Saint Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: “Do you not understand that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, lives in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy them, for the temple of God is holy and so you as His temple, are holy.
“Do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, whom you have received as a gift from God? You are not your own. You were bought with a price purchased by Jesus’s blood. Therefore, glorify God in your body and in the Spirit, which belong to God.”
As Catholics we recognize that our flesh will one day die, and we will be given a new, resurrected body in Heaven. While on Earth, however, we must honor God by honoring our bodies.
Paul warned against sexual immorality, but there are numerous other pitfalls we must avoid to honor our physical selves. Self-respect and respect for God means that as adults we need to refrain from destructive actions such as heavy drinking, overeating, unsafe driving and extreme risk-taking. As children, we need to be taught personal hygiene, including bathing, brushing our teeth and wearing clean clothing.
Still, parents know that it’s hard enough to get small boys to bathe, let alone believe that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Yet while complete understanding of this complex concept comes only with time, even the youngest children are capable of learning to respect themselves and others – and that includes cleaning up to be presentable to others at school and play.
God teaches us to flee from sin and immorality. It follows, then, that we must teach our children that wherever they go, God goes, too, and that means they must take care and be safe.
Respecting one’s body may be a difficult concept for kids to comprehend, but in church and at home, parents, teachers and religious leaders can explain easily why we all need to be good stewards and choose carefully what goes into, onto and through our bodies.
When Paul used the word ‘temple’ to describe the Spirit’s dwelling, he conveyed the idea that our bodies are the shrine, or the sacred place, in which the Spirit not only lives but is worshiped, revered and honored. So Christians must choose deliberately to do what is right, good and pleasing to God.
Our bodies are not our own, Paul notes, and they were purchased not with silver or gold, but with the unblemished blood of our Lord and Savior.
Thus, how we behave, think and speak, and what we let into the temple through our eyes and ears becomes critically important. Every thought, word and deed are in His view. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul tells them to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Jesus Christ forgave you.”
Indeed, Paul tells us in Galatians 5:16, when we live by the Spirit we will no longer gratify the desires of our sinful natures.