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Female Beauty Matters

| May 28, 2011

beauty matters

Recently, several bloggers tackled a highly sensitive and debated topic— the need for women to attend to their beauty and appearance. I published a post, extracted from my Girls Gone Wise book, which examined some Scriptural directives for women on what and what not to wear. I came under fire for focusing on such mundane matters rather than really important stuff—like comforting the sick and war-torn.

I admit it. The topic of woman’s appearance is trivial compared to the war on the other side of the world – but given the reality of our culture, it’s a battle that hits much closer to home.

The Debate about Female Beauty

Tim Challies, a popular Christian blogger, published his thoughts on women “letting themselves go.” While he was careful to stress that “the beauty the Bible commends is the beauty of character more than a beauty of appearance,” he suggested that inner and outer beauty are actually inexorably connected, and concluded that women need to make the effort to remain beautiful to their husbands.

Another blogger, Rachel Held Evans, was disappointed by Challies’ refrain that “outer beauty reflects inner beauty” and that “a good wife will keep up appearances for her husband choosing an attractive sweater instead of the stained Mickey Mouse t-shirt.” She argued that

The Bible never demands that women be beautiful nor does it justify a man’s infidelity because his wife “let herself go.” If anything, it presents a fairly consistent picture of beauty as a passing pleasure. Challies and company are free to teach that women should stay beautiful for their husbands, but I wish they would stop referring to this teaching as “biblical” when it is not.

The discussion surrounding this issue was intense. Challies’ and Evans’ posts attracted several hundred comments. When Mark Driscoll mentioned my “What Not to Wear” post on twitter, Girls Gone Wise got flooded with so many visits that it temporarily downed the site. Incidentally, Driscoll took a whole lot of flak, a few years ago, when he offered to take one for the guys, by decrying pastor’s wives for “letting themselves go.”

A Sensitive Issue for both Sexes

Woman’s appearance is a sensitive issue, because from a man’s perspective, a wife’s effort to be beautiful for her husband speaks of her care and respect for him, and communicates her desire to be sexually attractive and available for him. Making a reasonable effort to care for and beautify herself is a demonstration of her devotion. In his view, a lack of effort in this regard demonstrates a lack of concern for him. Bottom line – whether we like it our not, it’s important to our guys. Challies points out:

In all of these things, a woman ought to understand (and believe) that what a man finds (or ought to find) beautiful in his wife is more about care and respect and effort and availability than it is about figure and proportion. In too many cases a woman who lets herself go is simply symbolizing that she has let her marriage go. Conversely, care for herself shows her care for her husband, respect for him, love for him.

It’s even a touchier subject for women, because as Evans points out, “many are so burdened by the impossible standards imposed by our culture that they feel as though their efforts will never be enough.” Like Evans, I have never in my life met a woman who did not want to be beautiful for her husband.

When it comes to beauty, women react against the burden of expectation, the fear that they will fall short of the desired standard, the inevitability of decay, and the resentment that the script is different for men than women. A woman wants to be loved and accepted as she is. From a wife’s perspective, a husband’s attraction to/desire for beauty can magnify her feelings of personal inadequacy and insecurity, and she may fear that his love/acceptance depends on her ability to measure up.

Approaching the Discussion from a Different Angle

So who is right—Challies or Evans? Was Driscoll entirely off base in suggesting that it might negatively affect a pastor if his wife lets herself go? Or were his critics misguided in insisting that a woman’s lack of attention to her appearance should in no way impact her husband’s propensity to stray?

The stalemate in the discussion often boils down to the fact that women resent the fact that men are so attracted to beauty, while men resent the fact that women don’t make the effort to properly attend to it. So how do we resolve the impasse? In my opinion, we can’t hope to make sense of the question until we view woman’s beauty and beautification through the lens of the biblical typology of gender, and the eternal, cosmic meaning of sexuality.

Beauty has a Cosmic Meaning

Psalm 45 is a song celebrating the marriage of a Hebrew king to a foreign princess. But it’s also a messianic prophecy pointing to the relationship between Christ the King and His Church-Bride. The Psalmist notes that the king “desires her beauty”, and that the princess, in turn, makes herself beautiful—“all-glorious”— for him.

Scripture uses this imagery to illustrate how we are to make ourselves beautiful for our King. The Lord wants us to clothe ourselves in fine, spotless garments of righteousness—in holy character and holy deeds. (Rev. 19:7—8) He wants us to be beautiful, and through Jesus, we are!  The great story of the gospel is that God gives us the opportunity to clothe ourselves in the beauty of Christ. He provides the beauty- and we don’t need to work or strive to measure up, nor do we need fear that we will fail to meet the standard.

So what does all this have to do with our discussion about female appearance? It has a great deal to do with it. We live—as C.S. Lewis coined it—in the “shadow lands.” The earthly, physical realities of our lives are but shadows—copies—of true and heavenly realities (e.g. Heb. 8:5; 9:24-25). The physical and temporal exist to point us to the spiritual and eternal. And nowhere is this more the case than in the relationship between male and female.

Human sexuality is a parable —a testimony to the character of God and to His spectacular plan of redemption through Jesus. This spiritual truth is so magnificent that God chose to put it on display permanently. Everywhere. Men were created to reflect the strength, love and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the grace and beauty of the Bride He redeemed.

I believe that men are “wired” to be attracted to beauty in women because our Heavenly Bridegroom desires the beauty of His Bride. And I believe that deep down, every woman wants to feel beautiful and desired. This is the way that God has created us as male and female—and the illustration points to something far bigger than ourselves.

Beauty is More Than a Passing Pleasure

Many scorn beauty as “a passing pleasure.” They think that the illusive, fragile, fading, temporary, and wrinkle-and-stretch-mark-prone nature of female beauty indicates that men (and women) should just “get over it” and focus on more important things.

Beauty is indeed a passing pleasure. But I think there’s a deeper meaning here that we dare not trivialize. The symbolic importance of beauty/beautification is not unlike the symbolic importance of marriage. Woman’s beauty, and all the broken, distorted ideas about it, will not so much pass, as give way—in the end—to that to which beauty points. There will be no marriage in heaven because the shadow will give way to the reality. Likewise, the illusive, fading, temporary beauty of women will one day give way to the breathtaking, spectacular, eternal beauty of the Bride of Christ.

The gospel doesn’t negate man’s desire to enjoy beauty and woman’s desire to be beautiful, but it does shift the focus of our attention beyond the symbol to that to which it points. When we consider the jaw-dropping picture painted by Scripture, it would seem that our Lord finds our desire for beauty not too strong, but too weak. We get all wrapped up with the earthly and the superficial and temporal, while the supernatural and eternal is offered us. Like an ignorant tourist who spreads out his towel under the picture of the umbrella on the sign, because he does not know that the sign points to the beach. We are far too easily pleased. (Again, a favorite C. S. Lewis thought)

Embracing Beauty

Followers of Christ know that the symbol is not even fractionally as important as the reality. But they understand that it is not totally unimportant either.

So girls, let’s give the guys a break. Let’s stop condemning them for feeling attracted to beauty and wanting us to make a reasonable and sustained effort in that department. And guys… give us a break. Please understand how very personal and painful this issue can be for women. It’s very difficult to stay engaged in fighting a battle we know we are destined to lose. The beauty of our youth will inevitably fade. And most of us don’t have a hope of even remotely resembling the airbrushed model on the cover of the magazine.

And let’s always remember that the whole issue of female beauty is merely a signpost. It’s reminder to all of us—male and female—that the King desires our beauty, and that we ought to carefully attend to our character, and to making ourselves spiritually beautiful for that great destination wedding on the other shore.

In my opinion, the answer to the conundrum surrounding the discussion about female beauty is not to diminish or deny its importance, but to exalt and embrace the all-surpassing beauty to which it points.

 

 

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  1. ..... says:

    Bible does say “Beauty is vain” and I know that’s not the whole verse but I don’t think that if a woman is ever less than 100 percent sexy for her husband that God is gunna throw stones on judgement day (if she doesn’t ask for forgiveness!) that’s just silly! I think that a lot of women just need to have time to be themselves in front of their husbands, and they shouldn’t expect us to look beautiful every minute of the day! Who doesn’t change into something comfortable when they go home?! Who doesn’t take their makeup off before they go to sleep? I think that if a man truly loves you then it’ll be because of what’s in your heart,cuz if he loves your outer shell that much then he’s in lust NOT love! I mean I love love but men should not say…”ohh she’s so beautiful (on the outside)I just fell in love!” Plus at some point nature takes its course on us women, and no amount of “keeping ourselves up” will do anything what then?! outer beauty does NOT really matter! stain t-shirts doesn’t change your figure, you might have a different look, but it doesn’t change your figure! Plus I canNOT believe that they felt the need in this society to tell women (who are getting it in all other fronts,and in the result starving themselves for beauty’s sake) to even publish these articles! OH no now the church is even telling us ohh yeah “beauty matters!” gotta be sexy, gotta be a ten! husband might leave if you don’t! There is more to being a female than beauty,just because the “guys” resent girls for not being beautiful enough(pin a rose on their nose?)doesn’t mean they are right for feeling that way and where are these men?! most guys are into beauty but they’ve already found it and not in marriage and not just for beauty and not because every girl in town is ugly, what if you just are not blessed with what people consider “beautiful” what about people who are saved and still get people telling them they are sooo ugly,how are they going to take this article?! I mean you know what if beauty from within effects your outside looks, Teach on the INSide! and people will be “glowing” I mean that’s what this dude is saying then he should just focus on the inner because if it effects the outer then why talk about it, the bible even says”beauty is vain” and it is clearly talking about the outer in that case!

    • Bailey says:

      Just curious, where (in the Bible) does it say that “Beauty is vain”?

      • Mary Kassian says:

        That’s in Proverbs 31:30. And the declaration in the Messianic Song that the king desires our beauty is found in Psalm 45:11.

        • Anonymous says:

          I agree. Even if a wife does all she can to look beautiful and is blessed with what may be considered beautiful looks, if her heart and mind is not submitted to God first of all then the marriage is going to be tough.

          If we look at celebrity examples, beautiful people marrying beautiful people does not equal a joyful or long-lasting marriage. God makes the difference. Selflessness and Godly love are the determining factors, which only come with a relationship with the Most High. Nurturing a pure heart which desires God is clearly stated for marital success.

