Online ads, billboards, celebrities, magazine covers, maybe even peers all may convey the same message – the perceived uber-importance of image. Mega dollars are spent by corporations trying to convince you to spend mega dollars focused on your external image. Are you being sucked in?
There’s so much more to life than an external image. One of the best evidences of this from Scripture is Saul. You might recall how Saul is described when he is first introduced to us in Scripture. “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (1Sam 9:2 ESV). That was Saul, tall and handsome. According to fleshly standards, he was impressive. Israel was thrilled to have him as their king. But the Scriptures highlight his disobedience, lack of self-control, and jealousy. He looked good in the flesh, but that’s all he was, a man of the flesh. There’s so much more to life than an external image.
To be fair, God does think image is uberimportant. That’s why He makes it is His grand purpose to transform you, but in a way that hours at the gym, CoverGirl, and even plastic surgery can never accomplish. His purpose is that you will be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), not physically, but morally. He is focused on your character. He is making you beautiful and there is so much more to beauty than an external image.
This, by the way, is the thought behind the famous statement of our Lord in 1 Samuel 16:7, that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” When Samuel was looking for a king to replace Saul, he was impressed by Eliab, who was … wait for it … tall and handsome! The principle of the Lord looking on the heart does not mean our external appearance is irrelevant. What the Lord is teaching is that He values character more than external image. He looks deeper than the outward appearance. There is so much more to a person’s value than external image. Do you spend more time and mental energy crafting your image for the eyes of your peers than you do in the Scriptures, allowing your inner man to be crafted for the eye of God?
The most attractive people are those marked by love, joy, peace, and all of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Saul was selfish, angry, and tortured. He was tall and handsome, but ugly. Don’t get me wrong – it is not evil to look nice, but if I am consumed with image, it implies I am being led by the flesh instead of by the Spirit. Remember, Saul is a man of the flesh.
The Lord counsels sisters not to let their “adorning be external.” Don’t be marked simply by how you look, “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1Peter 3:3-4 ESV). The external image fails, but your character is of “imperishable beauty.” Saul’s beauty only went skin deep – just as far as the flesh would take him. God seeks something deeper in all of us.