Again and again I feel like God slaps me in the face with our culture’s obsession with beauty, but even more disturbingly, my own obsession with it. Anyone who knows me knows that this is one of my soap boxes. I’m sure I don’t communicate often enough that it is a soap box of mine because of how miserably I fail to fight it. I like couples who look good together, I like when women look put together, I like to look at and be seen with beautiful people, I prize celebrities for their beauty, I judge people on their outward appearance. I fail at it. But that doesn’t mean that I lie down and accept that that’s just the way our culture functions, and that my mind is drowning in what the culture says is beautiful. Oh how I wish that I had spiritual eyes to see what true beauty is! How I wish I could look at a gentle and quiet spirit, and prize that as beautiful. How I wish that I read “Charm is deceitful, ad beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praise,” as a warning and calling to something more excellent, and not just a consolation!
It seems to me the biggest snares in this issue of vanity and worldiness that is rampant in our culture, and pervasive in the Christian community, are 1) the fear of man; 2) love of self; and 3) favoritism.
Carolyn McCully writes, “It’s not accidental that Scripture pits the lure of physical beauty and all the praise it can elicit against the fear of the Lord. Physical attraction gets a lot of attention and praise — from other human beings. But that’s not what our Creator praises us for. He will not praise us for the superficial, but for the eternal — our qualities and virtues that, by His grace, reflect our growth through His redemptive efforts.”
The fear of man lays a snare, but the man who fears the Lord is safe (Prov. 29:25). If you trust in your beauty because you know that it will get you praise and glory from men, expect to be tripped up. At some point you will find yourself in a snare. So fear God instead. Care about what God cares about, which is the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That is precious to God (1 Peter 3:3-4)!
Inextricably linked to vanity and fear of man is love of self. You can’t fear man without loving yourself. You can’t be vain unless you think on, ponder, and care deeply about what others think of you and how to get others to praise you. Here is a definition of vanity….
|1.||excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit: Failure to be elected was a great blow to his vanity.|
|2.||an instance or display of this quality or feeling.|
|3.||something about which one is vain.|
|4.||lack of real value; hollowness; worthlessness: the vanity of a selfish life.|
|5.||something worthless, trivial, or pointless.|
Even in it’s very definition it is worthless. I hope and pray that God rises up a people in this generation (hopefully I am one of them) that fights back against this pursuit of worthless things! Until we pursue Christ and find Him to be our treasure and satisfaction we will continue to find that everything we treasure crumbles to ashes in our hands. Beauty will crumble to ashes, riches will crumble to ashes, trends and fads will crumble to ashes, beautiful homes will crumble to ashes, superficial relationships will crumble to ashes. Isaiah says it like this in Isaiah 55:2-3,
“Why do you spend your money
for that which is not bread,
and your labor
for that which does not satisfy?
Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear that your soul may live.”
Oh I beg that you would at least consider what I am saying, and think whether or not you are guilty of worldliness. Maybe you are guilty of it in the way that I am describing- being consumed with what the world says is beautiful, or you are vain. Or perhaps it comes out in a completely different way. I don’t know what it looks like for you. But I know that it is empty and worthless and robs God of His rightful glory! He is worth so much more than anything this world has to offer! And when we seek after this world and allow our affections to run after it, we show that we believe that God is not supremely desirable and valuable.
Tomorrow I will post more on how this plays into favoritism within the church…..