“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Cor 15:32 NRSV)
In this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul is responding to members of the church who are denying the resurrection. That is, they’re rejecting the idea that believers in Christ will be raised from the dead and given perfected bodies when he returns. Paul notes that if resurrection doesn’t happen, then Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, either; and if Jesus wasn’t raised, then he can’t save us. He’s just a good man who died. As Rich observed in his sermon, there is no salvation without resurrection.
The Corinthians were probably rejecting the idea of resurrection because they’d been influenced by the Greek philosophical idea that spirit is good and matter is evil. Greek philosophers thought that the best possible afterlife would be to leave our bodies to rot in the ground and live forever as disembodied spirits. To a Greek mind, the idea of people walking around in resurrected bodies would be as appealing as a zombie apocalypse!
A preference for spirit over body has infiltrated the church, too. We talk a lot about going to heaven when we die, but when was the last time you heard a sermon or sang a hymn or chorus about the resurrection of believers?
If there is no resurrection, then there’s no point in making sacrifices in this life, because this life is all we have. Like the old beer commercial said, “You only go around once in life; grab all the gusto you can!” And if there’s no resurrection, what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter. This can go in two directions: either we overindulge our bodies or we despise them. Sometimes we alternate these, and sometimes we do both at once.
Rich talked mostly about the issue of overeating, which is an increasing problem for Americans. If someone watched what and how we eat, would they think that we believed in the resurrection? Or do we eat as if there’s no tomorrow? But overeating isn’t the only way to disrespect our bodies. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia show the same obsession with what we put in our mouths, and they’re at least as dangerous as obesity. Multi-billion-dollar industries exist to make women dislike their bodies so the companies can sell them things, and these industries are targeting more and more men, as well. Food is one of the main ways that people self-medicate to cope with the trials of life. You don’t need a prescription to buy it, after all.
And that’s just food. We could also talk about exercise, sleep, addictions, sex, entertainment, stress. Do we treat our bodies as gifts from God to steward until the day that God will glorify them? Maybe that means working ourselves a little harder, or maybe that means showing ourselves some compassion and respect. Whatever our situation is, the resurrection means that what we do with our bodies now is an investment in eternity.