          The tendency to promote maintaining a certain level of beauty unfortunately reinforces the pressure from the media. We are not of the world, therefore should be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

          This pressure also encourages anorexia, bulimia and other forms of self-harm (having experienced this myself I understand the linkage). However, in truth, God is a sanctuary and a refuge and desires our entire selves to be devoted to Him. He does not pressure us to be the way the world is or looks because we are made in His own image. How amazing! God knit us in our mother’s womb and created us the way we are for a reason. We are wonderfully and fearfully made. If we meditate on such verses from the Bible, I feel we would be reluctant to focus so much on this issue.

    • Lina says:

      I understand where you are coming from, but I think you’re taking it a little further than what the article’s main message was. They never said to be beautiful or “sexy” every minute of the day. It’s important to keep up a decent appearance (I think) not only to please our husbands but to represent Christ. I think it’s fine when you’re at home to maybe just be totally comfortable in your element, but just to sometimes make the effort to look a little better. It’s the effort that counts. Beauty is vain and is passing, but things in the natural reflect the spiritual and we should make an effort to look beautiful. And of course inner beauty counts more.

      • anonymous says:

        I totally agree with you. We should try and keep up a nice outside apperance but it’s not bad or wrong to be comfortable. It is the effort that counts like you said that I also agree with and that it’s also inner beauty that we should work on most because when people get to know the real you that’s how they think of you from then on, ( you could be extremely gorgeous on the outside but very ugly on the inside.) You should at least want a well kept apperence on the outside that shows you care and take care of your body ( because the Bible clearly states our body is a temple of the Lord) and you should want to look beautiful on the inside as well.

    • megan says:

      I COMPLETELY agree with your thoughts. Christ desires the beauty of HOLINESS…we reflect HIM and HE is the only thing that is beautiful. right?

    • Anonymous says:

      Do we as men want our wives to be beautiful? Yes. Do we expect a 10? no. We want our wives to be comfortable in their own skins. We want them to be clean and dress in clothes that fit and flatter them. I dont want my wife to strive for an illusion that was created by the media. I want her to see herself the way that I see her. When I look at my wife I dont see her flaws. I see the woman I married 14 years ago. I see someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.
      The problem I see is that most women see beauty through the eyes of other women and not from the view of their husbands. We chose our girlfriends because of what we saw. We chose our wives because of who they are. we just want them to reflect what we already see in them, not what they think we see.

  2. Natalie Brown says:

    Plenty of men have stepped out on beautiful women engaged in meaningful work that serves God’s purposes, so no woman should ever feel that a man’s unfaithfulness depends on her beauty. Period. His faithfulness depends on determining to keep his vows under God, no matter how she succeeds or fails in the inner or outer beauty department – which will vary throughout the years

    We must also keep in mind that virutally any degree of physical beauty is possible through today’s health & beauty technologies. Women managing their time & finances according to God’s design will have a problem keeping up with the accelerating standards of beauty in our culture, whether they provide for themselves or rely primarily on their husbands. Even a near miss with adultery can cause her to easily fall onto the 24 hour beauty/fitness treadmill in a fervent attempt to keep herself competitively beautiful for her stray-prone husband.

    A man is completely, 100% alone accountable for his faithfulness, regardless of the beauty of his wife. A woman is completely, 100% accountable to God for keeping herself pure in heart and strong of arm (proverbs 31:17) to face the demands of life. The efforts she puts into these inner facilities will hopefully produce an outer appearance that her man finds attractive. If he doesn’t, it’s really his problem.

  3. Mary Kassian says:

    Our heavenly husband, Jesus,is ever-faithul and ever-enthralled with our beauty – there is nothing we can do to appear more beautiful to Him. At the same time, He anticipates that His Bride will put some effort into her appearance… He expects us to “make ourselves ready for Him.”

    This tension, I believe, is also reflected in earthly marriages. Husbands can be totally committed and faithful to their wives, and view them (cellulite and all) as the most beautiful creatures on earth… yet at the same time, the husband hopes that she will demonstrate her devotion by putting reasonable effort into her appearance.

    This effort is not a requisite for his love, but a desired response to it.

    • Thank you so much, Mary, for this thoughtful contribution to the discussion.

      I would suggest that, just as Paul told women that their beauty “should not come from outward adornment,” but rather from “a gentle and quiet spirit,” as they are “clothed in good deeds,” the preparation that Christ expects from his Church is that of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

      It seems to me that a woman “lets herself go,” not when she reverts to a t-shirt on a busy day at home, but when she fails to love, to care for others, and to serve Christ.

      I’m guessing you probably agree!

    • Anonymous says:

      How we are to adorn ourselves for Christ is with our character not with our outward appearance which Christ Himself warned us not to focus on. You also said that you have never met a woman who didnt want to look beautiful for her husband. Than why are you spending the effort to defend your position that women should make more of an effort on their external appearances? Also as our culture changes mascara and lip gloss make way for Botox and breast implants. How can it be wise to cousel women to work for an ever changing standard of “not letting herself go?”. Fear the Lord! That is beauty. I cannot imagine a more beautiful woman than one that forsakes her hair and makeup routine for time in prayer and I don’t know any Godly men who would rather their wives spent more time getting ready and less focused on pursuing Christ.

      • a christian husband says:

        As a husband who strives to be godly, the kind of beauty I hope for in my wife is primarily with her character and love of God. Even still, I hope that she will take care of her body as well, but this is most definitely NOT botox and breast implants (this is a perversion that ruins God-given beauty). In fact, I appreciate my wife’s natural beauty more without mascara, lip gloss, etc. However, there is the odd occasion when I wish she would refrain from a second helping of cake, or make an effort to be a bit more active.

    • Marg says:

      Mary, with the greatest respect, I really don’t think Jesus is that enthralled by my external appearance. I honestly don’t think that he cares that at the moment I am typing in old track pants and a well-worn jumper and have not had my daily shower yet.

      My greatest desire is to be conformed into his likeness, and be filled with his Spirit and obedient to his leading. I think these are the things that enthrall Jesus.

      Thankfully I am not married to a shallow man who, when he looks at me, only sees my outward appearance. I know that my husband sees me as much more than just his sex partner or a pretty thing to look at. I hope that I am appealing and attractive to him on many levels. I hope that my personality, character, spirituality, intelligence, and the way I relate to him, are particularly appealing. And I hope that he appreciates my work. I want my husband to value who I am and what I do, and not just what I look like.

      • Mary Kassian says:

        Marg, I agree with you.

        I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Jesus is enthralled by our SPIRITUAL beauty – that is what He desires. (And that is what I was talking about)

        My point was that this spiritual truth of Christ wanting us to clothe ourselves in the beauty of His righteousness is imaged in an earthly, temporal, physical way by a husband’s appreciation of his wife’s efforts to make herself beautiful for him.

        And yes, of course a husband ought to value who a wife is and what she does and not just what she looks like. I never suggested otherwise.

        • Heather says:

          Mary, with respect, I think you did suggest otherwise by this comment, ”

          Our heavenly husband, Jesus,is ever-faithul and ever-enthralled with our beauty – there is nothing we can do to appear more beautiful to Him. At the same time, He anticipates that His Bride will put some effort into her appearance… He expects us to “make ourselves ready for Him.”

          I don’t think making ourselves ready in any way refers to “putting sone effort to our external appearance”. I cannot imagine you really think this. The Bible is so clear on this issue warning men against the external seduction of beauty and encouraging women to “beautify” themselves by their character. And as I said in an earlier comment these “efforts” women make are all part of a changing cultural standard fueled by a profit making industry aimed at making women feel they need fuller eyelashes, thicker hair, better skin, essentially encouraging dissatisfaction with what God has given us. I just think this is such a slippery slope when vague recommendations about making an effort with your appearance are put under the title of ways to be a Godly wife. I think you are making leaps in your argument that the scripture does not. Think of Christ! We are to be His imitators, his external appearance was not one that would attract people and He was here to woo His bride! Are we called to a higher standard than Christ? How different of a culture we would have in our church and how wonderful to teach our daughters if we forsook the hairdryers and trappings of a fallen and dying creation and instead clothed ourselves with the character if Christ. How can a man not be attracted to a bride that radiates Jesus (sweatpants or not)?

          • Mary Kassian says:

            Thank you for your comment, Heather. Let me try and explain another way:

            The “appearance” that Christ anticipates His Bride, the Church, will put some effort into, is spiritual – making herself ready by clothing herself in robes of righteousness. (sanctification) We are as beautiful as we can be to Him (justification), there is nothing we can do to be more loved or accepted, but Christ expects that in response to our salvation, we will clothe ourselves with the beauty of righteous character and deeds – that we will do this because of our love for Him. (Revelation 19:7)

            The point I was making was that the earthly relationship between a husband and wife seems to reflect this spiritual reality. The husband loves his wife and is solidly committed to her and she is completely beautiful in his eyes (cellulite, t-shirt, no make-up, whatever….)– and yet he anticipates that in response to his love (not as a requisite, but as response) she will continue to “make herself ready” for him…. and this includes making a reasonable, sustained effort to attend to her appearance. As per the discussion in the article, a man is grieved when his wife “lets herself go” — not because he wants her to conform to the ridiculous cultural standard of beauty, nor because his love depends on her appearance, but because to him, her care for her body and appearance communicates that she cares for him.

            I believe that the innate desire of men to “desire beauty” points to a far greater spriritual reality.

            I hope this helps clarify.

          • E says:

            AMEN, Heather!

        • Rachel Ann says:

          Can we really say that Christ is enthralled with our spiritual beauty? Is this biblical? First, “enthralled” is a strong word. Second, the “spiritual beauty” we have IS Christ (“we have the righteousness of Christ”). God loves us because He is our Abba God who created us. But we’re messy. It sounds here like you’re saying we’re somehow this amazing beauty that we’re not. It’s God who refines, Christ who beautifies.

          • Mary Kassian says:

            He is enthralled with the beauty of righteousness that is given to those who believe through the death and resurrection of Jesus — “and this, not of ourselves… it is a gift of God.” (justification)
            - Yes, the spiritual beauty is the righteousness of Christ.
            - Yes, God continues to refine us. (Sanctification)
            - And yes, I believe Jesus is enthralled with His Bride.

          • E says:

            Good point.

            and NO to Mary’s replies – just her “thinking”.

        • E says:

          No, it is not!
          This comparison is not founded in anything biblical, it’s just a SUPPOSITION / PRESUMPTION on your part!

    • E says:

      The comparison between Church and Christ and marriage is limited, and not referring to genre differences as you and this “biblical womanhood” are saying.
      Just do the exegesis of the text, and you’ll understand the essence of Paul’s comparison (the intimate relationship with purest joy and love, and not the genre differences in marriage).

      Please just stay to the TRUTH of the Word, and don’t use IT to make YOUR point!

