Q. I'm in my late forties and having a terrible time with aging. Everywhere around me it seems the young, thin and beautiful are idolized. There are no older role models - not even in church. How are aging Christians supposed to cope with this? Maybe we should just go ahead and pursue diet, exercise and plastic surgery to stay young as long as possible and fit in. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
Our Days are Numbered
No doubt about it - we live in a culture that idolizes beauty and youth. There is simply no getting around that fact in our country. American Christians are brainwashed to believe in a Beauty Cult. However, as we age we begin to see the lie of all this. So all we can do is fight against Satan's lies through education of each other and the next generation whenever we can.
We aren't saying that it is completely wrong to be involved in certain limited exercise and diet programs. It can improve the quality of our lives especially as we age and fight against degenerative diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and other problems.
Death is Certain
However, in one of his sermons Pastor John MacArthur makes the point that none of us can add any years to our lives. He suspects that we might have the ability to shorten our lives through bad habits. But, no matter what we do to extend our lives through diet, exercise, and supplements, there is a day known to God when we will die. Nothing we do can change that. We will all grow old and die unless an accident or illness takes us early. This is up to God - not us.
Psalm 139:16 says,
"Your eyes saw my unformed substance.
In your book were written, every one
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of
Exercise Profits a Little
1 Timothy 4:8 tells us that "bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come."
Godly - Not Treadmill Living
In other words, exercise and the pursuit of beauty is limited in its benefit to us. Healthy living is okay. We can add life to our years rather than years to our lives. But, spiritual discipline puts us on the right path to godly living. Godly living should be a Christian's goal in this life - not treadmill living. (Please don't take offense - I use a treadmill to help with degenerative problems).
An American Idol
I am afraid that American Christians have made an idol of diet, exercise and beauty. Sadly, Christians are clearly not exempt from this false worldview. One need only to look at the number of programs on Christian television and radio devoted to diet, exercise, and costly supplements.
The airwaves are filled with this false gospel. For example, sometimes we see it replace John Hagee's sermons, James Robison's ministries, Kenneth Copland's sermons, Joyce Meyer's programs, and most of the radio time-slots on weekends and evenings.
I hate to mention this because it makes people mad. But, can you imagine what American Christians could support financially if they took all of the money they spent on diets, gyms and supplements and gave it to spreading the gospel worldwide and to their local churches? It is staggering to consider. Even half of that money could do a lot of good.
Add an Hour to Your Lifespan?
In Matthew 6:27, Jesus asks, "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (ESV).
The futility of striving for youth, health and beauty is horrid. It is a total waste of time and resources. Jesus points out that all our worries and fretting about these mundane issues is worthless!
Focus on Him
No matter what we do to make our bodies beautiful and supple, our days our numbered. Psalm 90:12 tells us, "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 39:4 cries, "Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days. Let me know how transient I am" (NASB).
It is clear that God is telling us to focus upon Him, not upon our diets, exercise programs, youth and other things that do not matter in the long run.
Justification for Idolatry
Two verses are often used by Christians caught up in this false gospel to justify our obsession with our bodies, youth and health:
1. 1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16 and 1 Cor. 6:19).
2. 1 Cor. 9:27
"I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27, ESV).
MacArthur comments that "Paul knocked out bodily impulses to keep them from preventing him from his mission of winning souls to Christ" (MacArthur Study Bible 1997, 1743).
Avoiding Immorality in God's Temple
By reading these passages in context it is clear that Paul is warning Christians to avoid sexual immorality because the body houses the Holy Spirit. "Just as our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the local church of Christian community is God's temple. Just as the Jews' temple in Jerusalem was not to be destroyed, the church is not to be spoiled and ruined by divisions, controversy, or other sins as members come together to worship God" (Life Application Bible 1991, 2449).
When Paul said, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Cor. 9:24), he was not exhorting all of us to aggressively tackle exercise programs!
Rather, "Paul uses this illustration to explain that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and grueling preparation. As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward. The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip us to run with vigor and stamina" (Life Application 1991, 2461).
Living for Christ - not Ancient Idols
Paul was telling us to diligently prepare for a spiritual marathon. He was not telling Christians to obsess over their diets, exercise and beauty regimes! We need to "get real" and wake-up to our eternal goal of living for Christ - not living for ancient idols.
God's Plan for the Elderly
God presents clear goals and purposes for His aging population. We are to teach the younger generation about Him! Psalm 78 teaches us:
"We will not conceal
them (God's instructions)from their
But tell to the generation
to come the praises of
And His strength and His
wondrous works that
He has done.
For He established a
testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in
Which He commanded
That they should teach
them to their children,
That the generation to
come might know, even
the children yet to be
That they may arise and
tell them to their
That they should put their
confidence in God
And not forget the works
But keep His commandments…"
(Psalm 78:4-7, NASB)
God tells us His elderly children "will still yield fruit in old age. They shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the LORD is upright…" (Psalm 92:14).
In other words, life is not over for God's elderly! They are to teach the younger generation about Him. When we are done God will take us home to be with Him forever. God never forgets His own:
"I have been young and
now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the
Or his descendants
(Psalm 37:25, NASB)
Life Application Study Bible, NIV large-print. 1991. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale
MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV. 1997. Nashville, TN: Nelson
Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history. Ken earned his M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. They believe they are just a "vapor" that appears for a little while and must make the most of days remaining (Jas 4:14; Eph 5:15).