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Putting Beauty In Its Place (Part 2)

  • 2001 6 Jun
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Putting Beauty In Its Place (Part 2)
Click here to read Part 1 in our series, Putting Beauty In Its Place, Part 1.

Everywhere you turn, people are taking advantage of the fact that most humans respond positively to physical beauty. Some of us go to great lengths to approximate the look that appeals to others, whether it requires makeup, dieting, intricate hair styling, frequent clothes shopping, or even surgery. The fact that we respond to beauty is not unique to our modern culture. In the Bible, good looks were one way that righteous people could gain the attention of those in power so as to implement the will of God.

In the book of Esther, King Xerxes called for an old-fashioned beauty pageant that required contestants to enroll in a twelve-month program of beauty treatments. Esther emerged as the winner and was crowned with a permanent title: Queen. God then used her to save the Jews from what seemed certain destruction under Haman’s plot to destroy them.

In addition to being one of the qualities God can use to raise up a leader, beauty was, in fact, created by God. Have you looked at the flowers, the bird outside your window, the waterfalls, the sunsets He created? Aesthetics were obviously very important when God gave his detailed instructions for constructing of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle (Exodus 25 and 26). He left no detail to chance. They were meticulously made according to specific dimensions, consisted of the finest materials of the day, and were a sight to behold.

Christians often deduce that God’s opinion of beauty is negative when we read Proverbs 31, which reminds us that “beauty is fleeting.” And when Samuel goes to identify David as the Lord’s chosen to reign as king, the Lord declares, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7).

But beauty is not necessarily evil. It all depends upon how it is used and what priority it is given in our daily lives. Beauty is a tool that is similar to money. It’s not that God hates the dollar; a single bill can bring Him glory. What gets destructive is the love of money. Once greed competes with your desire to serve the Lord, evil has its foothold. It is the same with beauty. If beauty becomes more important to us than eternal works, there is a problem.

Anne Ortlund wrote a book titled Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, which has only one chapter devoted to “Your looks.” Ortlund mentions that she has to get herself ready for the day before she is alert enough and ready for her devotions. But her general approach to beauty comes from Proverbs 31, where only one verse in the chapter describes this woman’s appearance. Ortlund concludes that there is much more to beauty than appearance. (For more on what makes one beautiful, read Defining Beauty.)

There are certainly valid arguments on either side of the debate over the need for Christians to try to be beautiful. But if you are spending moderate energy to make the best of what you have, beauty does not have to be a dangerous goal. In Matthew 25, the parable of the talents describes the concept that God expects us to make the most of what we are given. It isn’t the pursuit of beauty itself that is dangerous, but the emphasis we place on that aim.

Perhaps most dangerous is when we believe our culture’s lie that we are how we look. Our identity is in our position as a child of God, and as He reminds us in 1 Samuel, He does not view us the way others do, He concentrates on what is in our heart. My guess is that the battle between the Lord’s ways and the world’s ways will be something that many of us willcontinue to work on throughout our lives. But hopefully, each year of our walk in the Lord’s paths will shed more light on our identities as we learn more about how beautiful we already are.

What are your thoughts on beauty? Join our Women’s Forums discussion read what other women have to say.