I watched a comedy on TV about an older woman who was desperate to win first place in a beauty pageant. She had competed in several beauty pageants when she was younger and had always won second place. This woman was beautiful, had a rich husband, a son, lovely home and all that money could buy but still bemoaned the fact that she had never been crowned “Miss….”. It was very obvious that her concept of beauty was shallow and based solely on physical appearance. She had another opportunity at age fifty-something to compete for “Miss Mature Woman”. Guess what, she still did not win because apart from her physical beauty she did not excel in any other way. A plump, blind woman who had devoted her life to helping others, and whose inner beauty radiated outwardly for all to see won the pageant.
As I pondered about this, my thoughts were drawn to the “Virtuous Woman” described in Proverbs 31. This woman is strong, God-fearing, wise, honourable and contented, yet, the bible also describes her as a beautiful and well-dressed woman (Proverbs 31:22,30). Beauty is, therefore, one of the characteristics of a virtuous woman. This woman’s beauty, however, is not shallow and outward only, but rather a reflection of what is inside her.
Before we take a closer look at this paradigm of a woman, let us try and define beauty. What exactly is beauty? The world’s view of beauty is usually formed around the physical aspect of an individual. Magazines and television ads present the “ideal” woman and then encourage us to purchase their products, lose weight and tone up through their programs, and dress or act in specific ways so as to be like these ‘model women.’
Webster’s dictionary says that beauty is “the quality attributed to whatever pleases or satisfies the senses or mind. These good feelings of pleasure may be aroused by a certain line, color, form, texture, proportion of an object; sometimes by rhythmic motion or tone; or possibly because of a specific behaviour or attitude.” The Thesaurus defines beauty as “a physically attractive woman,” “a knockout,” and “a stunner.” All these definitions focus on the physical, sensual and outward.
The bible, however, admonishes us not to focus only on outward appearance.
“Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4
Hence the biblical definition of beauty incorporates not only the physical, but also character, demeanor, speech, conduct and attitude. The bible has a great deal to say about both inner and outer beauty.
Beautiful Women in the Bible
Is physical beauty wrong? Is it unacceptable for a Christian woman to make herself beautiful and attractive? I don’t believe so because there are several women mentioned in the scriptures who were described as outwardly beautiful, for example, Sarah (Gen 12:11), Rebekah (Gen 24:16), Rachel (Gen 29:17), Abigail (1 Sam 25:3), Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:2), and Esther (Esther 2:3,12). The Book of Esther gives an account of a beauty pageant (Esther 2). Queen Esther also had to go through beauty treatments to prepare her for the king.
There are several other scriptures that speak of physical beauty in a positive way. My favourite is Ezekiel 16:1-14, which talks of how God found Israel (us), cleaned and dressed her (us) up in costly apparel and jewellery. Song of Solomon gives an in-depth description of the Shulamite woman’s beauty (Song of Solomon 7). It is, therefore, generally good for a Christian woman to make herself beautiful on the outside.
However, the bible makes it clear that a Christian woman’s appearance should be a reflection or complement of her inner spirit and should not be a hindrance to the kingdom of God. A problem only arises when beauty is seen on the outward only and not reflected from within. Beauty is certainly more than an appealing face or the latest fashion. It is more than skin deep. Physical beauty should portray and reflect what lies within a woman.
The Role Model
Let’s take a closer look at the “virtuous woman”. This woman possessed outer beauty. Proverbs 31:22 says, “She makes for herself coverlets, cushions, and rugs of tapestry. Her clothing is of linen, pure and fine, and of purple [such as that of which the clothing of the priests and the hallowed cloths of the temple were made].” Wow! The first part of this verse describes the most private place of her home – her bedroom. You will notice that she takes great care to make it a place that is warm, comfortable, uncluttered and pleasing – a special place for her and her husband. It is important to have one place in the home, a ‘haven’ that invites rest and fulfills personal joys.
My Bridal Suite
I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago. I have been on a sabbatical since the beginning of April and been spending a lot of time in my bedroom as a result. As I looked round my bedroom one morning, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to change everything in my room. I smiled and made a mental note to do so sometime during my sabbatical. A week later I popped into a home furnishing shop to buy a bathroom rug and was surprised to see they were having a 60% – 75% sale!!! I just could not believe it! I bought everything – duvet covers, sheets, cushions, curtains, etc, at just a fraction of the cost!!! My husband was pleasantly surprised at the transformation when he walked into our bedroom the next day. He described it a bridal suite and was so happy that he gave me back all the money that I spent!!! God cares, even about your bedroom… WOMAN!!!
Quality and Class
Now back to the subject, the second part of Proverb 31:22 describes the woman’s personal clothing. There is no indication that her clothing was expensive, but that she had a look of quality and class. There are women who buy very expensive and trendy clothes that don’t look too good on them and yet, there are others who shop in bargain shops or the market and mix and match clothes so well that they look a million pounds. I believe women should help each other choose clothes, etc. If there is a woman, a friend perhaps, whose clothes and dress sense you admire, feel free to seek help from them. (If you need tips write to me)
A Christian woman’s clothing should be clean, well ironed and appropriate. Her outward appearance should be an example, testimony, representation and witness of Christ. After all, we are His special women! We should reflect our priesthood status. There is nothing more unsightly, unappealing and inappropriate than half-naked Christian women trying to be ‘modern’. A young man once said on television that this way of dressing could be compared to a half wrapped Christmas present – the elements of surprise, excitement and appeal are lost because the gift is exposed. I believe this is one of the reasons why the Church needs role models to teach and guide the younger women. Young woman, trust me, you will not attract the kind of man you need to marry by exposing yourself. Yes, you will attract men all right, but the wrong type.
It is also important for a Christian woman to practise good hygiene and maintain healthy skin and hair care. For rural women who cannot afford deodorant or anti-perspirants, I often recommend lime or ash from their coal-pots (yes, it works). A godly woman should also possess gracious manners, as this makes her outward appearance more appealing and attractive to others – a definite witness of Christ in her.
Living From the Inside Out
The “virtuous woman” also possessed inner beauty. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised”. The preceding verses tell us that “Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied); and her husband boasts of and praises her, [saying], Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness], but you excel them all.”
Since she received so much praise from both her husband and children, it is logical to deduce that she exhibited unique character traits, which she could only have acquired by a reverential walk with and fear of God. She was not praised because of her physical beauty, but because of the strength of character she possessed. This woman clearly manifested the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Thus, the source of her inner beauty was God, and the reflection of God within her drew others to her. 1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us that what draws people to us and the Lord is “the hidden person of the heart.” We are, therefore, supposed to live “from the inside out,” as someone put it.
Finally, I would like to quote from an article on beauty in The Woman’s Study Bible, “A woman’s countenance is often a mirror of her heart. When she abides in God’s love, her features tend to soften and lines become tempered. An inner peace and joy are reflected upon her face. A woman’s actions and attitudes are often an indication of where her roots are planted. When a woman’s heart is rooted in peace and joy (Gal. 5:22,23), her outward countenance radiates vitality, enthusiasm, love and a deep sense of well-being – something no amount of make-up, perfume, professional styling, high fashion, or personal fitness programme can create. Having the Holy Spirit within empowers a woman with vitality and enthusiasm, making her a magnet to other people. True beauty comes from within and is manifested by pure motives and a generous, unselfish spirit towards others. Jesus alone can establish such a wellspring of love… No beautification regime or stylish clothes can mask an unattractive heart, unkind words, or hurtful actions.”
By Apostle Jennifer Abigail Wallace