3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 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” (I Peter 2:3-4).
“Beauty is only skin deep.” This proverb was first recorded in 1613 by English poet and essayist Sir Thomas Overbury in which he wrote, “All the carnal beauty of my wife is but skin deep.” The meaning of his phrase was that a woman’s physical beauty is superficial and a person’s character is more important than how they look.
There is no question that physical appearance dominates the contemporary culture. It does not matter if you are a woman or a man, there is a preoccupation with a preferred physical form which is advertised and promoted by magazines, fitness clubs and fashion. More than about being healthy, it is about achieving an idealized image of a man or woman.
While one’s physical appearance is overemphasized within the culture, the pursuit of character is an afterthought, if it is even thought of at all. Character is defined as possessing moral excellence. It is being a person who pursues the highest of moral goals intellectually, emotionally and behaviorally.
In speaking to wives, the Apostle Peter hit upon this theme of beauty being only skin deep. He encourages women to not be fixated about their outward appearance. The word adorning (κόσμος; kosmos) means beauty or to make beautiful. God says to not pursue a beauty which is only external: such as the way a woman styles her hair, the clothes she wears, or the jewelry she places on her body.
Rather, true beauty, orderliness and adornment is determined by the way an individual thinks, feels and behaves in a way which glorifies God. Peter gives two examples of such a godly character. It is to possess a gentle (πραΰς; praus) or humble personality along with a quiet (ἡσύχιος; hesychios), peaceful and non-quarrelsome spirit.
Some of the most physically attractive people in the world have characters which have made their lives a train wreck. This has resulted in broken marriages, addictions, immorality, and illness for many of the so-called “beautiful people.” They may appear to have it all, but if so, why do so many seem so unhappy?
God views Christ-like character in a woman as precious and valuable. As King Lemuel said in Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Soli deo Gloria!