Physical Beauty: Examining the Heart
I think I was in seventh grade when I hit my first growth spurt. I remember for the first time in my life I became aware of the way I looked. I started to pay attention to how others saw me. I dressed different and started combing my hair. I even remember doing sit-ups in my bedroom and running up and down the stairs of our house, frantic to look a certain way. Thank God that season of life is over.
In the years since middle school, those feelings have occasionally returned. There have been times when I have felt like my body wasn’t good enough. I have, at times, felt too chubby, too slow, and even too tall. Yes, I’ve felt like that.
The Lord has given me the grace to overcome these negative feelings. Over time, I’ve learned that the Christian life is more a matter of the heart than about looking a certain way. Time and time again, God has gently reminded me to put more energy toward gaining the heart of Christ than perfecting my physical appearance.
In the four biblical accounts of Jesus’ earthly life, not one word is given to His physical appearance. We know He had a beard, but otherwise, we are given no description of what He actually looked like. We don’t know if He was tall or short, skinny or heavy-set. We don’t know His eye color, His hair color, His skin tone or anything really. Have you ever thought about that? In the greatest story ever told, physical appearance didn't even get a mention.
I believe the reason the gospels are silent on Jesus’ appearance is that our physical appearance on this earth doesn't matter much to Jesus. He didn't choose the disciples based on their appearance. He didn't decide who to heal by appearance. He never extended or withheld ministry at any point based on someone's appearance. It’s plain from Scripture; Jesus never treated people differently based on their physical appearance. What a fascinating thought.
We live in a culture that practically worships physical beauty. Actors, singers and models all make big money and even achieve celebrity status by being and staying beautiful. Like those long ago who worshiped idols of stone and wood — often in human form — today, many still worship physical beauty. Contrary to Christ, our culture tends to praise and seek the beautiful, and neglect and avoid everyone else.
Let me make this plain: Jesus Christ is not concerned with what you look like. Our Lord cares about your heart. In fact, He never said anything about keeping up physical appearances, but said a lot about keeping watch over the heart. Jesus once chastised the Pharisees for focusing on their appearance and ignoring the state of their hearts: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28).
Like many today, the Pharisees took pride in keeping up appearances. They looked like they had it all together, but Jesus looked at their hearts and wasn't impressed.
While it is good to steward our physical bodies and make healthy choices, many let health become an obsession. The motive of our hearts is important here. It is possible to eat healthy and exercise as worship unto God, and it's possible to do the same for the sake of vanity and pride of appearance.
You see, striving after physical beauty is like chasing the wind, which is why the Bible emphasizes cultivating the heart. Our hearts are forever. I believe that’s why Proverbs 31:30 teaches a young man to seek a wife who fears the Lord (i.e. has a good heart) and why Peter taught women to let their adornment be internal, not external (1 Peter 3:3-4). Jesus even taught us to store up permanent treasures in heaven and avoid storing up temporary treasures of earth (Matthew 6:19-21). Perhaps, many have turned their own physical bodies into a treasure of earth.
I don’t think it’s wrong to be beautiful or even make yourself beautiful, but it’s dangerous to let physical beauty become something that defines you. In our culture, we must set a hedge around our hearts. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Spend more time striving after a godly heart than worrying about your fading physical appearance.
This post was written by Andrew Hess.