  4. Jessica says:

    In reading this, I would have to say that they both have good points of view. The thing is as women in our day and time, we have to compete with the air brushed women on magizines and Tv personalitie who have plastic surgery. This to me affects mens view of what a real woman should look like. I do agree with that b/c of all the destations around our men, we must dress in away that is 1st pleasing to God and then to our husbands.

    If women choice to let them selfs go on the inside and the out side then men have a harder time keeping thier focus on what is important. Thier wives and kids. Satan has made it so appling to our men (who are visual) that it’s hard for them to a void everything they see in one day.

    I do think that women should dress for their husbands b/c it makes them feel important. I do how ever thing men should realize that todays women are also over come with societys Idea of we are to look like. Men need to also see the things we have to do to keep the family running and getting every thing done in a day. so if a woman isn’t all dolled up every day doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to look good for you as a man, but that she needs days off like you have.

    How many men come home from work and change into sweat pants and t-shirts and sox and look like that and it’s all good. I gues what I’m saying is that the shoe fits on both sides, male and female.

    • Anonymous says:

      I understand your statements, but I believe this is exactly the type of blame shifting Mrs. Kassian is attempting to rise above. From the first man and woman it has been true; taking our focus off of God leads to endless finger pointing and blame shifting. Instead of focusing on the “women wouldn’t be the way they are if men weren’t the way they are” excuse for our behavior, this discussion convicts women to be “without excuse” by holding ourselves to the standard of our Maker instead of leaning on the crutches of society and equally imperfect men to keep us hobbling to a lower standard.

    • Bekah Mason says:

      I understand the points you are making concerning unrealistic expectations of men and unequal standards concerning appearance and gender. I also believe, however, that this type of blame shifting is exactly what Mrs. Kassian is challenging us to rise above. This type of self-justification has taken place since the beginning of time; just check out how Adam and Eve shift blame in Genesis 3.

      In order for there to ever be change in our lives as individuals and as a corporate church, we must all take our focus off of the “women wouldn’t be the way they are if men weren’t the way they are” argument, realize that (according to Romans 1) we are all without excuse before our Maker, and behave according to our role as image bearers of God and the Bride of Christ instead of bending to the pressures of the world. The focus of this conversation is about how we as women must seek to glorify Christ instead of being weakened by worldly opinion. There are plenty of writers and posts out there which strongly rebuke men for their shortcomings concerning their treatment of and respect for women.

      But the question remains: why should we expect men to respect us as inherently worthy of love and respect as image bearers and daughters of God if we don’t respect ourselves as such first?

  5. Bekah Mason says:

    I am thankful, Mrs. Kassian, for your humble, balanced contribution to this conversation. I’ve read the posts by the other authors involved, and yours especially got me thinking, specifically because you do point the argument beyond “outward beauty” and focus it on the cosmic and eternal. Your statements reminded me of the CS Lewis quote “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

    Do you think that our inherent knowledge that we represent Someone greater than ourselves is part of the reason women balk at the idea of our outer appearance being anyone else’s business? I know there’s enough societal pressure to live up to the expectation of the men who gaze upon our bodies, but to know that we are inherently created as image bearers of the God of the Universe? That’s pressure my flesh resists daily.

    Looking at this discussion from a God-ward perspective also shines a exposing light on the fact that a woman’s “letting herself go” is a subtle form of pride. Essentially it is saying, “My opinion of myself is greater than that of anyone else and I represent myself alone.” I know that has been a conviction in my own life, even as a single woman with no husband to “please”, that has driven me to take better care of my physical body. While I aim to please no man, I do aim to be the best image bearer of Christ that I can be to a watching world, and Scripture is clear that “man looks at the outward appearance.”

    It will be good to continue this conversation to the deeper meaning and purpose of our beauty as women, as opposed to placing undue pressure on women to “be hot for your man.” As always, relationship issues point to the ultimate relationship, the one between the Bridegroom and His Bride. Thank you for pointing that out.

  6. Bethany says:

    I personally want my appearance to please my husband. He likes my hair long, so I keep it long even though I prefer it shorter. He likes me in jeans, so that’s what I try to wear even though I like stylish (and modest) skirts and dresses. I think that’s how it should be, since my body belongs not to me, but to him. Although, I do have a friend whose husband likes her to wear extreme cleavage-showing tops and tight, revealing clothing in public so I guess there are limits to how much you dress to please your husband. First God, then him. :)

    However, there is so much focus on how women look for their husbands, and little-to-no focus on how a husband looks for his wife. Especially among Christians. Mark Driscoll is the only pastor I have ever heard mention that men should dress for their wives. That they should stay physically fit, dress in a manner that pleases her, keep their hair how she likes, and keep clean for her.

    For both husbands and wives, it shows your spouse respect and honor to keep yourself up for him/her. For either one to “let yourself go” shows nothing but disregard and contempt for the other half of your one-flesh union. Keeping attractive to the other should have very little to do with how slender you are or how many curves you have. It’s about keeping what you have healthy and attractive to your husband or wife.

    • Beth says:

      Hmm, the more I read this comment, the more it becomes troublesome to me. In particular, the first paragraph. How does your husband react when you “defy” his wishes for your hair and wardrobe choices? Does it upset him? If the answer is yes, then that sets up red flags to me that you might be in a controlling, potentially abusive relationship. I think that if your husband loves and respects you then he should want you to wear the kinds of clothes that make you feel good and have kind of hairstyle that you like. I honestly don’t know of any men that I’ve ever met that have that much of a say in those kinds of choices their wives make. Your body DOES belong to you, not him. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that you have to do everything your husband says at all times. He’s your husband not your authority figure. If he ever makes you feel like you’re not good enough unless he approves everything then I urge you to get out of the relationship. Most patterns of abuse start out that way.

      I do however agree with the second part of your comment that more emphasis needs to be placed on what husbands can do for wives. It always seems so one sided in these discussions.

      • Erica says:

        1Cor. 7:3-4:

        3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

        4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

        When your married your body acctually does belong to your husband, but like wise his body belongs to you. As the wife should try and please her husband, the husband should also try and please his wife.
        So the wife should strive to be pretty for her husband, and the husband should strive to do the same. A wife should try and be pretty for her husband because they love each other, not because his love depends on it.

  7. Lisa-Anne says:

    I’m really, really saddened by this whole discussion. It’s like the “Christian” version of the “Hot or Not website” mentality of the world.

    Women were not “created to reflect the beauty that the King desires.” We are desirable because we were created by Him and IN HIS IMAGE. As far as the “Bride has made herself ready,” well, that applies to MEN just as much as it does women, and is not at all about outward appearance. Yet I don’t see anybody telling men they need shave, get rid of the pot belly, etc. to make themselves look attractive, available, and so forth for their wives. Stupid double standard, and stupid “worldy” mentality!

    Marriage is an effort on both peoples’ part, and to reduce a woman to an object for her husband is plain wrong. This is such rot! Christian women everywhere need to break off the shackles of what the church demands (it was never God!) and realize that they ARE beautiful because God says they are. And HE thinks they’re gorgeous in sweatpants after a long day of taking care of small children. HE’s not a shallow, fickle, “visual” person who is so immature as to think our *appearance* has anything to do with our love for him. And for the record, my husband isn’t like that, either. (Thank God!)

    Girls, hold out for a REAL man, don’t marry one of those wimpy churchy boys who think you have to look good all the time to float his boat because God said so. Those men aren’t worth the effort. Ever. :) They’re the sort who’ll yell across the house for you to make them a sandwich!

    • Bee says:

      Lisa- Anne, I don’t think Mary is saying hat you seem to have understood from this. Beauty is a MASSIVE issue in our culture. I have seen many young, beautiful christian girls end up with anorexia, addictions to drugs, self harming etc.. stemming from their fear of no being beautiful. I think Mary is trying to look at the issue from both the mae and female side of things. It is a hard thing for women to measure up the the beauty the world shows us on magazine covers. But on the other hand, men do love beauty nd were wired this way. Men at me church once told me that the women who were so in love with Jesus were the most beautiful in the building. The ones wearing old jean & t-shirts, worshiping the LORD stood out 100x more than the ones all dolled up failed to show love for God or others. And it was true.. the women so in love with their LORD were always the first to get married.. because men couldn’t see past them! This doesn’t mean men dont love outward beauty. My husband loves long hair.. so I keep it long. If I wanted to cut it I have every right to and he wouldn’t mind.. it’s just not what he prefers. In the same way, I love when men have beards. My husband prefers a clean shave. He has to shave for work.. but if we have a holiday or even some weekend he lets it grow because he knows how much I love it. We try to stay in shape for each other, knowing full well that if we didn’t, it wouldn’t affect our love for one another, not in the slightest!!! But we love to show our love by being the best we can be for each other. To my husband, the most beautiful I could get is when I have NO makeup on, a long skirt or dress, along with a smile and love for Jesus. The world has warped beauty.. but Godly men see and desire the real, modest, inward and outward beauty both that women strive for and that God loves. I think we need to make the most of the beauty our creator gave us, while staying modest and understanding our spouses desire for this same beauty. Out of love and respect for each other, we make an effort to look great, with absolutely NO pressure attached!! and sometimes in my tracky-dacks & sweater with messy hair & no make-up.. that’s when my husband will look at me and can’t stop telling me how beautiful I am, often that’s when he falls more i love with me and tels me I am the apple of his eye. What Mary is saying is not wrong.. it’s how we perceive the word ‘beauty’, even outwardly, that changes how we read this blog.

      Thank you Mary for posting this! It has helped me understand things better :)

    • Allie says:

      @Lisa-Anne- AMEN!!!!

  8. Sarah says:

    Ok, for all of the people on here who are saying that “helping people” is more important than dressing modestly- no offense, but most of you are just using that as an excuse to wear whatever it is that you want. Number 1, just because SOME of the articles on this website are about giving women a few pointers on how to dress modestly (in a sexually preverse society that desperately needs to hear this message) does NOT mean don’t help people! The bible emphasizes the need to help others AND to clean up our own lives. The way we dress sends a loud message about our inner priorites. Not dressing with decency and propriety is a deeply SELFISH thing to do, NOT a selfless, loving, or compassionate thing to do. You are not “helping people” by causing your brothers in Christ (and brothers in humanity) to stumble because of the way you are dressed. You are not “helping people” by drawing attention to your figure and not to Jesus Christ (it’s kinda hard to focus on Jesus when the person in front of you’s breasts are hanging out of her shirt). You are not “helping people” by causing followers of more legalistic religions to be repulsed by Christianity because of the way that you are dressed (they won’t think you’re a “bad” person, but they will think twice about accepting Christ if His followers can’t even follow basic rules of propriety). You are not “helping people” by converting a group of unbelievers in a war-torn country to Christianity and not be able to give them a moral compass because you lack one yourself (Jesus said “go on, and LEAVE YOUR LIFE OF SIN” not “keep being a prostitute, and help other people every now and then”). If you help other people, but are dressing immodestly- you are not bearing good fruit. If you are dressing modestly, but don’t give a crap about anyone else- you are also not bearing good fruit. As followers of Christ, we need to be like Him in ALL aspects of life, not just one or the other.

