What is a beautiful woman? It’s an age old question with as many answers as there are cultures who have defined beauty. And one whose answer is molded and shaped to fit the culture of the day. Social media, namely Instagram, makes it quite clear how our culture answers this question – thick hair, large bright eyes, full lips, shapely bodies, tiny waists, large diamonds, pricey clothes, and a smile that can pass the “tissue test.” We see pictures of it often; if not every day.
A beauty that’s only skin deep can never change who we are. It’s not enough to make us truly beautiful. It’s much too shallow, too easy to achieve with the right amount of money. It takes hours to perfect but seconds to destroy with something as harmless as a make-up removing wipe, or as tragic as a car accident. And what does this view of beauty say about those of us who don’t fit the mold? Are we inferior? Are we to be pitied? Scripture answers with a resounding no.
In the third chapter of 1 Peter, we find a command that, at first glance, seems like the restrictive commands of a grouchy great grandmother–pointed finger and all. But upon further investigation, we see hope beaming forth in radiant light. Hope for an “imperishable beauty”.
Let’s dig deep into the truths in 1 Peter 3:3-4. What was Peter saying to the 1st century exiled Jews (1:1)? What is the Lord saying to us? The text reads as follows:
“Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Can’t you see her peering down through her glasses, confidently listing everything you can’t do? Does this mean Ann Taylor and Zales are out? I would argue that Peter, and supremely the Lord, aren’t saying that at all. But if we value our looks and appearance more than “the hidden person of the heart”, we have it all backwards, upside down, wrong.
Have you ever heard the saying, “pretty is as pretty does”? I would dare say that Peter had not. Yet, this picture of adorning our inner person that is hidden from the glances of those around us and from our own eyes when we look in the mirror, echoes just that. Peter is charging women with a high calling and a high standard for beauty. He’s arguing that a beautiful heart is worth the labor. This is a beauty accessible to us all. And this is a kind of beauty that will never fade away.
True beauty cannot be found in the lovely, dainty earrings we wear, or the brand new bag on our arm. We will tire of the earrings. The bag will fade. Our eyes will lose their brightness and crow’s feet will appear even after the smile is gone. If we spend valuable time laboring over what we see in the mirror rather than what God sees in our hearts, the joke’s on us. It’s fading. It’s dying. This is why the Lord values something much more precious; much more eternal. May we take heed of Jesus’ scathing words to the Pharisees,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:27-28)
“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” The adorning that never rusts nor fades is the hidden person of the heart, a gentle and quiet spirit. While the face wrinkles and the body breaks down, a beautiful spirit continues to live on; and it even becomes more lovely over time. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16). This is a beauty beyond our culture’s fickle preferences. And this is a beauty found in the heart of Jerusalem on a hilltop called Golgatha.
Do you want to know what a “gentle spirit” looks like? Look to the sinless Savior within whom no deceit was found (2:22). What about a quiet spirit? Look no further than the One who was reviled but did not revile in return; who suffered but did not threaten “but continued entrust himself to him who judges justly” (2:23). Where can we find the source of an imperishable beauty? A kind of beauty that is invisible to the world, but can never be snuffed out by its slighting, judgmental eyes? Lift your eyes to the Lord who “bore our sins in his body on the tree” that we might be truly beautiful.
Jesus has set the standard of beauty, even though “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). He was not outwardly beautiful when he came to us as a man. His beauty was found in his pure, righteous, and gentle heart that burst forth with self-sacrificial love. Only he can make us truly and eternally beautiful; only he can give us new hearts that overflow with streams of love. For he says, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
Ladies, don’t let the standard of beauty all around you deter you from the precious labor–and surrender–of adorning your heart. Sacrifice your wants and desires for those of your neighbor. Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (2:1). Love with the endless streams that flow forth from the Lord’s cistern. Stay focused. Rest secure. Be beautiful.