Many Christians want to know what the Lord really thinks about cosmetic surgery and medical enhancements. A good number wonder silently, reluctant to voice such questions for fear of branding as “superficial” or “worldly”. And, this is not an exclusively female concern, as many Christian males silently contemplate hair replacement, muscle implants, botox, and other works.
The extreme answers of ultra-conservative Christianity are hard to take seriously. They seem to constantly invent one more thing Christians should not do, as if kingdom life is a list of Cannots, Do Nots, and Should Nots.
Similarly, the extreme permissions of liberal Christianity are equally noncredible, as if kingdom life is a boundless free-for-all charged to a grace Mastercard. Thankfully, the wisdom of God is not found in such bipolar rationale.
Scripture reveals the general will of God, so we must plumb it carefully for answers. Since it does not directly address cosmetic surgery as such, we have to collect all the relevant truths, principles, and doctrines, then harmonize them responsibly to establish legitimate options. Once biblically legitimate options are established, the Spirit’s personal guidance will lead each individual into selecting the best choice for their life.
Principle #1: A perfect body does not create a perfect soul.
Remember Absalom? He was the most beautiful man in all Israel, yet his soul was dark and demonized. He plotted the murder of his own godly father, King David, led a nationwide coup d’etat to accomplish it, and committed sexual sin in broad daylight for the entire nation to see (2Sam 14:25, 15:1-14, ch 15-18). Flawless externally, repulsive internally.
Many people desire cosmetic enhancement to “fix” hurts, defects, and blemishes in their soul. Their inner life is bleeding in some way. To them, physical beauty is the external solution to an internal problem. Just the opposite…it is the soul that needs surgery and not the body!
The world enshrines physical perfection, and why? To sedate a deeper desperation. Proverbs 19:22 (NIV) says a person ultimately desires unfailing love, not physical perfection. Therefore, the question to ask from this principle is, Am I trying to create a perfect body to attain a perfect soul, or, to fix a broken soul?
Even if the answer is yes, this does not automatically show cosmetic surgery to be sinful in and of itself. Rather, it reveals the person’s priorities to be misplaced. Were the Christian to rectify this and reprioritize their values, yet still maintain a desire for cosmetic work, other principles would have to be considered.
Principle #2: God prioritizes motive over behaviour.
1Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10, and Revelation 2:23 tells us God prioritizes motive over behaviour. He does not ignore behaviour, He simply prioritizes motive in His evaluation of behaviour. This is a hard concept for some, but one that is crucial to understanding Jehovah.
Humans are limited judges, seeing mainly external behaviours that can be measured (words and actions). It is difficult, sometimes impossible, to identify motives. Not to mention such an endeavor is risky.
God prizes purity and integrity of motive. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart! James 4:1-3 says God would lavish many good gifts on us, but sometimes puts our blessings on pause because of wrong motives that must first be rectified. Then He will unpause their delivery (Jas 1:17).
Therefore, the question to ask here is, What are my deepest and truest reasons for wanting cosmetic work, and have I shared them honestly with God in prayer?
Those motives may be positive, negative, or neutral. More than external enhancements, Jehovah is preoccupied with our deepest “becauses”.
Principle #3: God values sound financial management.
Another principle is that of sound financial management. Several scriptures show that God values this (Lk 16:10-12, Pr 21:20). He wills that we manage our resources in a way that meets our needs, blesses others, and funds the kingdom.
It is not acceptable to apply money to a temporary enhancement while withholding money from that which can permanently change lives in Christ. On the other hand, if a Christian has their financial priorities in order, and has sufficient supply to fund the physical enhancements, Scripture affirms the attainment of personal desires and rewards (Deut 12:20-22, Ps 20:4,5, Jn 15:7). Therefore, the question to ask here is, Have I been faithful to biblical financial priorities? Am I financially capable of allocating money to cosmetic work?
Principle #4: A healthy lifestyle is God’s plan for some physical transformations.
Some physical changes people desire can and should be attained by modifying lifestyle. Scripture emphasizes a healthy lifestyle, or as some call it, divine health. Some Christians abuse plastic surgery much like others abuse miraculous healing–instead of learning discipline and diligence to cultivate healthy habits, they run to the doctor or the prayer line to get “fixed” instantly.
This is why many Christians do not get healed supernaturally. It is not because of faithlessness or because God took a power nap after the apostles died. It is because He is wanting us to take mature ownership of our health. He is wanting us to create the changes ourselves through healthy habits. This is the law of sowing and reaping God Himself established. By consistently sowing healthy choices we can reap a healthy and reformed physicality. Many people, Christians included, are running to liposuction and tummy tucks instead of conquering laziness to change their body the responsible way.
Therefore, the question to ask here is, Can I create the same physical changes in a non-surgical way, by improving my lifestyle, eating, and activity level? Am I exploiting cosmetic surgery and seeking the easy way out? Would God rather me change my physicality through discipline and diligence?
Principle #5: God affirms the importance and relevance of the body for earthly life.
Some Christian philosophies degrade the body as being evil or at least unimportant. The body is corruptible (2Co 4:16), unredeemed (Ro 8:23), inferior to our spirit (Php 3:21), and cannot produce salvation (Jn 6:63, Php 3:3). However, it is not unimportant or irrelevant or 100% evil.
