A couple of related emails came in recently. One woman writes in to ask, “Pastor John, in a culture obsessed with diet, nutrition, health, and weight loss, and with different information coming from every side, how can we care for our bodies, to the glory of God, without making them an idol?” And Becky asks, “Pastor John, what does the Bible say about plastic surgery and Botox?”
Well, that is a great question. I think it is right to say this: Find the middle way between idolizing the body and neglecting the body. And here is a good place to start — a massively important text on the body and God’s view of it and the importance of it. This is 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Glorious Theology of Our Bodies
So here are five massive statements that should blow us away concerning our own bodies:
God is in your body — the Holy Spirit.
God put God in your body. You didn’t absorb him in some natural way. We have the Holy Spirit from God.
Therefore, your body does not belong to you.
Your body was bought by the blood of Jesus.
You exist in your body to make God look glorious.
You could write a book on that. That is just a glorious theology of our bodies. And I think every man and every woman should meditate on those statements concerning their bodies. But when it says, “Glorify God in your body,” it means use your body in a way that shows that your body is not your god. Use your body in a way that shows that God is more precious than your body.
Magnifying God in Our Bodies
Paul said — this is one of my favorite texts; I have built Christian hedonism on it — in Philippians 1:20, “It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” So he wants his body to be an instrument of magnifying God, and when he dies, he wants to die well with his body so that people can see that his treasure is Christ and not his body or its health or its life. So we need to give enough attention, I think, to our bodies so we keep them fit for Christ and serviceable in his cause. And we may need to give our bodies to imprisonment or whipping or execution or death to show that Christ is more precious than the body. So there is a middle way of eating and exercise that doesn’t fall off the horse on the side of neglect of the body as though it were worthless, or the side of idolizing the body as though it were a god. It just keeps us healthy with a kind of, what I would call, undistracting attractiveness.
Should I comb my hair in the morning? Well, yes, because if I walk out, and it is all knotted, people will be distracted from me. They will be thinking about this stupid, forgetful hair. So there is a kind of undistracting attractiveness that doesn’t call excessive attention to us and distract from our personhood. And that middle way of simplicity shows that God is gloriously satisfying, and certainly way more satisfying than wrinkle-free cheeks or smooth thighs or flowing hair or whatever it is that is causing us to lose sleep at night and making us go toward some kind of temporary fix that is probably out of place for a person who is really content in God.
So people can tell, can’t they, Tony? People around you, it seems to me, can tell if you are focused more on the inner person of beauty than the outer person of beauty.
Trusting God and Inner Beauty
First Peter 3:3 says,
Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
I think there is an application of that for me, even though it is written for women, that both should focus on the inner beauty of godliness and holiness rather than the external beauty of our bodies.
I don’t think Christians should be very impressed with their bodies. I love C. S. Lewis, and I think he is quoting some medieval person who called his body “brother ass,” which is to say, “Yes, he is serviceable. He is not very impressive. He is loyal. He does what he has to do. He gets me where I need to go. I am just not real impressed with my body any more than I am with my donkey, because 98 percent of the people in the world look ordinary, and if they don’t look ordinary now, they are going to look ordinary real soon. They are going to get wrinkled. They are going to get old. They are going to get old. They are going to get bent over, and all that they thought they had worked for is going to go away, and the most voluptuous female body you have ever seen in your life is going to be ashen-faced in a coffin before she knows it, and then where will be all the investments in that temporary outward beauty?”
“If a man doesn’t want a woman’s good soul more than a woman’s good body, he is not the kind of man you want.”
I am thinking of this for women who may be single, and they want to be fit and attractive for a man someday if God would be pleased. And I would just say to them, If a man doesn’t want a woman’s good soul more than a woman’s good body, he is not the kind of man you want. So don’t pour all your energies into trying to get his attention to the very thing that is to be secondary in his affections.
And the second thing to close with is, God knit us together in our mother’s womb (see Psalm 139:13). He really made our basic structures. And there are some you are just not going to change — the kind of hair you have got, the kind of nose you have got, the kind of hips you have got, the kind of height you have got, and the kind of complexion you have got. These are things that are just given with our God-given genetics. And, therefore, it really is a matter of trust, isn’t it? Do we trust him? Did God blow it with me? Did God make a mistake with me? God doesn’t make mistakes. So let’s all present our bodies with all their pluses and minuses as a living sacrifice, acceptable to God. This is our spiritual worship (see Romans 12:1).