  9. Melissa says:

    Thanks for your article, Mary!

    For a long time I felt a bit of a contradiction between the command to not let my adornment be external and the fact that I still wore make up and tried to look nice every day. I took some time earlier this month to look more closely at the passages and do a little blog series on what I found. The relationship in scripture between beauty and righteousness absolutely blew me away. Thanks for bringing this aspect into the discussion!

    • Mary Kassian says:

      The relationship between beauty and righteousness and the symbolic aspect of the act of “clothing oneself” is exactly what I was talking about. The Lord wants us to set our heart and focus on that to which the sign points – but that doesn’t mean the sign is totally unimportant.

      • Melissa says:

        Exactly. God seems to care quite a bit that the signs he chooses to communicate himself to us do so well (marriage, the OT sacrifices, etc).

        It’s also incredibly freeing to realize that for women who have hoped in Christ they are granted Christ’s perfect righteousness — beauty unfathomable. So when we seek to dress and look beautiful for our husbands we can do it with a sense of freedom, that we have already been made beautiful and not out our a sense of bondage, that it is our ultimate source of beauty.

  10. Isn’t there a verse in the bible about a foolish woman tearing down her house?? While I think this verse can mean many things, whether a women strays, or nags, or is just emotionally unavailable are are good points but one that always comes to mind, is the way I look to my husband. It seems to me that when Hubs comes home every day to a wife that is dressed in ratty sweat pants a stained t shirt and hair all askew, when he’s just left several women at work that are neatly (Maybe even provocatively) dressed, with make up and hair done, that even if he wants and desires to be faithful to his wife, he is only human, there is going to be something going on his head! I am sorry but that is the truth.. does this mean that we never relax, never chill or that your hubs is going to run off with the secretary because she dresses better? NO.. but when your hubs comes home let the first things he sees is the wife that he desires and adores, looking her best to please him. After he relaxes and maybe changes into something more comfy, then do the same. Take off the make up put on the comfy clothes.. but make an effort for your Hubs to transition from the put together women at work to his wife at home.

    I didn’t always believe this.. my hubs is very affectionate, loving and I know will never stray.. yet when I came out of the bedroom one morning dressed nicely as opposed to my usual sweats and tee, and he realized I wasn’t going anywhere, the look on his face said it all.. when I was dressed neatly when he came home from work, with my hair brushed, and make up freshened.. his look again said it all.. He appreciated my effort. He flat out told me that my efforts were not necessary, he would love me dressed in sack cloth, but that he deeply appreciated that I was putting forth an effort to please him. I still rarely bother with makeup, in fact Hubs rathers that I don’t wear it at all. But it takes the same amount of time to put on a pair of jeans and a nicer shirt as it does to throw on sweats and a tee. Give you hair a good brush spray on some scent.. and see how the Hubs reacts.. Mine kept asking me if I was sure I didn’t have somewhere to go.. it amazed and saddened me to realize that he felt, that I could get nicely dressed for the world, but not him.

    Another question.. when you were dating, did you wear your sweat pants and tees, with no makeup?? or did you do everything you could to make yourself look your best for your time out together? I know I did! So why does that end for us just because we have a ring on our finger?? Shouldn’t we still aim to please him, to draw his attention to us?

  11. Stangster says:

    I’m not sure if this was addressed in comments, but one of the issues I have with “external adornment” is that many wives expect that the one they love and who loves them will let them get away with letting themselves go, while they extend all manners of external adornment to the rest of the world. The bible studies, the church dinners, the friends, and work get their best and hubby gets…the dregs.

    I do get that a lot of guys bring the sweatpants and 20 year old t-shirts but this is coming from a guy who seeks to look his best, which was recognized by ex-wife, who just so happened to not seek to offer her best back.

  12. Barb says:

    Beauty matters! Especially for the Christian woman, but not in the same way as it does in the way of the world. Like everything else in a Christian woman’s life we are to live an “excellent” life. Which means we are disciplined in every aspect of our lives. This includes taking care of ourselves. This means excersize and diet to maintain a healthy body as long as we can. How sad that some women get defensive over this subject. God made women for men. And God made men with a desire for beautiful women. As a woman, I understand that. Just like I exercise myself daily unto godliness for my God, I do the same physically in order to please my husband. I think it is sin to “let yourself go”. It is lazyness. Because it takes a lot of work to look your best. But likewise it takes a lot of work to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Obviously outer beauty is not nearly as important as inner beauty but what is the harm in wanting to be beautiful for our husbands? As a wife I find it satisfying to know that my husband appreciates the care and concern I take in looking attractive and staying active…however, that is not the glue in our marriage and we are both aware of this. But, I feel like so many women want to act as though it is a sin for their husband to want them to maintain their beauty…we women want to maintain our homes, keep our children clean, dressed well, matching, etc…what is wrong with a husband wanting his wife to keep herself attractive? I think it simply shows care and respect for oneself…and that we are willing to take a tiny bit of extra time to say “I still want to look pretty for you even if I have been chasing babies around all day long.”

  14. Keri Mae says:

    Thank you for this good discussion. My concern is that even though my husband says he loves me however I look and does not ever give me advice regarding it, even when I ask (for example, should I dye my hair or go gray?)…I know his eye is attracted to women who *are* making efforts in clothing and makeup. Furthermore, like it or not, I do have to combat unrealistic magazine pics. My struggle, other than in trying to please a husband who has no opinion to give me is that he himself has “let himself go.” I do feel the tension of “look beautiful, be available…or he will rightly look elsewhere” but it is really saddening that he never seems to hear the message that what HE does and looks like really matters. It’s hard to know what to do, but I appreciate discussions like this that encourage me to keep trying to look nice, if for no other reason than to honor my husband and to be as the Romans so that I can in conversation share Christ without my appearance being a stumbling block.

    • Natalie Brown says:

      This is exactly the “or else” slippery slope one steps onto when Christian women are encouraged to dress for their husbands. We cannot ever believe that our primping and pruning (of which I do my fair share) will keep him faithful – that is up to each man before God. I’ve seen men married to painfully obese women who love them for their inner character, and I marvel how these men never step out on their wives. It’s to their credit.

      We women can offer ourselves to our men with all the inner & outer beauty we can muster, but how they respond is on them. Personally, I’d rather have reminders of my husband’s love on days when I’m not feeling “all that special”. Anyone can love you when your look your best, its when you look your worst that it really counts. If a man comes home to a wife who has neglected her looks because she’s been raising her kids, tending her home, and serving others in need, should he not see her self-sacrifice and love her for it instead of comparing her to women from the office? And even if she’s just having a bad day, Christ loves the church no matter how many times it fails him, and so I would hope that my husband loves me. I fit my husband’s idea of beauty to a certain extent, but if he wanted a woman with thick full long hair and who had a lovely singing voice, he should have married one. That woman is not me.

      We cannot even start down the path on a hunt to fit a man’s exact idea of outer beauty in a fallen physical world, what a fruitless chase. We can only seek that true beauty that matters to God. And, theologically speaking, is it not actually our husband’s position to help us find that unique way that we each can please God, as Christ sanctifies the church? If a husband has a say in the shaping of a woman it should be with the goal of presenting her to Christ, not himself. He should never want to make her what he wants her to be, only assist in her pursuit to be what God wants her to be.

      • Mary says:

        “I’ve seen men married to painfully obese women who love them for their inner character, and I marvel how these men never step out on their wives. It’s to their credit.”

        Your statement implies that you expect men to cheat on fat women. Fat women are not “less than”. No man should cheat if the couple agreed on a monogamous relationship. Zero. If a man cheats, it reflects on the relationship or on that persons’ character – not on the physical traits of the wife.
        In fact, I expect fat women to have more success in their marriages because less men chase them, they should have an easier time in identifying the men of high character. In my experience, pretty women have so many men chasing them, they are more easily deceived. (Sandra Bullock, Mrs. Tiger Woods…)
        All women can have difficulty in identifying men of high character, its just the more men chasing you, the less time you have to really evaluate someone. (at least in my neck of the woods).

  15. Romelle says:

    Our outward beauty is a symptom of our relationships. I know women who are struggling with marital problems that never iron their clothes, put on makeup or wear anything that does not stretch-to-fit. They don’t care.This cycle does not start with her appearance, it started with the relationship. Men have been blaming women for their actions since the Garden and this is just another way of doing that. Love her as Christ loves the church,or even just attempt to every day, and she will become more beautiful to you. She may change or you may change but positive change is guaranteed.
    If a woman will get dressed nicely for church or for other women, she needs to examine her heart toward her husband and see that she presents herself the same to everyone she deals with. Again, dress is a symptom, not the problem.

  16. Daryl Little says:

    As a man who finds his wife incredibly physically attractive, and yet finds much more about her to love, may I say…

    To all those women who imagine their husband to be so godly and deep that they aren’t impressed by your beauty, or attention/lack of attention to it…you are dreaming and don’t know your husband.
    Men are attracted to beauty. Period. And your man is/wants to be attracted to you.
    This isn’t photo-shop magazine beauty (as any reasonable man will tell you) but it does mean trying to look good.

    If that’s shallow and worldly, then congratulations, you, and every other married woman, have a shallow and worldly husband.

    Or maybe, just maybe, God made him to be attracted to you. He didn’t marry you for your body, but then again, he didn’t want to date you because you didn’t look pretty either.

    I suspect that most women who “let themselves go” either don’t hear often enough from their husband, that they are pretty, or there are more serious past issues at play.

    But that’s another thing entirely.

    • Cory says:

      “He didn’t marry you for your body, but then again, he didn’t want to date you because you didn’t look pretty either.”

      Wow! I am glad you are not my husband.

      • Daryl Little says:

        Yes, I imagine you are.

        How horrible it must be for a woman to know that her husband loves his wife because she is far more than just a body to enjoy, while at the same time knowing that he finds her attractive.

        Misery, thy name is love…apparently.

