Daniel Sommer: Caring for Our Bodies Better Than We Do for Our Souls

Daniel Sommer: Caring for Our Bodies Better Than We Do for Our Souls

Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) lived ninety years and spent about seventy of those years preaching the gospel. This would be an amazing feat in our modern time; yet for one who was born in the mid-nineteenth century, his longevity was truly remarkable. However, while there are some who almost idolize their physical health to the neglect of their spiritual health, Sommer saw the folly of that. He recognized that the well-being of one’s soul was far more important than bodily nourishment or outward appearance. He made the following remark in one of his sermons:

“‘Man is what he eats.’ This is an old saying, and it is as true of man spiritually as it is of him physically. Man’s body is made up of that which he eats, or receives into his system by eating, drinking, and breathing. The same is true of him educationally, socially, politically, morally and spiritually. In view of this we do not wish our bodies to be imposed on, nor poisoned, with impure foods. But we are not, generally, so careful about food for our souls. Though, as a rule, we do not take the best care of our bodies, yet we care for them better than we do for our souls. We wash our hands and faces several times each day, and pay some attention to the hairs of our heads. As a rule, we are much more concerned about the appearance of our bodies before mankind than we are about the appearance of our souls before God. If we go into a picture gallery and have a photograph taken of our facial expression we may be so pleased with it that we will order an extra dozen photos made to hand around among our friends. But suppose we could have a picture taken of our souls, especially if we have not fed them well on the word of God. We certainly would not wish the extra dozen of such pictures made. But what avails a well-kept, well-nourished body, if our souls are in a starving condition?” (Plain Sermons, p. 107).

The same is true today. As the wise man said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

There is nothing wrong with caring for our bodies. Exercise does us good. Eating nutritious food is beneficial to us. Keeping our bodies free from harmful drugs and other substances is wise. As we use our bodies in our service to God, being healthy can be seen as a form of stewardship.

However, we do not want to emphasize our physical health so much that we neglect our spiritual health. The apostle Paul wrote, “For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Whatever benefit we derive from maintaining our physical health, it pales in comparison with the importance of our spiritual health.

Sommer described people in his day as being concerned about their health and appearance. People today do the same with their efforts to eat healthy, their diligence in exercising, and the care they take in presenting a certain image of themselves to others in person and online. Instead of focusing so much on these things, we should ask ourselves these questions:

  1. Are we being nourished by the word of God? Paul told Timothy that he was to be “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6).
  2. Are we continuing to grow stronger in the Lord and walk with Him? Timothy was to “labor and strive” in the Lord’s service (1 Timothy 4:10) and continue to make “progress” in his work which would be “evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15).
  3. Are we showing others the example of a Christian? Again, Paul told Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Taking care of our bodies has its place; but let us never lose sight of the fact that long after our bodies are dead, our soul will live on. Let us make sure we are healthy spiritually by feeding on the word of God and practicing what it teaches us to do.

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