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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"In the Eye of the Beholder"

“Beauty is as beauty does.”
“Beauty comes from within.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

We’ve heard them all our lives. Did we believe these sayings?

When I was young, I adored beauty. I dreamed of being Miss America, wearing a long, sparkling white evening gown and a tiara, holding an armful of red roses, and smiling, with flashbulbs going off all around me. Alas, it was only a dream! But it was so real … I think I woke up with a tear in my eye.

“Beauty is as beauty does.” Every mother says that to make her daughter want to do right. I don’t think it worked on me.

“Beauty comes from within.” I half believed this one. After all, I knew some pretty homely people who were truly handsome once you got to know them. They laughed with their eyes. That’s always attractive. You have to have something inside for it to show outside. Yes, I think I believed this one most of my youth.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I laugh at my younger self for being so shallow. I was always marveling if a beautiful person—in my judgment—married a mud fence. I couldn’t figure it out! One of my female relatives used to say, “There’s a Jack for every Jill.” And, it’s true. We all have our preferences. Also, we see the beauty in someone because we love him. We might also see him differently because we really know him. And then, there are fads of beauty. Right now, the ideal is skinny and tall—nice if you’re naturally that way. Back in the 1960s the ideal (except for Twiggy) was more fleshed out. In the 1930s waists were impossibly small, but back a few hundred years, people preferred “pleasantly plump,” “healthy” looking women. Pretty round faces … sounds great to me! The same goes for men. Just compare Cary Grant and Gregory Peck with any of the actors today. Beauty is definitely in the eye—and the era—of the beholder.


Do you want to be beautiful?

(I do.)

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain:
but a woman that feareth the LORD,
she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30).

Let’s take the second part of this verse first: a woman who respects the Lord will be praised. The first part of the verse provides the negative contrast. Negative? Yep. It says favour is deceitful. Let’s think about that part for a little while. Deceitful means: tricky or lying. Favor—other people fawning over you—can be a form of flattery, which is most often because of jealousy and hatred. Beauty is vain. The word vain means: “conceited, self-centered,” and it can also mean “useless.” Beauty on the outside is just superficial. Beauty that comes from the inside—a soul that is in submission to God—is praiseworthy.

God isn't against physical beauty. In fact, the Bible describes several women as fair or beautiful. You can look them up, here:
  • Sarai (Genesis 12:11, 14)
  • Rebekah (Genesis 24:16; 26:7)
  • Rachel (Genesis 29:17)
  • Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3)
  • Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2)
  • Abishag (1 Kings 1:3-4)
  • Esther (Esther 2:7)
  • Job’s daughters: Jemima, Kesia, and Kerenhappuch (Job 42:15)
  • the Shulamite (Song of Solomon, throughout the book)

A biblical perspective, however, always values inward beauty over glamour. Consider these passages:
  • As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion (Proverbs 11:22).
  • A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones (Proverbs 12:4).
  • Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10).
  • Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come (Proverbs 31:25).
  • I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also (just like the men in the previous verse), that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:8-10).
  • Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands (1 Peter 3:3-5a).

Does this mean that the outside doesn’t matter? Some Christians think so, and that’s their prerogative. I differ because the Bible seems to value a woman’s appearance to a certain degree.

Look at Queen Esther, for example: And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful … Now when the turn of Esther … was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month … And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti (from Esther 2:7, 15-17).

I don’t know if you ever noticed it before, but Esther understood the power of simple elegance. She was gorgeous, but she didn’t add to the clothing that was given to her. She could have had all kinds of accessories, but she chose to go to the king in the simplest attire possible. Coco Chanel, the famous clothing designer said, “Once you've dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.”

This next biblical passage is an allegory about God and the nation of Israel, which He compares to a queen bride. Read how she’s dressed: Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee (Psalm 45:9, 11, 13-14).

Here’s another allegorical passage about God (speaking) and the nation of Israel. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness (Ezekiel 16:10-14).

And, here’s a description of the Virtuous Woman’s clothing and what she provided for her household: She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple (Proverbs 31:21-22).

Beauty indeed comes from within, from respecting God and obeying His commands. It comes from the joy we have in Christ and from not stressing over things but praying about them. Beauty comes from a peaceful heart. When the inner person is right, it shows in the care the woman exercises in order to reflect God’s beauty. She dresses with style and grace and is known for the lovely smile on her face.

May God bless you!

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