        I suppose if you’d find more comfort in a husband who married you for your body and doesn’t find you pretty (how that happens is a mystery I admit)…more power to you.

        But I don’t believe you so it’s OK.

  17. Cory says:

    This whole topic is so frustrating and discouraging, from all sides. There are some like me who, no matter how much makeup is slathered on, are still not pretty nor will ever be pretty. Some, like me, are born this way. Some may have scars or deformaties from accidents, health problems or maybe a severe form of acne. Is it any wonder that we (Christ-followers) do not bear fruit in our witness to our family, friends and collegues when we behave no different than the world?
    Look at the pictures on this blog. Perfect teeth and skin, no flaws or scars. I have had managers who admit their preference of hiring beautiful women over plain or ugly ones because they are pleasing to look at. Seems like the “less than beautiful” have no place in the church or the world.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      I disagree with you Cory. I think that the Lord, in His great Sovereignty, wisdom, and grace, destined that humans would have varying degrees of physical beauty. Scripture specifies that Jesus himself wasn’t a great looking guy. He may have even been quite ugly by human standards: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. 55:2-3)

      A person who is physically unattractive glorifies God by clearly demonstrating that the beauty that matters most is the lasting, eternal kind. This is what Jesus did.

      But ultimately, both conditions — the condition of physical attractiveness as well as the condition of physical unattractiveness–exist to glorify God. Consider what Paul said about 2 other conditions that stand juxtaposed in many people’s minds: In 1 Corinithians, Paul argued that marriage was not better than singleness… he valued singleness as a valid and important means of gloifying God.

      A single person glorifies God in a way that differs from the way a married person glorifies Him. The married display the story about Christ’s relationship to the church in their earthly interaction with their spouses. The single display the same story by demonstrating that marriage is not greater than the reality to which it points. Neither state is “better” or “worse” – they simply present the opportunity to glorify God and tell His story in different ways.

      I think it’s the same with physical beauty. Physical unattractiveness gives us the opportunity to spotlight the eternal, unfading beauty of Christ in a way that is different, yet just as profound – if not more profound – than physical attractiveness.

      If you follow the vein of Paul’s argument, he says that the married should not think that singleness is the better way to exalt Christ, nor should the single think that marriage is the better way to exalt Christ — all should just do the best job of exalting Christ in the state they find themselves in.

      Extending this to the question of physical attractiveness – a plain girl should not think that prettiness is the better way to exalt Christ, nor should a pretty one think that plainness is the better way to exalt Christ (I’ve met many who actually do) … but all should be content in the state they find themselves in, and do their best to use that state to reflect and bring glory to the spectacular beauty of our Savior.

      In the end, our physical attractiveness or lack thereof is not about us… but as in every other aspect of our lives, it’s merely a means to glorify God, and tell His story.

      If I’ve got 1 talent of physical beauty and another girl has 15 talents, does that mean that I should “bury” my one talent, and sit there, be resentful, and sulk that God was unfair in the way He handed them out? NO! The gospel calls us to view beauty in the same way we view money, gifts, and other things in our lives… EVERYTHING we have – whether little or much – is given for the purpose of us glorifying the Giver.

      The gospel informs me that in the end, it’s not about me.

      • Anonymous says:

        I really like your response to Cory. I have many very beautiful and godly female friends. I would say that they chose to glorify God with their beauty. Maybe people are naturally drawn to them because they are attractive to look at but they certainly have not used this against people but have used it to glorify God…by befriending, loving and leading many other woman and by respecting men and not abusing what God has given them…which only makes them even more beautiful.

  18. Melinda says:

    Ladies, are you single? It is better that you remain as you are. better. You will be much happier. much

    • Daryl Little says:

      I know way to many women who would fall over laughing at that idea…and then begin to weep over whatever situation has given you that perspective.

  19. Kate says:

    This is a quote from a little book my grandmother wrote for her daughters on marriage. She was married for almost 65 years when my grandfather died so she really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to mariage.

    I loved what you had to say and it reminded me of her.

    “On the subject of your appearance- I truly feel sorry for the last generation of wives. Outward beauty is lauded around the world. Certainly, this could have an adverse effect on a mans’ spiritual perception…But the wise and cherished husband will have the wisdom to appreciate the true values of a wholesome loving and faithful wife.

    I do advocate a pleasant outward appearance. Then you, will have to make up your own mind about what is necessary in your outward appearance to enable you to keep your self respect and to keep your husband happy. Once you decide what is necessary -get busy and take care of the matter in a successful manner.”

  20. Marg says:

    This is such a complex issue. I think this issue about being beautiful for your husband is mostly cultural and biological/physiological and not at all biblical. I can’t think of any Bible verse that instructs women to look pretty for their husbands. I believe that in most OT Bible cultures, brides and wives were veiled. (The NT letters cover various cultures.)

    Furthermore, if women look too attractive then we have the problem of appealing to all men, not just our husbands.

    Also, if “letting yourself go” is a symptom of a deeper, spiritual problem, why are we discussing the symptom and not the problem?

    This topic is just too complex and too sensitive to discuss in generalities. I think we may be doing more harm than good by discussing it in this medium.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Bible instructs wives to submit to their husbands in all things. So, if the husband wants his wife to look pleasing for him; she should. The wife glorifies God when she obeys her husband. God cares about our spiritual condition…when he commands us to do something; we should obey.

  21. Marg says:

    One more thing:

    “Men were created to reflect the strength, love and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the grace and beauty of the Bride He redeemed.”

    Mary, I don’t agree with this statement, and I can’t think of a biblical basis to justify it.

    Men [i]and[/i] women are called to be Christ-like – not just men.

    My sincere hope is that I, a woman, may increasingly demonstrate Christian qualities which include strength, love and self-sacrifice; and that I may truly represent Jesus Christ to those who have yet to meet him for themselves.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Ephesians 5 etc. And yes, women are called to be Christ-like. Christlikeness IS the calling of the Church. Furthermore, when it comes to how the church relates to Christ, Men are included in the corporate Bride. But in displaying the gospel story on the purely temporal, earthly level of marriage, men represent the Bridegroom (Christ), and women represent the Church Bride.

      • Marg says:

        Christ wants to present the Church “endoxon”. (Greek for: glorious, splendid, fine, honoured, respected.) The glory of the church is its purity and holiness. (Eph 5:26-27) Paul does not use the word “beauty” in Ephesians 5:21-33; nor does he use the word “grace”.

        I don’t think we should classify some Christian virtues as more masculine or more feminine. The Bible does not teach this. Jesus Christ exemplified grace (John 1:14b,17b). Grace is not a feminine quality. Purity is also not a feminine quality. God wants all his children to be gracious, cleansed and holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

        While Paul chose to use the example of a caring husband and a submissive wife as an analogy of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5, this does not exclude women from also being loving, selfless and caring. Nor does it exclude men from being considerate (submissive) and respectful towards their wives. (Eph 5:33 cf 1 Peter 3:7.)

        A marriage where only the husband is loving, caring and selfless does display Christ-likeness; but if his love and care, etc, are not reciprocated, this unilateral affection displays a very sad state of affairs on behalf of the Church.

        I don’t think that unilateral love and selflessness from the either the husband or the wife represents Christ and the Church, or Christian marriage. Christian virtues should be displayed by both partners, and these virtues should not delineated along gender lines. If this is not the case, we do not have a Christian marriage and we do not have the analogy that Paul intended.

        Still thinking about this . . .

        • Mary Kassian says:

          Unilateral is not the case here, since men are also part of “Bride” I suggest you read my book to get a broader picture of how the temporal imagery of marriage fits into the overall plans and purposes of God in displaying truths about His character and about the Gospel. I applaud your desire to dig into the original language of Scripture and think about things more deeply and wholistically. I think you would be very challenged by reading about the biblical imagery of gender in a more extensive context than what can be achieved in a short blog post.

      • TL says:

        ”Ephesians 5 etc. And yes, women are called to be Christ-like. Christlikeness IS the calling of the Church. Furthermore, when it comes to how the church relates to Christ, Men are included in the corporate Bride. But in displaying the gospel story on the purely temporal, earthly level of marriage, men represent the Bridegroom (Christ), and women represent the Church Bride.”

        This is a very odd statement. Humans do not display the gospel story. Males do not represent Christ. Females do not represent the Body of Christ. We are all the Body of Christ. No one represents Christ but Christ.

        It is unfortunate that this misunderstanding has been spreading through the church from a misinterpretation of Ephe. 5:32

        30 For we are members of His body of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

        What this is saying is that we all are part of the Body of Christ and Christ has left His Father and is joining Himself to His Body, who are the born again believers. So, Christ’s love is likened to a husbands love. This is the mystery. He who loves his wife must love her the way the Lord loves the church, nourishing and cherishing her.

        • E says:

          AMEN to that! Finally, someone does good exegesis on the text and uses appopiate hermeneutics of the biblical text!
          Thank you, this is exactly the point of Ephes 5!
          The rest of this post and comments are just..oppinions tryng to support “physical beauty that matters”.

          Yes, physical beauty is a “given” by God – Ps 139. there’s nothing you can do to make yourself diffent; like Jesus also said, you cannot add an inch to your height. But from common sense, you take care of your body and health! You know love is not about the outward appearance, but you take care of your body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
          You use modesty and self control and you don’t want to attract eyes on you.
          End of the story!

  22. Pat says:

    Many here have suggested that God is not concerned with outer beauty, but I don’t understand how they can support that belief–the Bible certainly doesn’t support it.

    Our God is a Master Creator and Artist; all of creation (despite its present defiled and sin-cursed state) speaks of the wonder and the beauty that flows from His hand. The Bible speaks of creation’s beauty, God’s own beauty, the beauty of the OT temple, the beauty of the priestly garb (*designed* by God to be beautiful), the beauty of the New Jerusalem, and the unimaginable beauty of what awaits us in glory, etc. Our God surrounds Himself with beauty, He is concerned with beauty–He is the author and personification of all true beauty.

    When we hear an amazing piece of music, or behold a splendid piece of art, or come upon that perfect mountain vista and it causes us to almost “ache” inside, or shed a tear, I believe it is a testimony to our own Creator-instilled love of (and yearning for) beauty. This yearning is not sultry, sexual, or perverse, but rather clean and uplifting. This is the kind of beauty that a godly woman should strive for and it is what a godly man should encourage in his bride (and practice himself). It should be clean and uplifting, encompassing the whole person: body and soul. In the same way that it is vulgar and inappropriate for a pig to be adorned with gold jewelry, it is vulgar and inappropriate for (male or female) beauty to be MERELY external (Prov 11:22). Outward beauty alone means less than nothing.

