We are so consumed by external beauty – ours or others, positive or negative, perceived or actual – it consumes. Why? I believe it is powerful currency in this world. Besides actual currency, a positive perceived beauty might be the next most important thing of value. And I’m not just talking about a cute face, but I am talking about all the physical aspects of a person. Weight, Height, Color, Complexion, Strength, Athleticism, Proportions and even Vocal Tone and diction all combine to make someone externally attractive based on the world’s current thoughts about what is the best.
External beauty shows up large in daily life whether on Instagram or Facebook, Netflix or Television, the boardroom or the ball field. If you have beauty you have a tremendous advantage – maybe we can call it an inherent “Beauty Privilege”. In the Bible too, beauty was shown to be of importance to the people. Again and again, beauty is mentioned – Sarah, Samson, Rachel, Jezabel and Ahab, Joseph and Satan were all said to be beautiful. Evidently, “Beauty Privilege” has been around for a very long time.
14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.
– Genesis 12:14-15
2 “[Kish] had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else”
– 1 Samuel 9:2
6 “Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking”
– Gen. 39:6
12b “‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
– Ezekiel 28:12b
It’s interesting, the Bible mentions beauty quite a bit. Dr. Claude Mariottini has an excellent post that documents, with Biblical references, an extensive though not exhaustive list of characters who were said to be beautiful. The Beautiful People of the Bible | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament
Why would the writers of the Bible document this? What is the point? Were people of that age just more beautiful than people today? Were the writers obsessed with beauty like the people of today? Obviously, no one knows for sure, but I have a theory that I believe applies – I believe that the mention of beauty is to instruct Bible readers that outward appearance is a faulty way to measure a person. In two cases above, Sarah and Joseph, beauty was just a small part of who they were as people.
In Saul’s case, God chose Saul to be King because He knew exactly what kind of man they wanted – a beautiful kingly figurehead to lead the Israelites like all the other nations had. Ultimately, Saul proved to be a poor King because he had personality faults. Almost immediately after being chosen, Saul was found literally hiding from his responsibilities and corrupting the commands of God and then lying about it. In the end, the people saw that David, a young man full of faith and trust in the Lord, had to step in a save the entire nation from Goliath and the Philistines because Saul was too afraid to do it. God goes on to wrap up the entire situation by saying:
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
– 1 Samuel 16:7
So what are some of the things that God counts as true beauty? Peter is pretty clear in his first epistle.
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
– 1 Peter 3:3-4
God looks at our internal beauty and values the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. This does not mean we should abandon good grooming habits and working on our appearance. It does not mean that we should stop wearing makeup and jewelry. Peter means that we should focus more on what our heart looks like versus our external appearance. We should work harder on cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit than on those abs. Peter goes on to provide some suggestions on how to grow that spirit.
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing.
– 1 Peter 3:8-9
The world can certain use more people working hard on these things. Can you imagine if the world valued “a gentle and quiet spirit” more than the “perfection in beauty”? It would change everything. And, as if any of us needs reminding, beauty fades. And, as I will discuss in an upcoming post, beauty can also corrupt. In the mean time, if God is looking at our hearts, we all better get to work.
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
– Proverbs 31:30