Monday, August 18, 2008

Is God Against Physical Beauty?

Sometimes when I read passages like First Peter, chapter 3, where the Bible focuses so much on inner beauty, it almost seems like God doesn't want me to do anything to draw attention to, nor enhance my physical body. But I don't think that's a fair representation of God's desires for His daughters. Yes, He wants my priority to be on the internal, no question about that. But He also created me "fearfully and wonderfully" (Psalm 139:14), inside and out. I think the Lord delights when I care for my body as a precious gift He has handcrafted and chosen to bless me with.

God calls the body of each man or woman who has a personal relationship with Him, a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19). 2 Chronicles 3 details some of God's plans for His actual temple building, probably one of the most beautiful architectural accomplishments in all history! If He ordered such lavish beauty for a building that would represent His presence on earth, I don't think He wants Christians, the living, breathing representation of His Spirit to the world around us, running around only in "sackcloth and ashes" and forsaking any kind of fashion.

Isaiah 61:10 says, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels" (NIV). The focus of this verse is inward beauty, having my heart and head in the right place, my focus on God. Yet it also hints to me of God's blessing on the outward. God compares His gift of salvation to being beautifully dressed, of being adorned and jeweled. Would He use such language if He disapproved of these actions? And again in Proverbs 1:8-9, "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck." Wisdom and obedience are also compared to things that beautify the body.

Revisiting 1 Peter 3:3 I see that the Bible never says we should not have outward adornment, only that our beauty should not come from things such as hairdos, jewelry and fine clothes. Beauty needs to come from the heart, the outward things only reflecting our attitudes of within. A gentle and quiet spirit will have no desire to draw undue attention with "flashy" nor seductive dress, but a gentle woman can still dress the part. Would you expect a “gentleman” to attend a business meeting in anything less than a suit? Why should a gentle woman not dress her best as unto the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31, Col 3:17)? It is a joy to think that how I dress, do my makeup, put on jewelery or fix my hair can all be an act of worship to my Creator!

Proverbs 31:30 tells us that "charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." And in the virtues listed of this same woman the Bible states, "she is clothed in fine linen and purple... She is clothed with strength and dignity... (vs. 22-25). Beautiful character and giving attention to our outward expressions of beauty, truly can both be honoring to God.

And if we need final confirmation that God approves of loveliness in all forms, Philippinas 4:8 is a great reminder, “Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”

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