Physical beauty is a tricky subject. What is the source of beauty? What makes a woman beautiful?
Yesterday, I saw a commercial on television for Bare Escentuals cosmetics. It makes the point that “pretty is what you are; beauty is what you do with it.” (You can see the commercial here. The link is about halfway down the page.)
This past Sunday, I preached from 1 Peter chapter 3. It includes these words to wives:
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. (1 Peter 3:3-4, NLT)
Frankly, this entire passage is a bit of a mine field for preachers and teachers. I was not really looking forward to this sermon.
There are entire church traditions and denominations that have built large sections of their theology on a misinterpretation and misapplication of this passage. I think the point is not to emphasize what women should not do, but to reinforce what the true source of their beauty is. I know that body image is a huge issue for many – if not most – women. The commercial says that beauty is what you do with your “pretty”. The Bible teaches that true beauty is the outworking of a godly character.
When I was young and single, sometimes a friend would want to introduce me to a young lady. I, like most guys, took it as a bad sign when she was described as having a “great personality”. But in reality, it is one of the highest compliments that can be paid (assuming you are referring to a fellow believer and including her character).
I love my wife and find her incredibly attractive. I was attracted to her when we met. The more I came to know her, the more attractive I found her. Part of that is her physical beauty. I think a key element of her beauty is her character. It is strong but gentle; it is it is godly. And it only makes her more beautiful.
As I help guide my sons toward maturity, I want to encourage them to seek for a wife a woman whose character only intensifies rather than diminishes her beauty. If you have daughters or grand-daughters, help them to seek after true beauty; help them seek the beauty that comes from a deepening walk with and reliance upon God. They will seek to have their appearance validated. That validation comes best from the God who created her and from a man who recognizes that a godly character makes her both appear and truly be more beautiful.