    Do we live in a culture and age that has made an idol of beauty (or rather, sex-appeal)? Yes we do. Do we live in a culture and age that has made an idol out of sex? We most certainly do. Do we live in a culture that twists and perverts the meanings of freedom (now: “choice”), and love (now: lust/infatuation)? There’s no doubt about it: we do. And so, are the concepts of beauty, sex, freedom, and love–perverted and dishonored by modern usage–therefore evil? Absolutely not. The Bible does not say so. No one in their right mind would say so. In the same way, there’s a difference between the perversity of making beauty a god (i.e., the obsession with botox, cosmetic surgery, liposuction, and breast implants) and responsibly caring for your appearance.

    Doesn’t it seem somewhat dishonest (i.e., a lie) for a woman (or a man) to present her/himself as scrupulous in her/his appearance before marriage, if he/she will drop the pretense once the “knot” has been tied? Should *Christian* men or women practice such deception to gain a spouse? Should Christian couples show more concern to look presentable for the people they work with and interact with socially (outside the home), regularly reserving the dirty sweats and messy hair for their spouse and family?

    The fact is that the Bible presents Christ-likeness as the ability to live unselfishly, to live for the good of others, and not to practice disorderliness. This includes such mundane things as bathing, practicing good grooming and hygiene habits, and “ordering” one’s appearance–even while at home. Am I suggesting that women should never wear sweats or “let their hair down”? No, I am not. I am saying that love is unselfish and it does what is best for its object. Love is a commitment, it requires work. The marriage and the family are under Satanic siege–we can’t expect our marriages to thrive if we are not whole-heartedly willing to tend to them, and fight for them.

    Perhaps with all the misconceptions and sensitivity caused by today’s pop-media’s redefinition of beauty, if we thought of it as”caring for our appearance” rather than “making ourself beautiful” it would seem less offensive. Yet, we must remember that Biblical beauty encompasses whole persons–the world’s counterfeit does not. Our bodies–which are no longer our own–are of great concern to God. He does not just save souls, He will also raise the bodies which belong to those souls. And you can bet they won’t come out of the grave looking like zombies, in tatters and rags: they will be magnificently beautiful.

    • Marg says:

      Pat, I like your comment.

      I agree with you that God is amazingly creative and that his creation is beautiful, wonderful, and often awe-inspiring. And he has made humanity in his image. Wow!

      However, I think the issue being discussed here is that it is more important, or more necessary, for a wife to be outwardly beautiful than it is for a husband; and that this beauty is primarily for the husband’s sake. I have doubts that this concept can really be labelled as “Biblical”.

      However, I am with you on the less offensive: “caring for our appearance” rather than “making ourself beautiful”. (I believe that taking care of our body and our appearance applies to men and women.)

      Looking forward to the Day of Christ and the fulfilment of Philippians 3:21!

  23. Anon says:

    Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

  24. Craig says:

    I have not read every comment here, but one aspect of this that was expressed in both Tim’s and Mary’s articles but seems to have been missed by many commenters is this: The importance of his wife’s outward appearance to a husband lies not in the appearance or beauty per se, but in what it says about the inclination of her heart towards, or away from, her husband. It is analagous to the importance of our obedience to Biblical commands as Christians. Our obedience is not what makes us right with God, it is evidence of a heart that is already inclined toward Him. So, knowing that outward appearance carries at least some importance to her husband, it seems a wife would want to pay some attention to it – out of love for him. Similarly, if I know that clean dishes and a clean house are important to my wife I will do the dishes and pick up my dirty socks. I know that it is not the clean dishes and tidy bedroom that are as important to my wife as what the fact that I cleaned them says about the inclination of my heart towards her in love. I could say that she should just get over it and accept the fact that I prefer to leave my dirty clothes in a pile in the corner. She should love me in spite of that. But, what would that say about my love and ocmmitment to consider her needs before my own?
    So, if we grant the assumption that some level of attention to outward appearance is appropriate, what level is that? I would agree that if a husband expects his wife to live up to the beauty standards of the world and look like the cover of a magazine, he probably has some heart issues of his own. And, to any godly husband it is beauty of character that should be of primary importance. But, that does not mean that outward appearance is of no importance. It seems that all a husband would could expect is that his wife make a reasonable attempt to do the best she can with what God has given her. And, this is a general, overall trend. This does not mean that a husband would consider his wife as failing in this regard if she wears an old tshirt and sweatpants as she does housework. But, to use the opposite end of the spectrum, he might be disappointed if he sets up an anniversary date at a nice restaurant and his wife comes to the date in those same clothes. Again, not primarily because of how she looks at that point, but because of what it indicates about her heart and her relationship with her husband.
    And, yes, this principle about external appearance applies to the men too. Men should not assume that because external appearance is known to be generally more important to men than women that it is entirely unimportant to their wives. A man’s disregard for his own appearance, a failure to make a reasonable attempt to do the best he can with what God has given him, likewise gives evidence of a heart that is not inclined toward his wife as it should be. I think I Corinthians 7:4 does apply here.
    So, the bottom line here is that any external behavior, whether care for appearance or doing dishes or giving gifts, between husband and wife is important, first of all, for what evidence it gives of what is going on in the heart.

  25. beth says:

    I am a 37-year-old single woman who has never been proposed to and only rarely asked out. Knowing that all things are under God’s sovereignty, I still struggle with the idea that I’m not pretty and will never be attractive to men. To go through life unwanted in this way is very hard.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Beth, you are not alone, there are many who feel the same sort of pain. I pray that you will use it as an opportunity to live out the over-riding eternal truth that you are spectacularly attractive and wanted by the only One who, in the end, truly matters.

  26. Cindy says:

    Interesting discussion and painful. Having been in my life reasonably attractive and having also ‘let myself go’ by being pregnant many times, I have often wondered about this topic in light of the fact that God actually makes unattractive people. He also made people who try very hard to look nice and just don’t get it quite right. Who is to really know if someone is letting themselves go or not. For some people it takes very little external pressure for the whole vain thing to fall apart and other women can barely try and look stunning throughout their lives.

    Perhaps we need a scale like Dr. House. If I am a 4 the scale would require that I not let myself drop to a less than a 3. Or maybe I should only have to stay within a 2 point range of my husband. I kind of like that idea. Then the onus is on him.

    Yesterday I read a news article that said middle-aged men had inflated views of their own physical attractiveness based on the shortage of available men in their 40s.

    How is the young mom at home going to compete with the mom who is a gym rat? There comes a time when life choices undermine physical beauty. Is the husband responsible for providing his wife with a gym membership and a private school for the kids?

    Certainly I am spiritually responsible to present myself to Christ and all that that implies. The danger here is that it is far too easy to give myself over to vanity in order to please men.

    • E says:

      Very good point. Thank you for posting it.

      • SaharaRos says:

        I once heard a good point I want to share: “God doesn’t make anything or anybody ugly. Ugliness is what men have decided is ugly.”
        It’s a good thing though we have different tastes of what we’re attracted to. Anything really ugly comes from the evil one; sin, selfishness, lust etc.
        But according to Psalm 139:14, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. In other words we were created with full of awe or reverence (definition of fearful in dictionary) and excellence. We are His marvelous works. Marvelous meaning such as to cause wonder, admiration, or astonishment; surprising; extraordinary. :)

        full of awe or reverence

  27. Cara says:

    “Men were created to reflect the strength, love and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the grace and beauty of the Bride He redeemed.”

    Sensitive, yes we are. I think your article is a well-written attempt to discuss a very difficult issue. But, in the context of your article, your statement above gives a definition that would make me a man in God’s eyes. Frankly, this whole discussion makes me thankful to be perpetually single as much as it pains me to be unwanted. I just think how much worse would it be to be unwanted by my husband and roommate and having to deal with disdain daily because I don’t reflect God’s beauty. I would choose society’s rejection but peace in my heart, life and family anyday.

  28. Jay says:

    If the three most important aspects of real estate are “location, location, and location”, I would say the three most important words for this discussion are “balance, balance, and balance.” Which is, I think, what the article was.

    Beauty, even the physical aspect, is important. But beauty is defined by God, and not Hollywood. And things that are evidences of God’s blessings (e.g. stretch marks and a mama-tummy from 6 children) are consonant with true beauty! As is the silver in the hair … and I could go on and on.

    Blessings on the ladies who make effort to bless their husbands, while simultaneously hating all the false ways of Hollywood.

  29. Beth says:

    I want to start off by saying that I definitely think people (women AND men alike) should take care of themselves, I think this entire article is full of sexism and double standards and it also confuses me because my understanding of what the Bible says about beauty is that it comes from within. I didn’t think that Jesus emphasised outward appearances as being of paramount importance, but maybe I missed something. He always seemed more focused on people’s hearts and their chartable actions towards others than he did towards physical beauty, as far as I remember. But anyway.

    The main gripe I have with this is that the way it is written makes it seem like men don’t value women for anything other than physical appearance, and that if a woman wants to “keep” her man she’ll do whatever she can to keep him satisfied with her feminine wiles. This is such an old trope, touted out by not just this site but also pretty much everywhere we turn in our society. Women are told that in order to be good enough we must be thin, hairless, with full faces of make up and all the trendiest clothes. We must also not dress too “slutty” or too “modestly” but find the perfect balance of sexual allure without giving too much away. Basically, there is a lot to live up to. And what do men get told? Uhhh, nothing really. They can grow beer guts, be as hairy as they like and not take too keen of an interest in fashion and that’s totally okay. In fact, it’s encouraged. Men who take care of their appearance are seen as effeminate and they are made fun of. I think this is crap. If women are expected to take care of themselves and not let themselves go, then the same should be encouraged for men. Where is the article encouraging men to look their best for their wives? Now there’s an article I would love! It should be a two way street. Otherwise, you’re just reinforcing society’s view of women as sex objects. And I’d hope, since you are a woman yourself, that you know that there is way more to us than that.

    • J says:

      It is encouraged by men, but from different angles, you see it as a one headed coin, it is a two headed coin. Men get the pressure from society and other areas about money, bread winner, manning up, strong, adventurous, romantic and any other hundreds of magazine/movie/book reference to the “perfect man” you want. The pressure on men may not be beauty like women receive, but they do have pressures that women in marriages do not have. Satan really uses this as a wedge. Men and women are different, we have different desires for the individual sexes. We need to stop thinking “equality” means everything is exactly the same between the sexes. God did not make us like that. Men have some desires and responsibilities, women have some desires and responsibilities. God made these to work in conjuction with each other, not to be used to divide.

