How fit am I?
Sweat-soaked and oxygen starved, I was huffing and puffing as my lazy muscles strained and complained. I had been trekking the ups and downs of Western North Carolina terrain while listening to Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Maybe that’s why the phrase “moral fitness” caught my attention.
It was January, 1861. A newly-elected Abraham Lincoln was grappling with who would fill his cabinet seats. Lincoln owed a political favor to the Keystone State and was considering Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron as secretary of the treasury. Not everyone was happy. Political friend, Senator Lyman Trumbull, sent a cautionary letter to the President-elect and Alexander McClure paid him a visit. Did Cameron have the moral fitness for the role? Doris Kearns Goodwin relates the following in Team of Rivals,
As word of the probable appointment leaked out, opposition flared. “There is an oder about Mr. C which would be very detrimental to your administration,” Trumbull warned Lincoln in a letter that probably reached Springfield shortly after Cameron left. “Not a senator I have spoken with, thinks well of such an appointment.” Then, on January 3, 1861, Alexander McClure, representing one of Pennsylvania's anti-Cameron factions, came to Springfield carrying papers that purportedly revealed Cameron's lack of moral fitness, particularly inappropriate for stewardship of the treasury.
We are obsessed with physical fitness in our country. That’s a good thing. Obesity is on the rise. But Goodwin’s phrase “moral fitness” reminded me that there are things more important than six-pack abs and “buns of steel.” Yes, physical fitness is important, but so is moral fitness, financial fitness, relational fitness, and “spiritual fitness.”
Hey, if you can run a half-marathon without breaking a sweat—good on ya! If you can put down your fork and push back from the table while all of us are indulging in seconds—way to go! Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is truly commendable. But there is a fitness beyond fitness that Lincoln’s contemporaries recognized and which God commends:
Every day is an opportunity for fitness. The only questions are: "What kind?" and "Will I do it?" Today, train yourself for godliness. Time in the Word and time in prayer . . . that's a good way to start. So why not commit to memory 1 Timothy 4:7-8? And while you are at it, pray for growth in godliness in your own life and in the lives of people you know.
"As word of the probable appointment ..." from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2005. Page 291.