We are continuing our series on Food, the body, and Idolatry (This is part three for those keeping track). In the prior post we considered the matter of gluttony. In this article, I would like us to consider more about body image; specifically those that crave a certain look. This is not about getting a date, it is not about control, it is not about being attractive to anyone – except yourself.
Temptations in the Struggle
Let’s be honest. Open a newspaper or a magazine, or watch a TV show. The average models are more attractive than the average person in the population.
- Female models are tall, thin, have nice complexions, and have attractive facial features.
- Male models are also tall, muscular, attractive, and have hair that is perfectly in place.
It is not difficult, especially as a young person to define attractiveness solely by the exterior. I have a 4 year old daughter. One day she totally surprised me. I was buckling her seat belt and she said with all seriousness, “Daddy, am I beautiful?” Where did she get that? What has she seen, or heard that would cause her to ask that question? I explained that indeed she was beautiful but that is because she is loving, kind, and fun (hopefully soon I can say “because she loves Jesus”). In other words, I was trying to communicate that beauty comes first from within. I closed her door and took my seat. My wife and I looked at one another with shock (we cannot believe she asked that), horror (have we been teaching that?), and thankfulness (now we can pay much closer attention and teach her properly).
Sadly, there are a number of people in our churches who have not learned this lesson. Our high schools are filled with teens struggling with the way their body looks. Our college campuses are inundated with people seeking a more attractive look. Our churches have people constantly wrestling with what they look like in the mirror. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an issue limited to the ladies. Guys struggle with self image as well. One look into a fitness facility will make that point clear. Guys are checking themselves out on a regular basis. Full length mirrors are common. So what should we do if we are struggling with our self image? How can we help one of our children? How can we help a counselee?
First and foremost, remember that your identity is in Jesus. Your sin was so ugly that it would impossible for you to look worse, but now that your sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west, now that you have been washed, and now that you are clean you cannot possibly be more attractive than you already are. Isn’t that encouraging? Isn’t that hopeful? In the eyes of Jesus you are indeed attractive. You do not have to be bound by your attempts to be a supermodel or to be built like an NFL linebacker. You should not seek to find your worth in your appearance, but in who you are in Jesus.
Second, remember that the way you express your love for Jesus is not by your appearance, but by obedience. Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” Instead of investing a lot of time and effort into your body image, invest in it the kingdom of God. Do the Lord’s commands. Forgive, be generous, be kind and tenderhearted, serve others, gather with other believers, and do everything to God’s glory. Remember the words of Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Men would do well to remember the same truth.
Third, while health is important; it is important because you are a steward. There is often a difference between health and “attractive.” For some, they use “stewardship” as a euphemism for “idolatry of themselves.” We are stewards, but we are stewards of more than our measurements. We are stewards of our money, our time, our thoughts, our focus, our goals – we are stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. So, you may need to exercise, lose weight, or get a medical check up, but you do those things so that you can steward your life to give glory to Jesus not so you can be the “eye candy” in your local gym.
Jesus said that is burden is light (Matt 11:28-30) so take it. Take his commandments rather than attempt to bear of burden of producing a body like the one on TV or the one that you think will give you the praise of men.