Solomon On Strength
A recent study in South Korea showed that suicidal thoughts correlated with weak grip strength (which is widely believed to be a measure of overall general strength). According to Psychology Today,
Regression models showed lower hand grip strength correlated significantly with suicidal ideation in both sexes. As the researchers write, “for every 1 kg increase in hand grip strength, the odds of having suicidal thoughts decreased by 4 percent in males and 3 percent in females. This relationship held after adjusting for depressive mood.”
The correlation between suicidal ideation and hand grip strength is supported by previous research. For instance, in a sample of American men, “Each 5 kg increase in hand grip strength was associated with a 16 percent reduced odds of having suicidal thoughts.”
Proverbs is more focused on strength than many realize. The first temptation facing the son (1:8), that would pull him away from wisdom (1:1-7), is recruitment into a robber gang (1:8-19). Why does a young man have to be warned against such an offer? Because a young man has recently become strong. He is an attractive recruit to those who profit from violence. “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29 ESV). Thus, he is tempted to use his strength to take perceived shortcuts to get things he wants. Proverbs later explicitly compares the ways a man might be tempted to gain wealth in contrast to a woman. “A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches” (Proverbs 11:16 ESV). Solomon reiterates that such a path won’t end well. “A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die” (11:17-19 ESV).
So the strength of the young man can be a trap. He must use it lawfully and wisely. He must not think his recent transformation allows him to get away with folly.
But that means, like any temporary blessing, the proper attitude toward strength is neither to reject it nor idolize it but to be grateful for it and use it for a good purpose. Wisdom promises strength and warns people not to reject her. “I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength… For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:14, 35, 36 ESV). Solomon accuses those who don’t rescue persons in danger if being killed that they are weak. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10 ESV). And a royal mother tells her kingly son to stay away from women who would take his strength (Proverbs 31:3), but to find a wife who “dresses herself with strength and makes her arm strong” (31:17) so that “strength and dignity are her clothing” (31:25 ESV).
Obviously, there are more important priorities than strength. But that doesn’t mean that it is of no value at all. If God created us to serve him, then it would make sense that growing frail and feeble through negligence would be a bad thing that might have psychological consequences. While “training in godliness” is more important, the Apostle Paul conceded, “bodily training is of some value.”
Wisdom involves conserving and even increasing one’s resources. “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17 ESV). There is every reason to think that Solomon would approve of his logic being applied to physical ability. Wise people won’t lose strength through neglect and inactivity.
So wisdom might dictate that you start a program designed to slow or reverse your physical decline. And it may also help you mentally and spiritually as well as physically.
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Mark Horne has been studying the intersection of ethics and the economy since high school. He was raised in Liberia, West Africa and Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, as well as on the Atlantic coast of Florida. He graduated from Houghton College in 1989 and from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1998. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and has pastored churches in Washington state and Oklahoma, as well as serving as an assistant pastor in St. Louis.
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