Our culture is obsessed with physical beauty. Images bombard us, especially women, telling us how we should dress, wear our hair, apply make-up, and what products we should buy to achieve the perfect weight or turn back the clock of aging. But what does God think about our physical appearance? Does God care about our bodies?
Scripture teaches that we are created to glorify God and cultivate his gifts. Our very bodies were formed by his hands and given life by his Spirit. As God's stewards, we honor God with our bodies. Our bodies are described as temples of the Holy Spirit. The church is the body of Christ, living and acting in his world as his ambassadors. So we should care for and honor God with our bodies, but how much focus should we place on physical appearance? What does our Bible say about how we look?
On the one hand, God affirms our physicality, including our sexuality, and designed us as we are to use all our gifts to serve him and bring glory to his name.
My daughter went through a phase where she felt that any focus on looks was vain, so she chose to refrain from wearing her curly blonde hair down and would only wear her hair in a ponytail out of respect for God. I admired her passion and desire to serve God and not get distracted with culture’s idea about beauty. Yet I felt that she was missing a piece of the picture.
How we look is part of God’s gift to us. He designed us as physical people, not just souls in a shell. He knit us together in our mother’s womb, and we should enjoy God’s gifts rather than hide them. When God presented Eve to Adam in the garden, Adam exclaimed the first love song: "This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!" And God declared it very good. In Ezekiel 16:13-15 it says, “And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I have given you has made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.” Your looks are part of the way that God has gifted you. We may not always like the choices God made when he designed us, but who are we to tell the potter how to form the clay?
God's ultimate affirmation of our physicality is the resurrection. Jesus was raised from the dead with a glorified yet physical body, a foretaste of what awaits us in the New Heavens & Earth. We will be raised, remade to dwell with God forever.
On the other hand, beauty to God is much more than appearance. People may see outward appearance first, but God looks deeper, to the condition of our hearts. 1 Peter 3:3-5 tells us that our beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. God is not as concerned with the outer package as he cares about the inner spirit. We want to be sure that our hearts are reflecting God's love and grace to the world for that is a beauty that draws others to Christ.
Jesus could have taken any form, but good looks were not his priority. Isaiah 53:2 tells us that Jesus had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. If outward appearance didn't matter to God, than why does it matter so much to us? Proverbs 31:30 concludes with saying, “Charm is deceitful, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” Our physical beauty fades and we experience the changes of aging, but that does not change how God views us. Outward appearance is not what God wants us to care about most. God cares more about whether our heart is tuned to him.
Our God wants us to seek him rather than the trappings of this world. In Luke 12:27-31 we are told to remember that our heavenly father will supply us with the things that we need. We should not stress about the clothes that we wear, but set our hearts on things above, by seeking God’s kingdom rather than earthly things. The focus of our lives needs to be reflecting God’s love to the world.
Romans 13:14 tells us to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. When we are clothed with the love and compassion of Jesus the world will find us truly beautiful. My daughter does not hide her curly blonde mane in a ponytail any more, except for when it gets in her way. She is beautiful in many ways. It is not only her hair that makes her beautiful, but her heart for following Jesus in all her life.