The Word on Women: 1 Peter 3:3-4

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The Word On Women is a chance to explore, not ignore, difficult passages in the Bible regarding women.  Join us as we discover the beauty of Biblical womanhood and see how God’s flawless design for his daughters applies to each generation and culture.

By Kathy Johnston

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- 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.”

Let’s face it, we live in a world that places tremendous worth on outward appearance and beauty.  Amazon alone shows 14,432 results for books on health, fitness, dieting, beauty and style.  There are approximately 86,000 beauty establishments in the US alone. The projected revenue of the cosmetic industry in the US in 2016 is $62 billion dollars!  Based on those figures, I would say outward appearance is an important investment to a lot of women.  

To be clear, it’s not wrong to pay attention to our outward appearance. There’s nothing wrong or unnatural about outward beauty.  

Unfortunately, some Christians have taken this scripture and others like it to mean that it’s wrong to make yourself beautiful in any way. And so they focus on being plain and uncomely on the outside.  But God created beauty!  It’s all around us!  The colors in the rainbow… The intricate design and colors of flowers, insects, and birds… Variegated colors of vegetables… The beauty of a sleeping child.  He could have made everything just plain and functional with no beauty at all, but God intended there to be beauty in the world, and He created us to appreciate and recognize it.  

But the point, here in 1 Peter, is to examine what it is we place our focus on.  Outward beauty does not last.  Our focus should be on the beauty that lasts and does not fade.

During the time this letter was written to the dispersed Christians in the AD 60’s, there was a very distinct culture that wasn’t too different than our own.  The women of that time identified their social and economic status by the way they braided their hair and the jewelry that they wore.  So even if they weren’t necessarily wealthy or upper class, they could act like they were by the way they did their hair or by how they dressed so others would be impressed.  

Sound familiar?  In our culture, it could be how carefully we determine which picture to post on Instagram in order to make our ‘followers” think our lives are perfect, when in reality, they could be a mess. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t post pictures on Instagram, I love Instagram!  I’m just saying we need to check our true motives for doing so.  

The Greek word for adorning is kosmos, which means “a harmonious or orderly arrangement or decoration”. The world places so much value on the outward adornment or “orderly arrangement”.   But Peter is exhorting the women of his day, and us as well, to not focus solely on the outward adornment of external selves, but to look at the way our inner self is adorned or arranged.  Our focus needs to be less on how or what others see or think about us and be more occupied with what God sees and thinks about us.  

God isn’t looking for someone who has the perfect body, is stunningly beautiful and is completely put together at all times. He is looking for women who have hearts that are adorned with gentleness, love, compassion and a desire to know Him.  That is very precious in God’s sight. The word precious here means very costly, excellent, of great price and extremely expensive. And this kind of beauty is unfading.  It’s imperishable!

I can say with confidence that no matter how outwardly beautiful you may be now, someday, that beauty is going to fade.  People in this country spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year trying to keep their beauty from fading but nothing can prevent it. But there’s a beauty that we can have that will never fade, the imperishable beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a shy and quiet person.  Peter is not talking about a personality type here.  He is talking about the inward person of the heart.  You can have a loud and boisterous personality and still have a quiet and gentle spirit in the inward person of the heart.  

Gentle spirit in the original language translates to meek: a quiet, undisturbed, immoveable, steadfast spirit.  A person that is sure of her identity in Christ and doesn’t become anxious or confused when difficulty comes.  A woman who knows her God and confidently trusts Him.  As she trusts Him, she exudes a beauty that the world can’t produce and will never fade.  When others around her are panicking, she moves with strength, dignity, compassion, love and obedience to the One she trusts, even when she can’t see the outcome of the situation she is facing.  

I’m going to be frank here, okay?  I’m at the age now where sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder; who is that person staring back at me with all that saggy skin and wrinkles?   I still feel like the same person on the inside, but let me tell you, things aren’t where they used to be on the outside!  There are wrinkles and cellulite in places I couldn’t have imagined just 5 or 6 years ago! And only my beautician knows the true color of my hair!

But kidding aside, I want that unfading beauty of the inward person of the heart, the place that’s described as the seat of our passions, desires, affections, thoughts… The place where our will and character reside. I want that gentle and quiet spirit that is steadfastly immoveable in my trust and obedience to God even in the midst of a storm.  That is what God sees as a beauty of great worth and that is the kind of beauty that will never fade.


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