For bodily exercise profiteth little. 1 Timothy 4:8a
Have you heard this verse quoted when someone says that lifting weights, jogging, aerobics, etc. don’t do much good? I have. Many times I have heard that bodily exercise refers to some type of physical activity a person does to stay physically fit. However, it is clear from the context that bodily exercise refers to something else. Let’s back up and see some of the context:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:1-8
We see the scripture talking about religious, physical practices such as celibacy and fasting. Also keep in mind that this was addressed to Timothy who was serving in Ephesus. Ephesus was where the temple of Diana was located. Because of this, the people of Ephesus were accustomed to many religious practices and customs. Bodily exercise refers to those physical things we do as part of our practicing our religion – the rituals we do, the things we will or won’t wear, the things we will or won’t do, etc. Now let me be clear: I am NOT saying what we wear/don’t wear and what we do/don’t do is not important. The scriptures do give us guidelines on clothing and behavior. However, we tend to major on the minors. We focus on our dress standards and right behavior more than we do on the words of faith and of good doctrine (v. 6). We can dress right, talk right, and act right, but if we have not godliness on the inside, it profits little. We do need to dress right, talk right, and act right, but more importantly, we need to be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine. When the inside is right, the outside will be as well. We can clean the outside of the cup, but if the inside is not clean, it still is an unusable vessel. Godliness is profitable unto all things.