Today I ran across an article about how science has now supposedly proven what the most attractive body type is. I clicked over, hoping that we have finally started moving back toward pale and chunky, like the objects of beauty in the paintings from the Renaissance. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the article was comparing women who are thin vs. women who are thin who also have muscles. By the way, thin, muscular women are supposedly the ideal body type. Apparently now just being thin isn’t enough.
Those types of articles are poison to our hearts and minds.
I’ve heard it said that an idol is anything that you love more than you love God. But, have you ever considered that an idol can also be something that you think about more than you think about God? Even if it’s something that you hate? I wonder how many women out there, if we really admit it, spend a large portion of every day obsessing about the way we look? How many times a day do you have a hateful thought about some body part you despise? How often do you long for a body or face like someone else? Have you ever, like me, left the house for church on Sunday morning completely crushed by the feeling that you are not attractive enough?
Or maybe you are on the other side of things. Maybe you love your body so much that you show it off at every opportunity. Maybe it is what defines who you are in your mind. Maybe you love your face so much that you spend large chunks of your day taking selfies so that you can get the approval of the world on social media.
How can we not see that we are idolizing our bodies?
It must be one of hell’s favorite ways to make us spiritually blind. Because here is the truth about an obsession with appearance: it doesn’t just shift our focus from our spiritual condition to our physical. It also changes the way we see other people. Suddenly we aren’t looking at the people around us with spiritual eyes. We are thinking about their size or their skin or their hair. We’re playing a constant game of comparison, and we can begin despising those that we feel have been physically blessed. Instead of seeing them for who they are, we see them for what they wear and how long their eyelashes are and how they never struggle with acne and how they seem to be able to eat whatever they want. And there is no spiritual goodness in that. There is no love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, or self-control in that. There is only pettiness and a brand of judgment that de-values humanity.
What more could Satan want in the women of Christ?
Let’s be brutally honest. At the heart of an obsession with our bodies is the desire to make women jealous and men lustful. I know we don’t want to hear it, but that is the basic truth of the situation. We want to be admired and adored and honored and we want the head seat at the banquet table, and isn’t that what all sin really comes down to? A desire to steal as much glory as we can? It began with the very first sin in the garden, when Eve realized that what she really wanted was to be God’s equal.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul warns against sexual immorality, and then he drops this truth that should bring us to our knees: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (v.20-21)
Why in the world do we pine for the fleeting power that comes with physical beauty when we have the eternal and perfect power of the Holy Spirit inside these shells? When we obsess about our appearance, when we waste heart space longing to look like someone else, when we starve ourselves and punish ourselves and hate ourselves because we don’t meet some arbitrary standard, and even when we desperately try to maintain a beauty that the Bible clearly tells us is temporary, we are not honoring God with our bodies. We are like the Pharisees, honoring God with our lips when our hearts are far from Him. (Matt. 15:8)
We should strive to look and feel our best. But, the endless soundtrack that we keep playing to ourselves? The one that says if we aren’t beautiful we don’t matter? The one that says that God bestows beauty on some and not on others because He is cruel? The one that wishes God had done a little bit better job of forming us? The one that causes us to resent women who have more of what we want? It is killing our spiritual growth. It is blocking our spiritual vision. And, it is making us fear the world more than we fear God.
Jesus came to this earth a humble servant. He could have chosen any body, any face. He could have been born as a beautiful little baby who grew into a movie star of a man. He could have given Himself those piercing blue eyes that we see in paintings. He could have had gorgeous hair and a chiseled face, and He could have caused people to swoon every place He went. But, the Bible tells us that He had no beauty or majesty that would draw people to Him. (Isaiah 53:2) He was an ordinary looking guy. Or maybe He was even considered physically unattractive. It wasn’t His face that He wanted people to remember. It was the glory of God. His only concern was bringing glory to the Father.
We have the same glorifying power living inside these imperfect bodies today. Instead of spending all day thinking about how we wish we were seen by physical eyes, we should begin praying that no one will remember a thing about our physical appearance once we’re gone–that they will only remember the God-glorifying light that pours out of us everywhere we go, unfettered by our former obsession with ourselves.