Would you like to be more beautiful? Do you sometimes wish you were one of the people whose appearance seems perfect, whom everyone wants to be? Many women and girls–and not a few men and younger men too–try so hard to be attractive. The cosmetic and plastic surgery business is booming and people spend outrageous amounts of money on clothing and hairstylists. It is an eternal quest for beauty, yet even those who squander fortunes on it are still frequently dissatisfied.
“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6) NKJV
While I do not believe there is anything wrong with trying to be pretty, the most important thing we need to understand is that all the physical “pretty” in the world won’t make up for “ugly” on the inside–the ugly we are all born with. Naturally, our bodies are inhabited by a spirit that wants nothing to do with God–and apart from the work of His Holy Spirit, these ugly, dead-to-God spirits stay so. Yet when we open ourselves up to Him and trust Jesus to forgive us, He takes the ugly out of us and replaces it with new life and beauty. Instead of being under the wrath of God, we are accepted in the Beloved [Jesus]. In the place of misery, there is now joy. In the place of hopelessness and depression there is anticipation. In the place of ugly there is pretty.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t do what we can to be attractive. While God tells us that His people must distinguish themselves through Him, not their external decoration or expensive apparel (“Wives…do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (I Peter 3:1-4), God is a God of beauty. He created beautiful sunrises and sunsets and flowers and the entirety of the natural world, and He did make us to reflect Himself. This does not mean that we sell our souls, so to speak, in the pursuit of beauty, neither does it mean we use our bodies to tempt others to sin through seductive clothing. Yet all other things being equal, it seems absolutely non-sensical to try to intentionally make yourself as physically unattractive as possible.
Yet the beauty one who loves Christ will have is a different beauty than the world’s. Instead of using clothing to exalt self and marginalized others and even though our outfits might be stylish and flatter us, they will not be a distraction from the message of our lives. Yes, this does mean that there are certain styles we will not wear–just as it is impossible to witness being intoxicated, if it is impossible to tell others how important it is that they be pleasing to God while attired in it, it is probably inappropriate. This is an issue of choosing what pleases Jesus over self: “If your hand or foot [or clothing?] causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” (Matthew 18:8, 9)
It is perhaps worthwhile mentioning there are some who have come to believe excessive physical plainness is godliness; the unsaved, unfortunately, typically do not see it as such, but simply as a bizarre desire to make oneself intentionally unattractive. Furthermore, requiring those who would follow Christ to alter their mode of dress to such a degree seems to me an imposition of an undue additional burden not required by Scripture, not unlike that faced by the early church, one which James resolved as follows:
“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:19-21)
So should we then, as Christians, get out hair colored or permed, wear fashionable clothes, use make-up, or even spend on cosmetic procedures? As with anything else in life, the answers to these questions should be determined in light of eternity. When we stand before Christ, will it be something that helped us represent Him to a fallen world, or was it something that detracted from His message?
In respect to hair styling, you might choose to abstain from bizarre colors or cuts. In clothing, besides making sure that it isn’t giving others inappropriate thoughts or feelings about you, you might choose to be moderate in terms of style and cost. The same is true of make-up. But what about plastic surgery or the multitude of cheaper alternatives that can stave off the appearance of old age temporarily these days for still quite a bit of money? I cannot claim to have the definitive answer, but I can offer some observations. As with every other expenditure, we will answer before God for how we spent out money. Furthermore, if this is the first thing people notice about you, your procedures have stolen the spotlight away from Christ and His message and have become your public “witness.” All of our lives–our existence, our being–are to witness to Christ, not self!
So, do you want to be beautiful? Should you even try? I believe the unequivocal answer is yes, by all means, make yourself attractive, as you are able. If you are too heavy, lose some weight. If a little modest make-up will enhance your appearance and help your husband keep his eyes on you, help him be faithful. Remember that even though “…the Lord looks at the heart,” “…man looks at the outward appearance…” (I Samuel 16:7b) But whatever it is you are pursuing, remember that we are to, “…have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3) God is the God above all gods, the One worthy of being praised, the One we are to exalt before the eyes of all. It is His purposes we are to keep seeking, Him we are to reflect as best as we are able, to a fallen world. Nothing in either our heart ambitions and goals or in our outward appearance must detract from Him: “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Be the Lord of our entire lives. Help us reflect You as perfectly as we humanly can to this fallen world. Give us the wisdom to understand how to best position ourselves in terms of our appearance as well as in every other way so that we may do so best, to Your glory. Amen!