One pervasive lie in Western culture is that a person’s value is found in physical appearance. As Christians, we don’t want to buy into that lie. This presents a difficult task because the media actively tries to persuade us that without the latest technology, coolest shoes, newest makeup products, or thinnest body, we cannot possibly live a fulfilling life. Not only that, but a biologically unattainable ideal is set forth. Why? Because the media’s goal is to convince you that you are incomplete without the product or procedure it is trying to sell to you. Perfection is just out of reach, so you must strive (and pay!) for what they have to offer.
The False Buy-In
Do you constantly scrutinize your appearance? Is it as though you walk around with a mirror held out in front of you, reminding you what is lacking? In reality, that mirror reflects a distorted perception, much like a carnival mirror that distorts reality. It not only prevents you from seeing yourself accurately, but it creates a self-focused absorption. “You” become more important than truly being known as a person. The mirror creates a wall that isolates you from others. You become enslaved to the pursuit of an ideal image and to caring too much about what others think. So the question remains: How should I view myself?
The True Mirror
God’s word teaches us how to have an accurate view of self. Think about 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” This passage identifies us as “jars of clay” with a treasure of great value inside of us. As inconspicuous clay pots, we “show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Consider this image:
Imagine a vase sitting perched on a shelf. Its main purpose is to look attractive. You too want to look attractive. You want people to be drawn to your external appearance. You want the world to look at you and say, “Look how successful, beautiful, and smart you are!” But the Bible paints a different picture. Instead of being a beautiful vase, we are dirty clay pots with cracks and holes. We have struggles and weaknesses and imperfections. And in fact, these imperfections allow the treasure within us to shine all the more brightly. Christ brings value and meaning to us, yet we so often want it the other way around. Any time someone tries to be perfect or be the most attractive, the external adorning gets in the way of the gospel (1 Peter 3:3). That external adorning cannot be sustained (Eccl 3:11), and as a result, any time we find a crack or hole we desperately grab for something to try and hide our weakness and shortcomings.
The True Evaluator
God knows you by name, sees you accurately, is aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and still calls you his own. In Christ, you are given freedom to be broken, to be imperfect, to have failings. 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 goes on to say, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.”
“You” in Perspective
It would be easy to conclude that we need to care less about the external and more about the internal. There is some merit to that. However, a better concern is the degree to which we allow our appearance to dictate our worth. Scripture emphasizes that we are called to live for the eternal. We should live for eternity in a way that shapes how we live today. As the old, familiar song says,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.