Paul wrote, “‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything builds up” (1 Corinthians 6:12, CSB). He would later echo that by writing, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive...Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’” (1 Corinthians 10:23, 25-26).
In these passages, Paul is addressing the issue of Christian freedom. What can Christians do and what should Christians do? We could look at this principle and say, “We are free to eat any food we want, but not every food is going to make me healthier.” You are free to eat cookies, but we also need to realize that they likely won’t provide our body with lots of nutrition.
As Christians, we have freedom in Christ. When it comes to our eating and exercise, we are free to eat foods we want to eat and exercise how we want to exercise. Before you go and rip open that bag of chips you’ve been avoiding, realize that not everyone is free to do these things. We must also make sure that we are free from the trap of sin that our eating or exercise choices may bring.
There are some people who, by exercising their freedom in Christ to eat all things, will actually be gratifying their flesh. You might have foods known as trigger foods. These are foods that when you start to eat them, you won’t stop until you have eaten them all. When self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) goes out the window, you are acknowledging that you are no longer free, as you are showing that you are still enslaved to your sinful nature. This realization needn’t be met with a feeling of condemnation, but rather an awareness of your current place in your sanctification. God is transforming you into the image of Christ, one degree at a time (2 Corinthians 3:18). Repent of your lack of self-control and gratification of gluttony, and receive the forgiveness of Christ. There may come a day when you are no longer enslaved by your fleshly desire to eat all the things, but until then, placing boundaries around the foods you eat is wise. As Paul wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). You are free to eat cookies, but are you free from cookies? If one cookie triggers you to eat ten, you are not free from nor are you free to.
This is part of the balancing act that makes stewardship so personal. One person can enjoy a single slice of pizza, while that same slice of pizza will trigger a binge to end all binges in someone else. For those people, their stewardship is different. That doesn’t mean you can never enjoy some of these foods. However, it may mean that you abstain for a time from foods that lead you to sin. If Jesus taught you to tear out your eye that caused you to sin (Matthew 5:29), it’s safe to assume He would support avoiding cookies that lead to gluttony and hedonism for a while.
The same principal of free to, free from applies to working out. You are free to work out every day, but if your motivation for such frequent workouts is vanity, you are not free from working out. The flip-side is true as well – you are free to relax and enjoy leisure activities, but are you free from enjoying those same activities, or have you given in to laziness and the idol of comfort?
I have gone through many seasons where I have not been free from working out. Dragging myself out of bed early, day after day to try and sculpt my body to earn the approval of others wore me down and made me miserable to live with. While some may have used the terms, “dedicated” or “committed”, I would use a different one: “slave”. If the thought of taking a few days off of working out causes anxiety in you, you need to check your heart.