  30. Andrea says:

    I do think this is a wise response to the issue and a biblical one—-unlike Challies. But then women and beauty is a HUGE issue in this culture. Even this biblical and balanced and reasonable approach is going to hurt, anger, and depress women. The culture carries too much (and hence us women do)baggage about beauty and physique for this idea to be embraced. I don’t know what the Christian response should except that we are in this world and not of it. Somehow we need to approach the way we look like we believe that. Beauty in 2011 North America requires far too much money, time, and fleshed shown for Christians to embrace. It’s an idol for us all. We need to find an alternative way to be beautiful. I frankly don’t know what that would look like. I’ve seen too many magazines, movies, etc. And think we’ve all been corrupted.

  31. J says:

    Let me just start by saying that I am male, just to get that out of the way. I believe the author made a clear understanding of how men perceive their wives dress/maintenance as a direct correlation to her affection and devotion to him. Like it or not, men and women have different desires. I would highly doubt, that any woman here, would say that after marriage, they would be perfectly acceptable to their husband no longer telling her kind words, bringing flowers or creating romantic evenings. Just as women enjoy these activities before marriage with their potential husbands, they enjoy and desire them just as much after marriage. It may not be about being the “best” or the most “impressive” evening or flowers/gift, but the effort and thought of the husband pursuing their relationship. This is the same as a man for his wife. Just as a man enjoys his potential wife’s beauty and more importantly, her effort in pleasing him in this way, gives him great pleasure. Just as a woman does not have to have the “romance book” or “hollywood dream date” to be happy, but her husbands genuine effort and desire for her through these actions, so a man does not have to have the “super model” or “youngest pop star” to be happy, but to have the effort of his wife wanting to please him is what shows a man desire, respect and effort.
    It is really simple. just as a woman wants a man to put forth pursuing efforts before and after marriage into dates and surprises (this brings her a feeling of desirability and security through his efforts) etc…, so a man enjoys woman who puts forth effort, much the same but different areas, into her looks before and after marriage, that is what makes him feel desirable and secure in her position.
    Let’s take the personal emotions and reactions out of it, and just see if being wired differently makes sense. Although they are different ways of expressing devotion and commitment together, they are just as important.

  32. TL says:

    “I believe that men are “wired” to be attracted to beauty in women because our Heavenly Bridegroom desires the beauty of His Bride. And I believe that deep down, every woman wants to feel beautiful and desirable”

    Beauty is not only changeable and fleeting, but culturally and personally determined. The beauty that Scriptures speak of is the inward character. God is not going to determine cultural norms for us. They are part of our free will and tied to our character as well.

    IMO it is most important to be healthy and strong rather than conformed to cultural norms of what is attractive. Cleanliness and care for our skins health is important. Beauty for each woman should be what attire she feels comfortable in presenting her body to the world in and in what she feels good in. It should have nothing whatsoever to do with being sexually attractive. That is really teenage hormone stuff. A mature married woman should be herself, as God created her to be. The degree of make up is a cultural thing as well, and is fine as long as not over done. A mature man should be able to love his woman in no make up. He should love the essence of her personality, her godly character, and her wholesome healthy strong person she presents to the world.

    IMO as well, men who require their wives to fit a predetermined mold of beauty are immature and have not brought their body under control before God. They are running on teenage hormones and possibly have a disrespect for femininity.

    • J says:

      The article never states that women should uphold themselves to the changing beauty of the world’s standards in order for their husbands to be happy. It seems many women are extracting the world’s idea of beauty and inserting it into this article unnecessarily. Why do women primp themselves while dating? Why do men take women on dates and buy them gifts or shower them with romance while dating? Is it too much to expect that both sexes continue to do these things after marriage? I don’t think so. A wife still wants to be pursued after marriage, still treated to date nights and romance. The husband still wants the wife to maintain her appearance for him. Men and women both have the responsibility to keep trying to please their spouse before AND AFTER the vowels are exchanged, it shows respect, love and effort which is what the actual appeal is to the spouse.

      • Marg says:

        J, I think you’ve taken the contemporary, Western world’s notion of romance and dating to make your point.

        Your views on dating don’t translate well across different cultures and cannot be construed as biblical.

        I’m not saying your views are wrong, but they are not widely applicable or biblical. This is the same problem I have with this article about women’s beauty – it is not widely applicable nor biblical.

  33. Deborah says:

    Part of me wants to like this article, but in the end it seems like a subtle excuse for Challies’ and Driscoll’s comments, one that is based on some huge leaps in scripture. Also, it tries to make women more culpable regarding upkeep than men. I think b/c society tells women a certain “give” to their men is acceptable, women are often more accepting of that (has anyone seen the documentary where men and women are assigned numbers for attraction and all go around trying to get the best number they can… something near them? well, women are taught that something less attentive to appearance than they is as near their number as they will get). However, I can tell you that one of the deepest pains I know in some marriages is the lack of care shown by the man in his lack of caring for his body. I won’t go so far as to say that the things that create lust/ desire for the genders are precisely equal (I think a woman often falls for a whole picture of presentation and what story it says to her, while a man may fixate more on body parts), but for many women, this area re: their men is very painful. Also, 1 Corinthians 7:4 tells us that husbands and wives have mutual authority over each others’ bodies so that the emphasis for one gender frankly seems unbiblical to me. As an example of a healthier exchange, one pastor I know has asked his wife to keep her hair at a minimum length in return for his keeping the goatee she likes (all the more as he balds!)

    Add to that how our culture’s obsession with beauty is, when we look at the Proverbs, clearly unbiblical, and let’s hesitate to further it. Add to that how women have an extremely uneven “battle” in terms of what it takes to “keep themselves” after pregnancy, and you quickly see how we’re loading women down with burdens that are twice as hard for them while usually ignoring the male counterpart burden altogether. I’m so glad that some of the tiniest little women I knew in college married men who adore them despite multiple miscarriages and the havoc wrecked on their bodies or long metabolic issues, etc. They are an awesome testimony to me as someone who once had an eating disorder and often still doesn’t “expect” men to like me as I am… even when they clearly do. Additionally, living in a military city, I frequently see men who are trim b/c of PT but whose wives are quite large and sometimes even aged beyond their years from kids and from the depression endured during deployments and quite adored. I need those reminders of the graces shown, and I really think that when we are called to marriage we are called to commit ourselves to falling in love again and again with a changing masterpiece–to ask for God’s eyes to see the inner and outer beauty afresh. I wrestle with this daily at present, as I’m being courted by a man who is disabled and somewhat obese. I almost never have been able to fall for anything but the “tight bod” before, but we have such a unique and profound connection that this time it seems possible. And I’m always thinking about how to handle him w/ delight and care although it still seems a bit privately unsettling to me at times.

    Add to that one more very important point. The ***ONLY*** biblical injunction regarding a woman’s care for appearance in relation to her husband is that of 1 Peter 3:3, “…Whose adorning — let it not be that which is outward, of plaiting of hair, and of putting around of things of gold, or of putting on of garments.” Now some translations temper this by adding a “merely” that does not appear in the Greek. But actually, Paul WAS telling the women of that culture and time not to style their hair, wear, gold, or put on certain fancy garments b/c at the time these were considered signs of an insubordinate–a woman who would not be cooperative with her husband and would likely be loose. Also, there may have been issues in the churches with wealthier women displaying some of their wealth on their bodies in contrast to that which would speak of the even-steven at the cross. (Wow, how might churches change if we even applied the basic reasoning of this passage today much less the specifics!!!) Now I think it’s clear that this is not a fully transcultural statement (although that can be and has been debated… my own mother was hesitant to wear her wedding ring in one season). However, we’re making QUITE a jump from the one injunction (although we do see some queens and Ruth looking pretty on a special occasion in the Old Testament) regarding NOT paying special heed to beauty and the Proverbs warnings about beauty to suddenly making this a biblical explanation and gender specific.

    I guess the only other thing I can think of is Paul’s discussion of the value of spiritual training in contrast to physical training; the fact that he does acknowledge physical training is of some value, even if it appears as a contrast to spiritual training, could support that “some’ attention to the same has biblical support as long as it is held in an inverse to a far greater attention on spiritual development.

    If we’re going to run after cultural norms, let’s name them for what they are. We CAN make a case to an extent for women trying to give men something of what cultural norms have taught them to expect as part of their witness to their husband of their devotion to him and submission to Christ (I actually think Paul does a bunch of asking for the same from women–different specifics but the same gist… that she shouldn’t totally stand against culture but try to meet some expectations for his benefit and potential salvation). But when we say the recommendation itself is biblical, we are far less apt to recognize where we are actually disobeying scripture (regarding vanity, controlling others, selfishness) in our acting it out in the marital relationship.

    • Deborah says:

      I’m going to reply to my own post here b/c an allowance I made at the end is really disturbing me. As a guy friend of mine (thank God for men like this!) pointed out:

      “When it comes to what a spouse likes, that itself can be hinged on tastes informed in improper ways.”

      Yes! This was bothering me in the back of my mind as I made an allowance for the woman bending some to the cultural norms her husband holds and has continued to unsettle me since. ***I think our sinsick, thin-sick, and porn-seduced culture really creates a huge problem here for many men.***

      In one biblestudy I attended, there was a woman who really looks like a victorias secret model even after a couple of kids, yet her husband chided her if she picked up a cookie and talked about her as fat. Indeed, I have so disproportionately seen THESE problems arising in men’s perceptions and so disporportionately seen men “letting themselves go” in terms of general bodily care that I have trouble standing by my former comment at all. When women are valued primarily as objects for utility and “availability” by the broader culture, the encouragement of bending to that is bound to mostly encourage problematic dynamics.

      Thanks for your consideration of this,
      Deborah

  34. TL says:

    “However, I can tell you that one of the deepest pains I know in some marriages is the lack of care shown by the man in his lack of caring for his body.”

    True. There is a difference in caring for ones body and trying to be alluring and sexually attractive. Regarding men, if they would just keep clean, hair reasonably styled, clean clothes, etc. that would solve that problem. And frankly that should be the basics for both men and women. Caring for one’s own body, health and cleanliness is foundational care.

    “We CAN make a case to an extent for women trying to give men something of what cultural norms have taught them to expect as part of their witness to their husband of their devotion to him and submission to Christ”

    Moderation and balance says women don’t need to do much to look healthy and attractive without having to look like a poster woman. Which fits 1 Peter 3:3, “…Whose adorning — let it not be that which is outward, of plaiting of hair, and of putting around of things of gold, or of putting on of garments.”

