One of my favorite lesser known characters in the Old Testament is a woman named Abigail. I Samuel 25:3 describes her “as an intelligent and beautiful woman” and her husband Nabal as “surly and mean in his dealings.” It’s a great story, and if you are not familiar with it you may want to read it. But the contrast between the two challenges me to consider what real beauty is.
Real beauty is both outer and inner. It’s not only what we can see externally, but what we can see and sense that is inside a person. Writing to wives, I Peter 3:3 and 4 encourages, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 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.”
Some readers may view what Peter says as chauvinistic, but I think the same basic principle can and should be applied to husbands and men as well. When it comes to men we don’t usually call it beauty, but isn’t being handsome basically the same idea?
Peter isn’t prohibiting us from doing things to make us look good, but warning against making the external our total focus. One writer observes, “Outward beauty is secondary to the beauty of character.” And back to the idea of applying this to men as well, we speak and hear of a man’s beautiful spirit or heart.
General speaking, with the passing of time external beauty fades. At the age of 66 I certainly am not the hunk I was when Jan and I got married 43 years ago! But just as generally speaking external beauty fades with the passing of time, ideally internal beauty grows as time goes on.
Most of us realize internal beauty often overshadows external beauty; and a lack of internal beauty can negate external beauty. We all have met people we thought at first were good-looking only to realize after we got to know them they were not. And the opposite, of course, is also true.
How do we cultivate real beauty? Simply stated, we cultivate real beauty by becoming more and more the kind of people God calls and wants us to be. We do that by inviting the Lord to work in us, as well as cooperating with Him, to make changes on the inside to become more and more beautiful. I think He does it and will do it through His Spirit, His Word, circumstances, and His people.
What do you think?
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