I read an article on a popular Christian blog recently that essentially said that Christians should not care about their appearance. Thought I didn’t disagree entirely I think that the author’s focus was on the wrong thing. There was an underlying assumption that any effort toward outward appearance was the heart equivalent of vanity, so the author failed to do anything but attempt to make the reader feel bad about caring about his or her appearance. However, had the author identified that the heart attitude regarding appearance is the dividing line between vanity and simply putting a little effort toward outward presentation the article would have encourage a heart shift in the readers’ lives.
First of all it is important to establish that appearance should not by any means be the focus of anyone’s life and especially a Christian’s life. I believe that 1 Samuel 16:7 sums the issue up perfectly: “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (NIV). If we, as Christians, are to care about the things that God cares about it is essential that our first priority is to set our hearts right with God. When we have our priorities right it makes it much easier to find balance in the secondary things, like appearance.
Now, here is why I care about and spend time on my appearance and why it’s okay.
My style is bold and some days a bit flashy: I have purple, blue, and teal hair; I wear a black hoop nose ring; and I have three piercings in one ear and two in the other; I wear bright red lipstick on nearly a daily basis; my favorite pair of shoes are high heeled, lace up, short boots that could double as weapons in case of emergency; and I dig a leather jacket with a pair of colored skinny jeans.
Here is why I dress the way I do. Growing up I was a little awkward and I was always about a year behind all the fashion trends, so I was just starting to like them when they were on their way out. I felt awkward and it became a part of my identity and the way I acted and interacted with people. A few years ago I started spending just a little extra time on my appearance: I went shopping and spent the time to figure out what looked good on my body the way it was rather than the way I wished it was, I bought the makeup essentials and played with them until I could do my makeup well, and I spent a little extra on some statement classics for my wardrobe. People started treating me different, they complimented me and it felt good, so I felt more confident in my appearance and that confidence took root in how I acted and presented myself.
I care about my appearance because it is people’s first impression about me, so I want my outside to reflect who I am inside. As this has become my attitude my perspective has begun to shift away from “how do I look” to “what kind of message does this look send about me” and suddenly my focus is on my outward reflection of my inward appearance.
I don’t spend a lot of time on my appearance, maybe 30-45 minutes a day total, but putting that effort in helps me worry less about what others are thinking about how I look and more on what I have to say or contribute in my everyday interactions. To care about your outward appearance is not wrong in and of itself, but when your focus is first on your heart, your outward appearance begins to become simply a reflection of your inward appearance.
Physical appearance doesn’t define you and your worth isn’t determined by what other people think about you. You are defined by God and he says that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and your worth is found in God who loved you so much he gave his Son for you (Romans 5:8).
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (Psalm 139:13-14)