“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 3:3-6)
I think we need to talk about it.
These verses are not popular, especially today in a world where people are jumping on every opportunity to refute the Bible. In situations where Scripture does not easily align with what we see around us (which, by the way, is how it should be) Christians are accused of being outdated, close minded, or prejudiced. Yes, the Bible was written a long time ago to a radically different cultural atmosphere; but the true Author knew exactly who His audience would be. Passages like this are no accident.
If we love God and want to honor Him, then this is how He says to do it. Let’s not run from it or ignore it, but press into the controversy and wrestle with it as an opportunity to better understand the character of God.
Let’s understand a few things first, which are universally true when tackling hard truths in Scripture. One, the character of God is consistent. He does not change His mind like we do. His love and His mercy and His holiness hold as true today as they did two thousand years ago, and He will continue when everything else fades away. God did not decide on this day that He was going to change His nature. Two, God is very clearly an advocate and defender of women. One needs to look no further than the life of Jesus to understand that He was the loudest champion of women in a time period when they were regarded as little more than property. Never in Jesus’ life did He belittle, devalue, or silence a woman; rather, He stood in their defense, pleaded their cause, and stood in the gap between them and men who overlooked their worth. And, as stated before, that reality did not change for these verses.
If this is true, then why is Jesus (through Peter) concerned with what you wear? This topic can generate a lot of heated conversation with Christians and non-Christians which is a very good thing. Let’s take a look.
In the beginning, when men and women were cursed by sin (as in, they chose sin over God on purpose) the way that sin affected them was different. For men, sin cursed their labor; everything that they would accomplish or receive in life would be received through work, and it would be a struggle. Therefore, men have to be careful that their worth does not come from what they accomplish, because that is how sin fell on men. Women were different, however. This is not to say that women don’t feel the weight of performance too (because that is a huge temptation for many, including me) but simply that sin would affect them in another area. For women, sin would pervert relationships. According to Genesis 3, God warns us that women are tempted to see their value in how others choose to see them and that this would be a constant balance. And as much as it is always a danger to generalize a large group of people, it is very clear in today’s world that women still deal with this.
So, in light of that, what point is Jesus making in this passage?
As a woman, we crave being valued. But sometimes we settle instead for being noticed. If we cannot get their value by who we are, we can usually get their attention by how we look.
Is this a command meant to restrict us? Absolutely not. I see nowhere in Scripture that Christ is concerned with exactly how much of your skin is showing or how expensive your clothes are. Rather, this is a lesson on identity.
You will be tempted to believe that the only way anyone will value you is to make sure people think you are beautiful. You will be told lies that your height, weight, hair texture, shape of your eyes or language you speak determines your worth. You will be told that your past, your sexual experience or lack thereof, the money you spend on clothing, or the amount of people who like you have a say on your value. Those are simply lies.
You are so much more than a body to be noticed. You are a soul to be valued. Some look to the body because that is their only hope, as it is when you do not know Him- but you are so much more than that. The truth is, you have eternity embedded in you. If you are in Christ, long after all of those things fade, the truly beautiful part of you will be rejoicing, healed and whole and completely free in the presence of true beauty, who is Christ.
Daughter of God, to look at only your outward beauty would be missing the best part. Stop letting yourself be treated like the part of you that fades. Be more than a body. Be more than a face. Be His instead.
“Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” Psalm 34:5