Topics in this Q&A: Wearing make-up; blood and organ donation.

It appears that all the questions this time are related to ethical matters that related to various human customs. Some of these customs have been around for thousands of years, others are a little more modern. Either way, the Scriptures offer us world-view insight into these matters. May the Lord renew our minds and be glorified in all we do.

Post recommendation: “Ethical systems for the very grey areas

Since wearing make-up is only mentioned in the Bible in relation to Jezebel and prostitutes, is it sin for a woman to wear make-up?

The references to beautification by painting one’s face is indeed said of Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:30. Jehu was on a killing rampage, and as he headed to where she was, she “painted her eyes and adorned her head” before addressing him. We do not know if she did so to look well for her final moments, or if she did so to lure Jehu in some more sensual way. Either way, neither motive worked, because she died at his command, and then was eaten by dogs. (Who said the Bible doesn’t record some fascinating history?!).

There are a few other mentions of make-up. In Jeremiah 4:30, Israel is described as judged by God, and in vain does she beautify herself with clothing, jewellery, and make-up to attract a lover.

In Ezekiel 23:40-41 the custom of applying make-up is again referenced along with taking a good bath, jewellery, luxurious furniture, and aromas as ways in which Israel had given herself over to spiritual adultery.

Since Jezebel is the very personification of immorality, and the other two passages also speak of sexual immorality as a picture of idolatry, does it mean that Scripture condemns the practise of applying make-up to appear more attractive? The answer is ‘No’. These references to make-up demonstrate that applying make-up was a custom of those days—akin to making your hair, bathing, and air (or body!) fresheners. Just because the only explicit mention of “painting the eyes” is mentioned in perverted uses does not mean it is inherently perverse.

Instead, the Scriptures acknowledge the practise of self-beautification and reserve its caution to the mind-set of those applying the beautification and of those being attracted to the beautification. 1 Peter 3:3-4 reminds women that as much as they might adorn the outside, they should remember that God looks at the inside and considers a gentle spirit very precious. In Proverbs 6:25 warns men not to be deceived by external beauty and attractive eyelashes. The various customs of external beautification seem to go back to ancient history. The various products used have changed perhaps, but the concepts of bathing, wearing jewellery, and applying make-up have been around for a long time. Throughout all that time, the Word of God has not once denounced it. Instead, God has clearly exposed the immoral use of such customs to protect those who are easily deceived by it, and God has used external beautification as a standard by which to encourage personal, internal, spiritual adornment.

The heart issue of external attraction is stated most clearly in the context of handsome men, when God reminded the king-candidate-seeking prophet Samuel “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

Is there anything in the Bible against Christians donating blood?

The Bible does not directly address the topic of donating blood or receiving blood transfusions. Already that tells us that this topic does not fall into the category of command or prohibition. Next therefore we need to see if there is anything Scripture says that would give us some insight and wisdom into the matter, and indeed we find a few nuggets of insight from a number of verses.

The firs set of verses that help us understand the topic of donating or receiving blood come from what blood represents. Not only is blood a biological necessity for life, but, next to breath, blood it is the very symbol of life. In that context, there is a prohibition related to the receiving of blood. In Genesis 9, God opens the door wide to eat freely the meat of animals (Gen 9:3). However, the one clear restriction is that the blood may no be eaten with the meat. This is indeed the ancient foundation for draining blood (compared to strangulation) during the slaughtering of animals. The reason for this restriction is because the blood is the life of the animal (Gen 9:4). This principle then becomes the reason why death is required of any animal or human that “sheds the blood of man” (Gen 9:5-6). In other words, blood represents life, and for that reason blood may not be consumed as we would consume meat (Cf also Lev 17:14, Deut 12:23, Acts 15:29).

Some (like the Jehovah Witness religion) use this principle to prohibit receiving blood transfusions. This is however going beyond what the prohibitions by God, the prophets, and the Apostles actually said. Instead, the principle of the life being in the blood is used in Scripture to refer to the atonement of sin that comes through a blood sacrifice. Leviticus 17:11 says that the reason why a blood sacrifice can atone for sin is because the blood affirms that a life was given, absolving the soul that sinned (Cf Heb 9:22). Likewise, our Lord Jesus shed his blood for us so that we can be cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7). Jesus went so far as to require a “drinking of his blood” to receive eternal life (John 6:53-54). Again, it affirms the doctrine of atonement by the blood/life of one given to bring life to another.

Much more can be said as a Biblical theology of “blood”, but regarding the matter of medical blood donations and blood transfusions, the principles are clear. Blood represents life. That is why we don’t drink blood, but that is also why we are free to donate blood, giving, as it were, the life in our own bodies, for the life of another. There is no spiritual atonement or symbolism that takes place in such a donation/transfusion, but donating blood does nonetheless reflect the high value of life that we as Christians hold to. If the blood of a man is required for shedding the blood of another, shall we not then also value the giving of blood by a man to save another from dying?

Donating blood is not commanded, nor prohibited, by God. Blood donation honours a Biblical view of life and neighbourly love and is therefore perfectly permissible for a Christian.

If one wants to be an organ donor when they pass on, is the Bible for it or against it?

This question is similar in principle to the question of “May a Christian donate blood?”. The same ethical decision making principles can be followed. For example, there is no clear command or prohibition in Scripture regarding organ donation when one dies. Therefore we once again turn to possible principles that apply, and we find a number of verses that offer us some insight.

In 1 Corinthians 6 the morality of our physical bodies is addressed under the topic of sexual immorality. Just because our bodies are physical and earthly does not mean we can let our bodies serve their biological processes without any moral culpability. Our bodies are “a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Although this is a very different topic to organ transplants, it does require of us to consider this matter very seriously, because we are obliged to use our physical bodies to glorify God.

On the other side though, do not think that God requires of us a perfect preservation of our bodies. Because of sin, our physical, earthly bodies are perishable and are going to return to the dust from which the first body was made (Gen 3:19). At our resurrection, we do not receive our old bodies back, but we receive new bodies that don’t have the perishable traits of our current bodies (1 Cor 15:42).

As far as donating organs then, we do not preserve our bodies as some holy vessel, but we do maintain a moral view of our bodies to be used for God’s glory. Organ donation, like blood donation, might well be a possible way of showing neighbourly love in preserving the life of another.

A very important matter though, is not so much the ethics of donating an organ, but the matter of how organs are harvested. This is something we as individuals do not have much control over, and this is were the ethics of organ transplants are not as noble as the act of donating an organ. Some organs require the donor body to be functioning in order for the transplant to be successful. For example, donating one of your kidneys would pose no problem to that, but donating your heart, for example, does. The world’s ethical systems change all the time and usually do not maintain an absolute sense of right and wrong. The world’s ethical systems might well be willing to remove a vital organ from a yet-living person to save the life of another. As Christians we cannot even lie to save a life, how much less can we take a life to save a life no matter what the odds might be (this difference in morality is clearly visible in abortion practises for ‘non-viable’ babies). The end never justifies the means if the means are sinful (James 4:17). Any transplant would therefore have to come from a live donor who will remain alive after the procedure, or a confirmed-beyond-any-doubt dead donor. The ethical matters concerning harvesting your organs might not be yours to make at the time, but these are matters to consider before joining the organ donation movement.

To put it all together, like blood donation, organ donation might be a wonderful way to give of yourself for the life of another. However, we cannot cause the death of another for the sake of receiving an organ. Every person has an obligation to glorify God by their physical bodies.