In general, most people exercise to be healthy. However, sometimes people exercise primarily to look good…to look sexy…to be able to show it off when the time comes to take it off. Think of the saying, “If you got it, flaunt it!” Women post pictures on social media all the time that shout of their desire to be desirable. Lately, I have been thinking about what culture says about women and where, as a Christian woman, I am to be different. For example, is it ok to want to be sexy and strive for beauty? I want us to explore what our motivations are for beauty, why we workout, and even for what we post on social media.
Culture might be all for sex and beauty, but for Christians, it matters where our hearts are on this issue. I think we can find in Scripture that we are encouraged, even commanded, to be good stewards of what we have been given–and our bodies are included in that (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). However, I have found it hard to draw the line between being a good steward by taking care of my body and becoming obsessed with my body. A helpful way to check out my heart’s motivations is to take an inventory of how I am spending my time and money, and what consumes my thoughts. Am I pouring endless thought and amounts of money into fitness and clothes that show off my figure or products that enhance my beauty? If so, this may be due to an unhealthy obsession with “looking hot” or being beautiful. When this obsession becomes an idol–something taking the place of God, something I think will “save” me in a sense by bringing me the utmost happiness in life–then I have likely crossed the line. However, there is nothing inherently evil in wanting to be attractive.
An important question to ask ourselves is who we want to look good for. I think cultivating intimacy in a marriage relationship is a wonderful, beautiful thing. However, reality is that as sinners we are hungry for attention and a desire to be noticed. If you are married and you find yourself wanting other men to notice you, a red flag should go up in your head. “Do not desire your neighbor’s wife” is a verse from Exodus 20 that applies to us too, because in the same way, when women are desiring the attentions of their neighbor’s husband, our hearts have gone astray.
Is the way that you exercise glorifying to God? God created our bodies to move, so I believe when we use them the way they were created to be used, it makes him happy. However, in our culture, exercise has become so much about maintaining the way we look that I think it is healthy to think about what our motivations are for working out. A way to check the heart is to think about how you would feel if you lost all your “sexiness”, or all your fitness. If you lost something that you held so dear to you–your beauty–would it devastate you to the point of despair? Right now being 6 months pregnant, I feel far from sexy. Weird things happen to your body when you’re pregnant, and feeling attractive is not how I would describe myself in my current state. And even when I return to my normal state, I am still aging every day that I am alive. The point here is that these treasures on earth–like toned abs and hot legs–will soon fade and our bodies will one day be destroyed. How can I be laying up treasures in heaven through exercise? It’s possible, but the heart has to be in the right place first. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (See Matthew 6:19-21).
I have taken the occasional selfie, for random reasons, but I think a challenge to women (myself included) is necessary. Most of the time, it seems like people post a selfie as if to say, “Look how good I look!” But isn’t there a signal that should go off in our heads when we, as Christian women, post for this purpose? Is my heart needing affirmation from others because I am failing to look to Christ for my acceptance? Is the amount of likes and comments that I get what I need to get me through the day? There is something inconsistent about this behavior and what we believe to be true in the Bible. We could talk about humility here, or especially about how our need for acceptance is met in Christ and not affirmation from others, but this verse comes to mind: “Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, do it all for the glory of God.” Not for the glory of self. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31.)
Striving for beauty is not a sin, and neither is taking selfies. But while people are looking at the outward appearance, God is looking at the heart. Where is your heart on the issues of beauty and acceptance? Mine has been off many times in my life, so let’s encourage each other to look to God’s Word to right our hearts as we seek to bring Him glory.