Is it okay to want to be pretty?
There’s so much talk about “inner beauty” in Christian circles, telling us not to worry about outward appearance because “the Lord looks at the heart.” But within each of us is this desire to be beautiful. Is this wrong?
Some Christians believe it is. But looking at what the Bible says about beauty and creation, I think we see a different story unfold.
Beauty is created by God to be appreciated and embraced
We might hear this well-known passage from the Sermon on the Mount cited as reason not to worry about outward appearance: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29) We concentrate on Jesus’ command not to worry about our clothes, but there’s something unstated here that is just as important. God created the flowers of the field to be beautiful. God doesn’t just appreciate beauty; He initiates it!
The problem is not beauty in and of itself, but anxiety over becoming beautiful. When we are so concerned with appearance that it destroys the peace God intends, then we’ve missed the mark.
Good things can be idols, too
Good things—beautiful things—can become idols when we shift our focus away from what matters most. External appearance is one of those things. But there is hope for us—a hope that Paul expressed in his letter to the Corinthian church: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Though our outward appearance cannot last forever, inwardly we are being made new. Every day we are made new by the Spirit of God in us, made more beautiful in character and spirit, even though our outward beauty will be altered by age.
We don’t idolize appearance because our spirits are the most important thing. But this doesn’t mean our appearance doesn’t matter.
We are image bearers, not images ourselves
God made us in His image—man and woman were both made in the image of God. This expresses a spiritual component, of course, but it also makes us distinct physically. There is an obvious difference between us and animals! As image bearers, we have both an honor and a responsibility. We are honored to bear God’s image, but because of this, we can’t forget our appearance is not about us.
Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We were fashioned by God to be in relationship with Him and to do good works. Our image-bearer status has a purpose, and our outward beauty is only part of who we are. We should not lose sight of which takes priority!
Don’t let your adornment be merely external
Lastly, in 1 Peter 3:3-4, the apostle Peter tells women of the early church to “not let their adornment be merely external,” citing examples like gold, pearls and expensive clothes. Was Peter forbidding us from beauty? Are we no longer allowed to pursue looking lovely?
Some churches do believe this, but historical context indicates more freedom. There were women in the church who flaunted their wealth (expensive hair, makeup, jewelry, clothes) and made others in the congregation feel less-than. Their attire was based in pride, not humility. This—not the actual clothing—was the real issue. God’s not so worried about clothing as He is about the motives of our hearts.
So can you want to feel pretty? Absolutely. God created beauty, and when your heart is in the right place, there is nothing wrong with adding to the beauty God gave you with fashion and makeup. But when you start pursuing these things to impress people or to make yourself feel better about something, then your motives no longer honor Him. Keep beauty in its place. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.