Q&A: Is Cosmetic Surgery a Sin?

Is Cosmetic Surgery a Sin?

Question

Are elective cosmetic surgeries (such as breast implants, tummy tucks, face lifts, etc.) sinful?

Answer

First, we must clearly state that there are legitimate uses for plastic surgery. As a former police detective, I have seen several people that have been disfigured by accidents, crimes, fires, etc. These are legitimate uses for cosmetic surgery. It may also be used to improve one's general health (breathe, walk better, or even speak better). It is praiseworthy that God has gifted surgeons to help these individuals get to back to what we may say was their original condition. Reconstructive surgery for mobility or other basic human functions, in my opinion, appears biblical.

Second, while the Christian is free in Christ, they are not so free as to engage in immoral behavior. We are not free to engage in "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). IMO much of the desire for plastic surgery is driven by sinful pride and sexual tensions. Vanity! It is outright sin! Some are so possessed with anti-aging that they even change churches to facilitate their education in this area. See "What is the Transhumanism Church?" below.

As to elective surgery (breast implants, tummy tucks, face lifts, etc.), it can be one's obsession with physical image that drives such surgery. The temptation may be a sign of a greater need regarding one's own personal spiritual image (1 Tim. 4:8). Vanity is a form of self-idolatry and is sin (cf. Prov 31:30; Psa 119:37). Some say (or feel), "If I could look different, people will like me more," or "I'd like myself more." But these are prideful vain standards set by man, not God (Jer 4:30). Since we are sinners, we can be tempted to think more about our "physical" beings even though there is so much missing from our "spiritual" life. Should we not rather be submitting ourselves to Great Physician's knife (Heb. 4:12) and not the scalpel of a human surgeon who at best may only bring about a temporary change (2 Cor. 4:15-18)? Our attitude at times seems to be me, me, me, and not He, He, He (Isa. 6:2)? We don't need a nip and tuck, but a dip and cut,; that is, a continuous dipping in God's Word (Eph 5:26; Tit. 3:5) and a cutting away from the things of this world (Mark 9:43-48; Rom. 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).

Some instead of opting for surgery go with a chemical approach to their aging. Botox can be used for many good reasons (muscle stress, disorders, lazy eye, uncontrolled blinking and muscle related problems, etc.) and some vain reasons (enhancing features and temporary preventive aging effects). However, Botox can also be very dangerous to the temple of God - that is our bodies. One gram of botox can be lethal because it may block nerve impulses and lead to respiratory paralysis. Long-term side effects include muscle weakening leading to paralysis, spreading of toxins in surrounding tissues, and allergic reactions, etc. So these issues need to be weighed in our biblical decision making as well.

The Apostle John wrote, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). In this one verse comes this truth: what we are, who we shall be, and what we should be centered upon - the person and work of Jesus Christ. Internal beauty (holiness) is that which is both lasting and beautiful (Prov. 31:30-31; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). Though one may look forward to the ultimate Surgeon's knife in our resurrected glorified bodies, until then we should be content (by God's grace) with such things as we have (Phil. 4:7-13; 1 Tim. 6:6). If Jesus is content with the scars in his hands and feet (though he is glorified he still has them), how much more shall we be satisfied with what some consider imperfections? (Psa 139:14).

We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). That image is marred by sin (Gen. 3; Rom. 1:18-32; 3:9-18). Perhaps we have what we consider imperfections (by some standard). So, our nose may be a little large, or our chin a little too pointed. But, God made us a certain way: "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Cor. 12:18). What did Jesus say to Paul about those things that appeared as weaknesses to him and others? "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Perhaps instead of considering such surgeries as limitations, we should view them as God-given tools for ministry?

Last, but foremost, I believe we should follow the example of our Savior. Every Christian desires to see Jesus. One day we all shall see him face to face. However, if we were to have seen him before his glorious resurrection, we may have been sorely disappointed by his mere outward beauty. Scripture states, "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isa. 53:2). Jesus was no movie star or fashion model! But he also saw no need for a face lift; just the need to be lifted up on a Cross. Perhaps this should be our attitude as well?

1 Cor. 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Follow-up question: I agree with your assessment of cosmetic surgery for mere vanity reasons as being a sin. However, what about braces on one's teeth?

Braces can be an entirely different manner. Properly aligned teeth are a matter of proper health as they can't properly perform thier vital functions if they are misaligned (overbite, underbite, crooked teeth, etc. ). While they do have the benefit of helping one's appearance, their health benefits are even more important. Improperly aligned teeth may lead to periodontal (gum) disease which may impact other health aspects of your person; i.e. heart attack and dementia. Of course, we may turn anything into an idol; even braces.

So, if one can afford braces then I personally would obtain them. However, it would greatly behoove one to do it for the right reasons; not vanity, but health. So, be sure to ask God to expose the intents of your heart regarding this issue.

Related Links:

What is the Transhumanism Church?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).