by Olivia Roman
The phrase “your body is a temple,” plucked from the New Testament of the Holy Bible, has stood the test of time at the expense of having its meaning forgotten by society at large. It was Saint Paul who scorns the parish for their physical immorality, asking “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…”(NKJV, 1 Corinthians 6:19). He continued, saying that God has gifted us this physical life for a short time, and that our bodies are vessels; believers are obliged to give God a suitable place to reside, which extends to how we conduct and care for ourselves physically. This idea isn’t exclusive to Christianity and can be found in other religious texts, with specific emphasis on three areas:
Fasting is practiced in order to grow closer to the divine by distancing oneself from worldly dependencies, such as food and other pleasures.
Christianity: Lent is the forty-day Christian fast in which followers give alms, fast from meat on certain days, and completely abstain from another selected food or activity. This spiritual cleansing through physical deprivation commemorates the forty-day period in which Jesus wandered the desert, fasting and refusing temptation.
Judaism: The Jewish fast of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the culmination of a ten day penitential period in which one abstains from physical pleasures in an effort to atone for their wrongdoings and purify their spirit.
Islam: Ramadan, a sacred month of intense fasting, is observed by Muslims commemorating the revelation of the Qur’an. No food is consumed during sunlit hours, encouraging increased self- reflection, spiritual revitalization, and strengthening one’s relationship with Allah.
Other religions: Buddhists and Hindus also participate in fasting in an effort to cleanse their spirits. While Sikhs do not, it should be noted that they’re highly encouraged to practice moderation in every aspect of their lives year-round.
Most religions promote strengthening one’s physical fitness as long as it doesn’t take precedence over the individual’s relationship with God. Below are teachings for followers seeking spiritual enrichment through exercise:
Christianity: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
Judaism: “So long as one exercises and exerts himself vigorously . . . no illness will befall him and his physical powers will be strengthened.”—Maimonides, Jewish philosopher
Islam: “The strong believer is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is goodness in both of them.”— Hadith, Sahih Muslim 2664
Other religions: Yoga, an exercise strengthening one’s physical, mental, and spiritual health, is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy that is also observed by Buddhists and Jainists.
Religious ablutions are ceremonial washings viewed as acts of reverence that aid spiritual purification through physical cleansing.
Christianity: Baptism, a rite in which one is partially or fully submerged in water, symbolizes the dedication of one’s life to Christ. Foot-washing is also practiced in commemoration of Christ stooping to wash the feet of his Apostles.
Judaism: The two main forms of Jewish ablution are full-body immersion, or tevilah, and washing hands with a cup, or halakha. While the majority of occasions traditionally involving tevilah are only observed by Orthodox Jews, all converts must be immersed.
Islam: Muslims turn towards Mecca five times each day in prayer. Before doing so, they’re required to perform wudu—ritual washing of the hands, mouth, arms, nostrils, and feet. If water is unavailable, sand is an approved alternative.
Other religions: Buddhists, Hindus, and followers of Shintoism all practice ablution before engaging in worship.
It appears that the universal truth all religions uphold is that our bodies truly are temples—gifts from God that we are tasked with detoxifying, strengthening, and cleansing physically before inviting Him in spiritually.