With the dawn of a new year, many people are taking a hard, long look at their own body image. While there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be in better shape through healthy diet and exercise, it’s important that God’s people take a Scriptural approach to body image. Understanding what the Bible says about who you are and how you should see yourself is the first step in adopting a Godly concept of self-image.
Now that we’re only a few days into a new year, millions of people around the globe have made the pledge to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves in the name of improving their body image. Weight loss, better physical conditioning, and an improved sense of self-image are the most popular New Year’s resolutions according to studies. Unfortunately, nearly 80% of New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by the end of February, meaning that people will probably start the following year with the same goals in mind.
Before we dive into what the Bible says about self-esteem and your body image, it’s important to clear up a potential misconception. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to improve your physical conditioning through healthy diet and exercise. Taking better care of yourself, possibly dropping a few of those extra pounds that you picked up during the holidays, and getting in better shape are all admiral goals. However, God wants you to have a healthy view of yourself. Afterall, He loved you so much exactly the way that you are that He gave the very best that He had to offer so the two of you could be in a real relationship.
No, the Bible doesn’t discuss gym memberships, fad diets, and dietary plans. However, there are still plenty of things we can learn from Scripture about having a Godly body image.
Defining Your Idea of Beauty
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Losing weight and getting in better shape are admirable goals. Obviously, there are medical professionals who have proven that people who are close to their ideal body weight generally suffer from fewer health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and any number of other health problems. However, if you’re on a quest to lose weight, it’s important to understand the motive behind your goal.
It’s no secret that society has an idea of what real beauty is. The concept of being attractive is largely contingent on what popular actors, actresses, athletes, and models look like. In his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul spoke on the importance of not being conformed to the ideologies that are prevalent in the world that we live in.
Yes, Paul was primarily talking about sin in this verse, but we should understand that we can apply this principle to other areas of our lives, including body image. Your mission to get in better shape and become a healthier version of yourself shouldn’t be based on the dream of achieving society’s idea of true beauty. It’s not shameful to want to look better, nor is it sinful to want to look better. However, when your goal is to conform to one area of society, your focus is not on the right things. Improving your self-image should be something that you do because you want to, and because you want to become a healthier person. It shouldn’t be something you pursue in the name of reaching a societal idea of attractiveness.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Galatians 5:25 (ESV)
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The social media generation is largely rooted in comparison. It’s easy to become less grateful for the things that you have when you spend hours a day looking at all the things that other people have. When you spend all of your time looking at people on your social media feeds, their homes, their cars, the vacations they take, and every other luxury in their lives, it’s not hard to become enamored with their lives at the expense of enjoying your own.
The same principle applies to body image. We live in a selfie generation. You’ve probably taken a few selfies in your life. These pictures are intended to show off how good you look at a certain time. Perhaps you and your significant others have taken selfies together when you’ve gone somewhere new and exciting. Again, these selfies are not wrong. However, they open the door for comparison.
When your body image is contingent on how you compare yourself to other people, you’re never going to be satisfied. No matter how much time you spend in the gym, how strict your diet is, how expensive your clothes are, and how professional your makeup looks, there’s always going to be someone somewhere who you believe looks better than you.
This verse from Galatians speaks to that concept, as well as the potential for conceit and pride to enter into your life. Your fitness goals should not be based on wanting to be better than anyone. Instead, it should be based on wanting to be a better version of yourself. Additionally, when you spend your time consumed with comparison, envy is the natural byproduct. Obviously, we understand that envy is a sin. Don’t allow your mission for personal fitness to turn into a competition between you and another person.
Keeping it In Its Place
1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while body training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for hte present life and also for the life to come.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of improving your body image it to keep it in its proper perspective. This verse is not an indictment about exercise. There have been people who have twisted and misconstrued these verses in an attempt to shame people for wanting to improve their physical conditioning. However, it’s important that we don’t allow the goal of physical fitness to become the most important thing in our lives.
There is never anything that should be more important than your relationship with Christ. That’s the point that Paul was making to Timothy, and it’s certainly a point that bears repeating. When your relationship with Christ is the top priority in your life, everything else will fall into place. Having your walk with the Lord as the most important thing in your world, your relationships with others and your own self-image will improve.
Ultimately, the Bible never outright discusses diet plans, gym memberships, and the idea of self-image. However, there is enough material found in Scripture that we can understand exactly what the Bible wants us to understand about self-image.
God loves you. Regardless of whether or not last year’s wardrobe still fits or if your jeans are a bit tighter than they were the last time that you pulled them out of the closet, the God of all creation is completely in love with you just like you are. He isn’t concerned about whether or not you look like the world’s most popular actor or actress, or if your body resembles that of a world-class athlete. He simply loves you. If God had a refrigerator in Heaven, your picture would be on it.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You are fully aware of my desire to get in better physical shape. However, I want Your help with keeping everything in my life in its proper place. Please, help me to not be so consumed by my personal goals that I lose sight of my walk with You. Help me to not compare myself with others, but to fully rest in what You say about me. I ask these things in Christ’s holy name, Amen.