By David Hegg
Our society is obsessed with health. Or maybe it is better said that we are obsessed with the idea of health. All around us new discoveries and formulas call us to eat better, stay away from decaying agents, exercise, and visit our doctors and dentists regularly. Our political system has become enamored with health and with the right everyone has to be healthy. And, since they believe health has become an inalienable right, health care must be available and affordable if we are to be a healthy nation.
The media, acutely aware of our obsession, feeds us a steady diet of scientific and anecdotal evidence claiming to prove ever new ways of healthy living. At times is it a bit confusing. One day drinking coffee is bad while the next it is beneficial. And how much exercise is good? When does it become addictive and counter-productive? And what about fat and carbohydrates? Are they villains or the heroes?
When it comes to physical health, we love outside information. We are open to hearing what other people say will get us where we want to be. We’re looking for someone to give us a formula or wonder drug that will get us to optimum health. It is intriguing to me that we don’t consider the doctor to be overstepping his or her bounds when prescribing a certain treatment or medication. When it comes to health, we’re open to others telling us what is best.
But the situation couldn’t be more different when it comes to the area of spiritual health. For one thing, very few in the mainstream national conversation ever talk about it. Issues of the heart and soul are increasingly off limits. Imagine the public outcry if the government mandated that every American had to have a certain amount of moral, religious training. What if children, in addition to the required inoculations, also had to have memorized certain spiritual principles before being allowed to enter public school.
And what if those running for national office not only went out of their way to display the status of their physical health but also were required by public opinion to demonstrate their spiritual acumen.
But, unlike the area of physical health, when it comes to spirituality, we’re supposed to keep our opinions to ourselves. While opinions about everything from A to Z are allowed in the marketplace of ideas, those who venture forth with spiritual declarations or religious truth are immediately branded as coercive at best, and radical fanatics at worst. As a society, we are close to banning spiritual conversation from the public square altogether.
Now I’ve got you smiling at least, or perhaps snarling. My point is that, as a nation and as individuals we are much more concerned about the body than the soul, about lung capacity rather than the content of our character. We are increasingly myopic, focused on our physical image almost to the exclusion of the inner person that we really are.
Of course, I would be among the first to tell the government to stay out of the realm of the soul. Then again, I think they should stay out of most realms that invade the individual rights of its citizens. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take more seriously our own individual responsibility to be spiritually healthy.
As a pastor I believe the story of history is best understood biblically. Further, I concur with Augustine when he said of God, “You have made us for Yourself, and we are restless until we find our rest in Thee.”
The fact is that physical health is certainly a worthy pursuit. In fact, I need to pursue it with more discipline and perseverance. But one day the physical body will be done, worn out, placed in the ground. And that’s the day when my spiritual health will win the prize. Both physical and spiritual health are important, but while the first is necessary at some level, it is not sufficient.
Spiritual health has greater rewards, both in this life, and in the life to come.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a local resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.