In fact, Scripture affirms several ways in which the body is important. First of all, our body is the jar of clay by which we hold and express God’s treasure (2Co 4:7). It can be trained and habituated to become an instrument of righteousness (Ro 6:13, 1Ti 4:7). It can illustrate spiritual truths (Ro 1:20). When healthy, it can make us live longer and more enjoyably, “lengthening our days” and invigorating us with vibrancy. When beautified, it can open doors for us like Esther and David (Est 2, 1Sam 16:18), or create social influence for us like Absalom (2Sam 14:25, 15:1-6, 1Sam 16:7), or enhance our sex life (SS 1:15,16). Therefore, the question to ask here is, Can cosmetic work somehow enhance my earthly life, or certain areas of it?
Principle #6: Physicality is one-third of our self-image.
I used to watch a popular TV show, The Ugly Duckling. The show’s goal was to take certain persons who were “glaringly unattractive” (hence The Ugly Duckling title) and recreate their appearance entirely over several months. Part of this was done through healthy lifestyle changes via personal trainers, nutritionists, counselors, fashioners, and so on. The remainder was done medically through cosmetic surgery. The show recorded the several month journey of each person, even spotlighting their deepest issues, reactions, and heartaches regarding their appearance.
At times it was difficult to watch. The pain these men and women carried for never being asked on a date, never being called beautiful, never having someone do a double-take in public. Many of us take such social cookies for granted. Through this show the Holy Spirit showed me some truths.
1Thessalonians 5:23 tells us God is at work in our spirit, soul, AND body. This doesn’t mean He is just retraining our brain for holy purposes, it means He is sanctifying and restoring ALL of what we are to a pre-Fall excellence. As I felt the hurt of the show’s contestants (some were born-again Christians), and as I pondered 1Thessalonians 5:23, I realized our physicality is one-third of our self-image and overall identity, and, one-third of God’s attention in our restoration.
Our spirit, or new nature in Christ, is our foundational identity and operating center. Our soul, or unique emotional-mental design, is built on top of that. Our body is the final third. God created us spirit, soul, and body, each aspect contributing something significant to our overall personal worth. If our physicality is lagging behind or languishing somehow, it can and will affect our self-image, social image, and spiritual image in some way.
When I saw the astonishing changes in The Ugly Duckling contestants, how it tremendously elevated their overall worth, how it affected their soulical and spiritual lives (the contestants who were born-again Christians), I understood that the church is often extreme in overhallowing modesty yet shunning physicality’s positives. In some situations, cosmetic work can be a major blessing and restoration in ways many of us don’t even consider. Therefore, the question to ask here is, Though it is not foundational and primary, how can a maximized physicality contribute its part to my overall self-image?
Principle #7: Desiring greater appeal and attractiveness is not sinful.
Scripture affirms both modesty and beauty, and yes, they can coexist. Because of the world’s low standards, Christians tend to overcompensate with hypermodesty, implicitly equating tasteless apparel, overweightness, and physical mediocrity with being spiritual. Moreover, I have seen many attractive Christians persecuted in churches. They are fit, fashionable, attractive, and hungry for Jesus, but to some they are “still in the world” or “carnal” or “spiritually immature”. Such an attitude overlooks many scriptures, not to mention betrays their jealousy.
Scripture freely validates physical beauty, and how that beauty affected people’s lives for good or evil. Absalom and Jezebel were highly attractive, yet both misused their beauty for evil. Absalom, to influence the nation and lead a revolt against his father (2Sam 14:25, 15:1-14), Jezebel, to manipulate a man of God (2Ki 9:30) and masses of people (1Ki 18:19, 21:8-11).
Sarah was called “a very beautiful woman” (Gen 12:11-16), and she made Abram very wealthy because of it (v16). Granted, Abram’s proposal might not be considered noble (v11-13), but we can still see the power of beauty to bless in the story.
Scripture calls Rebekah “very beautiful” (24:16, 26:7). It goes even further with Rachel, saying she was “lovely in form” (a great body) and “beautiful” (29:17).
Scripture says David had a “fine appearance and handsome features” (1Sam 16:12) and was a “fine-looking man” (v18).
Song of Songs celebrates physical-sexual appeal entirely, and, we all know Esther mesmerized Xerxes and stole the queenship with her looks (Est 2:1-18).
Solomon said to “let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil” (Ecc 9:8), referring to excellent self-presentation. He also said “ointment and perfume delight the heart” (Pr 27:9 NKJV). Jesus said to have good self-presentation even when you are fasting (Mt 6:17).
Therefore, the question to ask here is, Am I being bashful or timid about enhancing my appeal? If Scripture celebrates beauty appropriately, how can I do the same personally? How can I wield beauty’s influence for good?
Principle #8: The signature of the Spirit.
At the end of the day, after praying it through, after thinking through all the principles, the Spirit is the one that must guide every Christian’s decision. I call it “the signature of the Spirit”. His “yes” or “no” or “wait” is the final signature on any decision, including cosmetic work. Galatians 5:25: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Therefore, the question to ask here is, What is the Spirit saying to me about this? Has it been confirmed from a variety of sources outside myself?