When I was a college freshman, I learned how looks can be deceiving. One night in the dimly-lit dorm lobby, I met a young lady that I thought was relatively attractive, so I asked her out. The next day when I drove to her home, she answered the door, & I hardly recognized her–the bright sunlight could not conceal what she looked like behind the thick makeup.
We’re preoccupied with outward appearance, especially in this image-driven society. We’re all vain to some degree–overly-concerned with our own appearance. There’s tremendous pressure especially on young people to attain movie star & supermodel looks. Doesn’t it seem that nearly all celebrities have altered their appearance in some ways to look better or younger? Maybe you’ve seen pictures of celebrities without all those extra cosmetic enhancements. They often look like average, normal people. I’m not talking about typical everyday enhancements but changing their appearances in major ways.
First, some use the simple fakery of airbrushing, filters, & digital adjustments. Plenty of apps like that are available to everyone. Second, they can use amazing special adhesives for instant, temporary facelifts as well as applying copious amounts of cosmetics to deceive. Third is the extreme route of plastic surgery. You’ve seen some of those “before & after” pictures, right? And let’s not even consider a dysmorphia or a dysphoria that leads to anorexia or cross-dressing (what’s been rebranded as being “transgender”).
Outward appearance is overrated. What does God say about outward appearance? “Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear–but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Pet. 3:3-4, ESV). The word “adorning” comes from the Greek word, “kosmos”–something arranged & orderly. It means “of this world, or worldly.” It’s where we get the words “cosmetics” & “cosmopolitan.” Are you beautiful where it really counts? The Apostle Paul adds that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works” (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Modesty. Decency. Humility. How opposite this is from the world that focuses on attracting attention & arousing desire!
Before Penny & I were married, we were invited to a friend’s church which didn’t allow women to cut their hair, wear jewelry or pants or make-up. The preacher must have spotted us & saw that we were different–Penny didn’t have super long hair, probably was wearing jeans, & had on some light make-up. He abruptly started preaching against it. And Penny nearly had to restrain me from standing up & calling him out! I was livid! While that church’s intentions to honor Scripture may have been good, their application of it was legalistic. The point of the passage is to show that we should place value on the inner things that matter–not the external superficial things. I think that preacher was acting in a pretty ugly way (and I almost did too!). Long ago the Proverbs pointed out: “…Beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30).
We need to be more concerned with the soul than what’s superficially skin deep. Regardless of our physical flaws & shortcomings, God loves us deeply because He made us! You have value not because of the way you look but because of your soul. The Bible says that: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). It’s more important to BE good than look good. So go ahead–conceal & compress & style & groom to enhance your appearance–but you don’t have to narcissistically display or draw a lot of attention to yourself, or fish for compliments to gain self-worth. You can’t airbrush, augment or filter your true self because you can’t deceive God or even fake out people for very long.
Through spiritual rebirth in Christ, He does an extreme makeover by shaping you to better reflect the His own nature–love, kindness, encouragement, compassion, generosity, & faithfulness. That’s why the symbol for this extreme makeover could be the caterpillar changing into the butterfly–there’s a metamorphosis: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17)! God changes you from the inside out! That’s what makes you a beautiful soul.