Everyone likes beautiful things and beautiful people. We as human beings enjoy things that are pleasing to the eye. Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Da Vinci’s Pieta are two works of beauty that come to my mind. Not only do we enjoy taking in great beauty with our senses, but most of us also do things to try to appear pleasing to the eyes of others. It’s almost instinctive. But how important is this in determining the worth of a human being – particularly the worth of a woman?
The Miss America Pageant was recently held. My friends and I used to watch it every year as children and teenagers. Then for weeks afterward, we would have our own Miss America pageants. We would make tiaras out of tinfoil and use our grandmothers’ quilts as regal robes. It was great fun!
But as our generation has aged, we have noticed a problem. Beauty pageants, from the ones for pre-school girls to the ones for young adult women, focus on a sexualized construct of femininity. And with all of the plastic surgeries and severe age limits for the adult women and the temporary dentures and wigs made for the pre-schoolers, these beauty pageants also promote a hypocritical opportunism.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a prude by any means. My mother was a beautician and I grew up, almost literally, in a beauty shop. I love my make-up, hair spray, new clothes, and especially new jewelry. And, like most women, I enjoy attention from a man. But in spite of that, there is something in our society today that almost demands an immodest behavior and dress from women and it bothers me – especially as a Christian woman.
These televised pageants and other media presentations often place a narrow view as to what constitutes female beauty and places great pressure on many women to conform to that impossible standard. And judging these little girls and young women on the sexualization of their physical bodies causes other, more important attributes, such as intelligence, honor, gentleness, stalwart grace, and strength of spirit to be not associated with femininity and therefore not be attributes to be aspired to.
Here is an example. Pageant officials always call swimsuit portion of the beauty contest the “physical fitness” portion. There is nothing wrong with encouraging physical fitness and even rewarding it for that matter. Americans today are growing more and more obese by the year. We have no regard for our health, only our fleshly desires. There is nothing wrong with recognizing those who maintain good health and allowing them to encourage others.
However, one does not have to strip a young woman to virtual nakedness and make her march around a stage in high heels and scrutinizing her leg length and breast size to determine if she is physically fit or not. She could wear a modest outfit of jeans and a tee shirt and you could tell the level of her fitness just as easily.
They claim to reward these girls with scholarship monies for their “physical fitness.” Scholarship monies should come from scholarly attributes such as intellect, goal setting, wisdom, integrity, service to the community, and experience in a given field.
The Biblical construct for femininity is neither sexualized nor hypocritical. It is gender-based, obviously. Being feminine is for women. And while there are many instances in the Bible of people wrongly prioritizing the outward fleeting beauty of women as total beauty, the Bible itself speaks to a different source of a woman’s feminine nature and what makes her beautiful.
Proverbs 31:30 - “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Our most important feminine attribute is our fear of the LORD)
Genesis 1:27 - “God created mankind in His Own image. In His own image he created him – both male and female He created mankind." (As a woman, I am to reflect the image of Almighty and Holy God.)
Philippians 2:3 - “Don’t do anything through strife with others or glory-seeking vanity, but rather in the mindset of setting others in higher esteem than ourselves.” (As a woman, I shouldn’t set myself above other women because of my looks, intelligence, Christian values, or any other characteristic I choose. Life is not a competition to see who can exalt themselves vainly above others.)
1 Peter 3:3-4 - “A woman’s adorning of herself shouldn’t be outward. Hairstyles, jewelry, clothes….this doesn’t make the woman. It should be the hidden qualities of the heart – a meek and quiet spirit – which greatly pleases God and He considers to be a high price”(Self-explanatory)
1 Corinthians 3:16 - “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy him, for the temple of God holy, and you are that temple.” (As a woman, all of my actions should reflect holiness.)
Galatians 5:19 - “These are the works of the flesh: immorality, impurity, indecency…..”(When you dress up 5-year-old children in outfits that immoral women wear and call it cute, that is impure and indecent.)
Proverbs 11:22 - “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” (Superficial outward appearances are not what constitute the worth of a woman.)
Matthew 23:27 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. You are hypocrites. You look good on the outside, like a whitewashed tombstone, but inside you are impure and unclean like dead bones!” (Jesus said that the superficial was…….superficial.)
1 Samuel 16:7 - “Don’t be impressed with Saul’s handsome face or tall stature, because I have rejected him. You don’t look at people the way that I do. Mankind looks at the outward appearance, but God looks into the heart.”(Self-explanatory)
There were quite a few beauty contests in the Bible. And none of them were stemming from anything good or Godly - only humanism.
Queen Esther was made to undergo a year’s worth of superficial beauty treatments and to physically compete for King Xerxe’s attention. It's reminds one of The Bachelor today, no? Yet what is she to be remembered for? She rescued her people. I believe her famous line is, “Pray for me…..and if I perish, I perish.”
When King David was dying, he was having chills. Did they put more blankets on him? No. They thought about sharing body heat. Well, that was fine. He had lots of wives that he could have shared body heat with. But they didn’t do that. That had a beauty contest. They scoured the countryside for the most beautiful, young, virgin that they could find. By the time that they put her in the bed with him, he was not responsive.
In fact, in the Old Testament, a woman’s three best qualities were being beautiful, young, and being a virgin. When Job gets his family restored, it said that he had three daughters and there were no women in the land who were as beautiful as they were.
It’s funny that in the New Testament, the description of women and wives are very different. It seems that Godly character and not the ability to win a beauty contest is what God is interested in for women.
Luke 1:28 – The angel shared with Mary that she had found favor with God. Just as many women had found favor with mortal men for their physical attributes, Mary had found the ultimate favor - favor with God for something that could best be described as great and humble faith in Him and her belief in His Trustworthiness.
Matthew 27:18 – Jesus describes the woman who anoints Him with oil as having beautiful actions. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Just like Job’s daughters, this woman was given a permanent place in history, but for a different reason. Jesus said wherever the gospel would be preached, people would hear about her beautiful actions.
It is a woman’s lot in this life to adorn herself and take care of herself and to make herself as attractive as possible to find favor with men. There is no denying that. Be that good, bad, or whatever your opinion of it, it is a reality. And we should take care of our bodies and ourselves and we should want to please our spouses. However, the manner in which our young girls and young women are being taught by the world to dress and behave is frightening and the favor that they are finding with men is not a respectful favor.
I submit that it is of a greater importance as a woman to find favor with God and to be so awesomely blessed as to have Jesus Christ, Himself, say of her, “…she has done a beautiful thing to me." May we as women, as we strive for all kinds of beauty, strive for the Biblical beauty - fear of the Lord and obedience - that will win the favor of Jesus Christ.
The men in our lives who truly love us will always find us beautiful - no matter what. We always find them handsome, do we not?
Therefore, may we live, dress, speak, and serve others so that God, Himself, deems us beautiful indeed.