A Clarification on Beauty

Yesterday, in The Beauty Bandwagon, I made the case that beauty is vain. I didn’t offer much in the way of qualification of that statement, and my wife Alicia made a good point: If beauty is vain, worthless, or empty, why did God create such a beautiful world, why was beautiful ornamentation so essential in the building of the tabernacle or temple?

Exodus 28:2 explicitly says that the priestly robes were for glory and for beauty.

Various passages in the Psalms speak of God’s beauty, and Psalm 50:2 declares that God is the perfection of beauty.

So what’s going on here? Is beauty vain?

Well, the answer is yes and no, and while talking to Alicia it occurred to me that beauty, like most things, can be a blessing or a curse, so to speak.

Proverbs 31, the context of yesterday’s “Beauty is vain” conclusion, lauds the virtuous woman, the woman who manages her household, has a keen business sense, praises her husband, and most importantly fears the Lord. The virtuous woman may be exceedingly beautiful or she may be plain to look upon; the point is, her value is not discerned from her beauty. This consideration was missing from yesterday’s post, and I apologize; my wife, virtuous as she is, is great at helping me realize the wisdom I may have missed in conclusions I come to.

Knowing the Proverbs, it is impossible to focus upon beauty apart from godliness. Indeed, it is said, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” (11:22).

But a beautiful woman who is also godly? I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, and I find myself to be in good company; frequently the Bible authors speak of beautiful women, of beautiful wives. One cannot so much as read the first chapter of Song of Solomon without seeing the appreciation of beauty therein!

While in this world, I won’t deny that it is far too easy to become fixed upon looks. Both men & women are at fault for this, so I won’t point my finger at one gender or the other, but beauty far too easily becomes an idol. Teens rebel against their parents to dress certain ways, to pierce certain things, to have certain hair styles, for example. Likewise, far too few seem to know the value of modesty and discretion in dress, and the impression I get is that those who do seem to know it seem to know it only because they don’t think they could get away with the more immodest styles.

Godliness is no longer admired in society, and something of course had to replace it. It is no longer enough to be virtuous, God-fearing, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in your life.

Beauty is vain insofar as it distracts from God’s glory & worship, and I do not think it a stretch to say that men & women who focus significant time & money on their appearance are missing something much bigger. How different would the world be if every person who identifies themselves as Christian would take all the time & money currently devoted to beauty and used it to grow in the Lord and for His service?

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