to its proven perspicacity on matters financial, familial, relational, emotional, psychological, vocational, political, historical.
Oh, yeah: it also has something to say about how to NOT spend eternity separated from the God of the Universe — not just a few years added, but everlasting life.
Why, you’d almost think the prudent man would be tempted to read the Jewish/Christian Scriptures and take them seriously.