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What does the Bible say about body image?

While I'm sure the internal struggle with body image and comparison has always been present, there may never have been a time in human history where body image has been such a complicated topic. The rise of social media has allowed for an endless flood of images of others’ bodies, often carefully curated, filtered, and edited. The “right” bodies are praised with the instant feedback of comments and likes, while bodies that exist outside of the narrow, socially approved range might be bullied by commenters sheltering behind the safety of a screen.

Body image is not just an issue for girls. Boys are also inundated with "fitness" inspiration and flexed biceps, communicating the message that you have to be shredded in order to be acceptable. Both genders get the message that they ought to look a certain way in order to be "properly" feminine or masculine.

Personal body image can be further complicated by some well-meaning but misguided messages we absorb from people in our friend circles, families, or church who might tell us that our bodies are bad or shameful, that we should work hard for something other than what we are, or that it’s wrong to spend any time thinking about our appearance at all.

With so much noise out there telling us how we should feel about our bodies, it’s important to find more trustworthy voices to listen to.

What does the Bible say about bodies?

Our current idea of “body image” is not one the Bible talks about outright, but the Bible does have a lot to say about what it means to have a body. In Genesis 1:26-27, the Bible describes God creating mankind “in His own image.” Human beings’ very existence inherently echoes attributes of God Himself. While God could have created humans to exist purely as spiritual beings, God chose to give us bodies and then called them “very good” (alongside the rest of His creation).

This makes it clear from page 1 of the Bible that God cares about our physical bodies. That truth is reaffirmed through the incarnation, when Jesus chose to be born on earth fully human (while remaining fully God). John 1:14 tells the story this way: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Through this act, God proved how much the physical human experience matters; it matters so much that He would choose to enter it fully alongside us. Even after Jesus’s resurrection, He shows His disciples that He is still experiencing bodily what it means to be human; He shows them His scars (John 20:27) and has breakfast with them (John 21:12).

How should we feel about our bodies?

The Bible clearly tells us that our bodies are not inherently bad. That means that hating our bodies or how we look is not at all biblical. But if we shouldn’t hate our bodies (no matter how much the media tells us to), how should we feel? Should we feel anything at all?

God intended for us to have physical bodies, and our bodies are part of the way we live out His plan for us. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That even includes your appearance—every detail of which God carefully sculpted (Psalm 139:13-14).

If God created us the way that we are, and if He called our bodies “very good,” then it is perfectly acceptable to feel confident in your own skin. In fact, recognizing that God did a good job making you might even be a way of praising Him. Expressing your passions and style through the clothes or jewelry you wear, the makeup you use, and the way you do your hair could be part of recognizing and embracing the person God created you to be.

The only situations when it would be inappropriate to have a high opinion of your body and appearance are circumstances where your motive is to place yourself in a position of higher importance than others, to shame others, to use your appearance to manipulate people or circumstances, to place all your self-worth in what you look like, or to take credit for your own appearance as a source of pride. This means that, while having positive body image in itself is not at all a problem, WHY you are celebrating your body could be.

As long as you are focused on self-expression and gratitude for your body as part of the unique way God made you, then your body image perspective is honoring to our loving Creator.

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TL;DR

Our bodies were each custom-crafted by God (Psalm 139:13-14), and they are a part of His plan for our lives (Ephesians 2:10). While God could have created humans to exist purely as spiritual beings, God chose to give us bodies and then called them “very good." As long as you are focused on self-expression and gratitude for your body as part of the unique way He made you, then your body image perspective honors God.

By: Mary Nikkel

Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.

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