Yesterday I promised that I would write more on how the culture’s (and the church’s) obsession with outward appearance causes favoritism in the church. First, let’s look at what James 2:1-4 says about favoritism:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
This verse is speaking primarily about showing favoritism to poor and rich, but do you catch how that distinction is made? By the way the two men are dressed. We step onto dangerous ground when we start judging by outward appearances. We elevate ourselves as the judge, saying that this person is good enough, but this person is not. Do you see what that statement truly says? “Who God has created you to be is not good enough for my standards.” Such an attitude is an atrocity in the heart of a believer.
Here’s where I think this obsession comes into play for both men and women. For the men, I think there is a wide acceptance in our culture that men are created as visual creatures, therefore it is okay for them to value women based on their beauty. For the men, I think God is encouraging you to think beyond that in Proverbs 31. God is telling you that charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting. Here’s how this value of women based on their beauty may play out. You walk into a room, perhaps Bible study. You are introduced to a girl who is homely looking and you are polite, and probably even kind, but show little care and affection for getting to know her. Then you are introduced to a girl who is downright breathtaking. You think, wow, I would really like to get to know this girl better. So you ask her questions, you are charming and engaging. You help her to feel cared for and welcome at the study. Do you see how that is partiality?
I would encourage you to pray hard and seek diligently to train your minds in what is beautiful according to the Lord and to value people and care for them because God has created them uniquely in His image and He values and cares for them, not because of what they can provide for you (such as a future relationship, or make you the envy of all your friends, or she could introduce you to other good-looking friends of hers).
For the ladies. I can only say that in my heart I find it hard to honestly say, “I value and care deeply about my apperances, but not about yours.” When I find that I am caught up in trying to be conformed to the world’s standard of beauty, I am keenly aware of the way other people look and whether or not that measures up to my standard. I judge and assign value to people based on how attractive they are to me. And I do the same with men. I have fought hard in the past years to train my mind to equate godliness with beauty and sinfulness with ugliness. I can look at Brad Pitt and say, “He is not attractive” because he does not fear God nor honor Him.
Now am I trying to say that beautiful people cannot be godly? By no means! In Scripture you see Joseph, Sarah, Rachel, and Esther described as physically attractive, and I myself have been privileged to have some very godly, and very beautiful friends. But am I warning that our culture has an unhealthy obsession with worldly beauty and it has made it’s way, almost completely unnoticed, into our churches? Yes. If you want some other good resources on this, please check out a few of these blogs/articles/resources….
Beauty Because of God’s Handiwork by Carolyn McCulley
Imperishable Beauty by Dan Wold
Our Looks and God’s Word by Carolyn McCulley
Physical Appearance by Dan Wold
Whom Do You Fear?by Carolyn McCulley
Present Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice by John Piper
Resources from Al Mohler on The Nature of True Beauty