On Sunday 26th November in my sermon on Romans 6:15-23 I gave an example of one area in which we could be enslaved to sin; our body image. A few people have brought up this point in conversation with me and so I thought I would write a little more. This is in no way a full ‘biblical theology’ of body image, but hopefully some helpful comments to ground our thinking biblically on this topic.


God created us with bodies. He did not create floating spirits, detached souls or minds on sticks. He created human beings with arms, legs and eyes. This may seem like an obvious point but it is important to start here because it demonstrates how important our bodies are. When he had made Adam and Eve, these creatures with souls, minds and bodies, he said that all that he had made was very good (Genesis 1:31). Thus, God created our bodies and bodies are good.

In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve a simple command (often called the Creation Mandate); be stewards of creation (Genesis 1:28). If our bodies are created, then this instruction to be stewards includes an instruction to be stewards of our bodies. We are meant to look after these bodies that the Lord has “knit together in our mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).


However, the bliss of the garden sadly didn’t last. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-24). This act of rebellion changed everything. Work became hard, childbirth became painful, and creation has never stopped being under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18-32). The impact of the fall should never be underestimated. Our bodies too have been affected. They neither work as they should, or for our discussion today, neither do we view them as we should.

Some people have a very low view of their bodies. They are ashamed of their big ears, and lanky limbs (or is that just me!). They are embarrassed about what the Lord has given them and feel ashamed at the thought of their bodies. Often this can result in a lack of confidence in themselves because of their physical appearance. But in more extreme cases this causes some to abuse their bodies through over eating, under eating, or self-harm.

However, some people do the opposite and view their bodies too highly. Their body becomes a way of gaining status, approval and value. Some people will try and get bigger muscles, while others will try and get thinner. But both types of people are using their bodies as a way of gaining approval by trying to attain some (most likely culturally influenced) ‘ideal’ of beauty.

Now there is nothing wrong with going to the gym and exercising (we shall see later why that is important). But there is something dangerous when we start to place our value in how we look. Firstly, it is dangerous because of the amount of time and energy it demands of us to maintain. Secondly, because of how it will make us feel about ourselves. The words I quoted on Sunday 26th November speak powerfully into that danger. The American novelist David Foster Wallace said:

Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

While, thirdly, it is dangerous because it can encourage us to focus too much on the things of earth and not enough on the things above. The exact opposite of what Colossians 3:1-4 instructs us to do.


Thankfully there is good news! God the Son came to earth as a human being, and was born with a body. He came to demonstrate his Lordship, and to be our saviour. When someone recognises this fact, a spiritual revolution occurs. We who are slaves to sin (and in this case a sinful view of our bodies) are liberated from that slavery and God becomes our new and better master (Romans 6:16-18). A master who gives us life (Romans 6:22-23).

The life that Jesus gives us is multi-faceted. Firstly, Jesus gives us life after death. Life that does not consist of spirits floating around in heaven surrounded by the angels, but a life that involves bodies (Philippians 3:20-21). The very fact that in the new creation bodies still exist demonstrates how important they are.

Secondly, Jesus gives us life now. For those who view their bodies too lowly he tells you what your body is really for. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and that means your body has a wonderful purpose. So, you should use your body to give God glory. Use your hands to help and use your tongue to encourage.

While for those who view their bodies too highly Jesus also has a word that brings life. God the Father doesn’t need you to have a six pack to view you as his child. He doesn’t need you to be a size zero to be an heir of heaven. He doesn’t require you to be young and beautiful for you to be his beloved. For the Christian, our value is in who we are in Christ: beloved sons and daughters of the King of Kings.

While for both those who view their bodies too lowly, and those who view their bodies too highly, Jesus also gives us life by showing us what true beauty looks like. Jesus is a beautiful human, yet the only description we have about his physical beauty is not that flattering: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Yet he was beautiful because of the way that he lived and the manner in which he loved. True beauty has nothing to do with your looks, but has everything to do with your character. For those who are united to Christ it is your character that he is transforming now (Colossians 3:9-10), so that we will be as beautiful as he is.

What does this mean?

  1. Be a good steward of your body. At whatever age or stage of life you are, look after the body God has given you in the best way you can. It is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The aim here is not to get obsessed by the latest diet or going to the gym. The aim is to have a healthy lifestyle so that we have healthy bodies that can more readily serve the Lord.
  2. Remember who you are. In the film ‘The Lion King’ Simba has forgotten who he is. He is far away from home and he doesn’t even know how much his family need him. It all changes when he remembers who he is. That he is the son of a King. It is at that point that he heads back home. We need to be people who remember who we are. Our bodies are a good gift from God, but how they look is not the be all and end all of life. Who we are before God is the be all and end all of life. So, when you are tempted to be defined by your body image, remember who you are.