    • Deborah says:

      TL, I totally agree, although I’d add some attention to what we eat and, where possible, to exercise. I know women who really feel a lot of pain over the sense some men have that they are owed a beautiful wife while they can pork out. I really think the lack of respect this shows for her and the lack of natural attraction this begets is just as hard for some women as this article suggests it is for men. And then, of course, there are concerns about their health that result. But I also know, for instance, that my pastor and his wife run such tight schedules in Christian service, that they both feel pain over their inability to work the basic recommendations for aerobic exercise in (both have a moderate level of activity due to a small family farm that they keep on the side, but it’s usually not aerobic). This is a sacrifice that for now they feel called to make.

  35. Dawn says:

    God is attracted to our spiritual/inner beauty. Our husband should be attracted to our inner AND outward beauty. Because beauty is “in the eye of the beholder.”

    Christian women have a daily struggle with balancing Godly beauty and the so-called beauty the world sells. I’m bombarded with it every day and am almost 40. I’m beginning to see lines and wrinkles. My first inclination is to desperately seek out products to eliminate them. My husband, however, reminds me that he loves me for who I am, not for my smooth complexion and shapely figure. Although he would love that too!

    I DO believe a man or a woman should seek to be the healthiest person we can be. That means living a Godly life, having a healthy lifestyle, eating well, exercising, and taking reasonable care of our physical appearance. As I said before…”beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

  36. Leanne says:

    Thanks for this post! I think we could compare our struggle with being beautiful with a man’s struggle for being romantic. Even if he doesn’t do it perfectly, we still want him to try and we appreciate the effort, right?

    But thank you so much for bringing this into perspective. We are here to bring glory to the Lord, and one day we’ll see that He is all that matters.

    • J says:

      Thank you so much for recognizing the desires of male and female being separate yet equal. It’s about the effort put into the action that speaks volume to the spouse, whether it be women putting forth effort in their appearance for their husbands or husbands putting forth effort in romance for their wife.

  37. Sarah says:

    I find this whole issue of trying to establish standards of beauty that a woman needs to live up to if she’s going to properly show her husband she loves him rather problematic.

    My initial reaction was to get very angry but as I read the comments, I started to see something interesting. There are multiple ways phrases like “take care of yourself”, “beautiful”, and “let yourself go” are interpreted in today’s culture of physical perfectionism. Some interpretations seem to hold a certain Godliness in my mind. Others do not.

    One thing that I have learned from my Christian explorations is that I am beautiful because I am God’s and God makes nothing that is wrong or truly ugly.

    But the fact is that God made me a short sturdy woman with large thighs and broad shoulders – not exactly the beauty standard presented in our world these days. Right away, the fact that I choose not to starve myself and spend 2-3 hours exercising everyday to achieve a look that is closer to our standard, could be seen as me “letting myself go.”

    I see it as me accepting the body God has given me, and I would expect my Godly husband to accept that as well and to see beauty in that body as part of God’s creation.
    Do I care for my body? Yes, I try to feed it what it needs, and make sure I exercise regularly and sleep regularly. I bathe it and do my best to wear clothes that flatter it and suit the environment I am in.

    I see this as taking care of myself and honouring God. And yes, my body rewards me for these actions by feeling good and allowing me to smile and be strong. It does not, however, turn me into a supermodel.

    For some, this would not be considered to be enough to make them feel “beautiful.” They feel called to look like a supermodel, and some women have husbands who desire that.

    What the idea that a woman should make herself desirable to her husband can suggest is that she should change herself for him: change her hair to hair that is more “beautiful”, wear make up to conceal her “imperfections”. Botox and plastic surgeries are extremes of this as a woman changes her body to more closely meet an earthly standard of beauty rather than honouring the body God has given her.

    Other than it being somewhat vain, there is nothing truly terrible about wearing make up and such. For some women, it helps them find their inner beauty which helps them find the courage to live the Godly life they are called to.

    I understand this, but I do not feel it is true of all women. I also do not feel that the fact some women may be helped by meeting certain outward beauty standards means it is particularly Godly for all women to aim for these beauty standards – or that it should be expected that we do so.

    In my life, spending so much time and money on my appearance would prevent me from doing work that I would consider more useful in the eyes of both God and the earthly world.

    I do understand the notion that dressing appropriately for special occasions is a sign of care for one’s spouse. I think that one runs both ways. If we’re going to a my friend’s wedding, I expect my husband not to wear jeans and a t-shirt just as he would expect me to wear a nice outfit if we go out for a nice formal dinner that matters to him.

    But there’s a thick line between showing that what matters to your spouse matters to you by adorning yourself appropriately and respectfully versus ensuring that your spouse will never come home to find you in sweatpants at the end of a long day for both of you, or having surgery so that your body will not age as you do. And I’m horrified by the notion that if you do, he just might be justified in leaving you for someone younger and firmer.

    There’s nothing like that in the wedding vows I spoke a few years ago.

  38. Christina says:

    I think that part of the hindrance to doing this is that our idea if what is beautiful can be wildly different from our husbands’. What I think makes me beautiful can take me half an hour or more to accomplish; time that would take me away from what I see as more important matters. What my husband finds beautiful may only take a few minutes every day. I think I need to spend time fixing my hair and makeup just right, while my husband might just want me to wear something clean and attractive and have my hair brushed. I know my husband thinks I look good without all the makeup and hairspray, even though I think he must be half blind to think I look attractive like that! So it comes down to: ask your husband how you can make yourself attractive for him! A godly man probably has lower expectations than you think, and asking his opinion will let him know you do desire to please him.

  39. Leigh says:

    Paul clearly tells us in Ephesians about the mystery of marriage. That marriage does reflect Christ and his church. Marriage displays the gospel. I believe that for you to say a woman’s beauty is doing the same thing is NOT backed up by scripture. Interesting opinion on your part…but not scripture as I read it. The CS Lewis idea of us living and existing making mud pies while missing a day at the sea is much more helpful when used in the context of humans not finding all satisfaction in God. We assume too little of our Creator, that somehow our greatest joy could come from something else. Your idea that those mud pies I’m living in are coming from me not desiring outer physical beauty in a way defined by the time and culture I live in is preposterous. As if I could simply cling to my desire to be desired, my desire to be beautiful and that would bring me ‘the day at the sea’ (i.e. true unwavering joy) is unhelpful. The KING of kings desires less of me…only him wo rking through me. Me spending more time working on me is the exact opposite. All around unhelpful topic. Let’s get the focus back on Christ our King as he is revealed in scripture.

  40. Alexis says:

    This is such a great article and so full of grace. I love it. I so agree with it and I so fall short. Thanks for the reminder.

  41. Brenda says:

    I think most of this could be resolved if Christian men would be brought up to have regard for Godly character in themselves as well as in their wives. I think the whole conversation is worldly and a little juvenile. Why is it we always have to make exceptions for the weakness of men instead of teaching them to strengthen themselves with the word of God? It’s what we women do here amongst ourselves isn’t it? It’s as if we want to say “oh bless their hearts, you just can’t expect much from them…they’re just men”. This whole conversation seems to condone that very mentality of how our culture treats men as inferior jerks. We’ve talked about it much in this circle and yet here we are seeming to make exceptions for the fleshly, shallow behavior that the modern Christian man shares with those “in the world”. The Christian man should not have the same mentality as those “outside”. If we want more (righteousness) from our sons and husbands we have to expect more not less.

    We’re all into living as the Proverbs 31 woman around this site. If we are doing our best to serve God and our husbands in this way and our husbands don’t see the beauty in that, then it is THEIR hearts who need adjusting- not our outward appearance.

    One main problem is that many Christians will not take simple steps to remove themselves from the sinful activities of the world so obviously that’s where their hearts will be.

    My final thought on this is for you to ask yourselves what Mary, the mother of Jesus, looked like? Did she have braided hair, jewels and make-up plastered to her face?

    • J says:

      I have read hundreds of books and articles on how to be a better husband/father, I read those articles to see how I can improve, not as a way to argue it and blame wives for my actions. This article is meant to encourage women to look at one aspect of their effort towards their husbands, yet so many responses only man bash. Just see if this article is helpful in a way, without blaming men. I try to do the same when I read articles to make me a better Christian man, I don’t just poke holes on how women cause the problems. Satan uses finger pointing to divide the sexes, let’s not let him gain a foothold.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe she did…she was jewish after all. I would imagine she was a very young girl who sought to live her life as purely as possible and this is why God chose her to carry His son. Does it mean she wasn’t beautiful or never tried to be beautiful? I don’t think so. Since the Bible doesn’t make note of her appearance…..I won’t either. What mattered most to God was her character.

      God made mention of many beautiful women in the Bible. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Esther, Abigail and etc; All of these women were beautiful and played a great role in the history of the Bible. While these women did please God in terms of their character….their outward appearances weren’t ignored in anyway.

  42. Deborah says:

    I thought I would add, for all the things that I partially appreciated about this article, one of the things that sort of sealed the deal in turning me off (and, I think, showing me the overall danger and falsity of the assumptions) was pulling out that Lewis concept for a new and far more banal context. What a convoluted corruption to apply it to some of the very things he was trying to point beyond as though his point was “Since we settle for too little spiritually, we really should fixate on the seashore… oh, wait, but we should also fixate on that to which the seashore points while we fixate on it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fixate on the lesser things!” I really am all for beauty and a proportionate measure of care and attention. Indeed, I do know one wife (ONE! of all the women I know! So why is this a big talked about issue unless we are trying to get the average woman to fixate on something that is not very representative of her inner self as though it were?) who sort of gets back at her husband and wallows in her bitterness toward her parents through literally “feeding” the issue. What I am not for is feeding societal neuroses or misusing scripture to that end, and although I appreciate the relatively moderate tone of this article and the author’s intent, I fear she has not sidestepped either of these problems but rationalized them. I hope that doesn’t sound too hard-nosed, but I don’t know how else to say it and get the import across.

  43. Jen says:

    I believe that communication between a man and his wife on this subject is very helpful in finding that definition of beauty and attractiveness. The idea of the wife letting herself go can be subjective to an extent. One man may like his wife’s pony tail as another may enjoy the perfect hair sprayed look. The standards of the world can be brutal but they can be fought if the husband and wife communicate and stay attracted to each other by striving to please each other in physical appearance. And obviously all this being done through the lens of a biblical viewpoint on inner/outer beauty and what Song of Solomon has to offer on intimacy and being satisfied with each other.

  44. Sarah says:

    I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that says a woman reflects God or his purpose in marriage by being beautiful (I think it’s really a jump to say that the church preparing itself for her bridegroom means women need to dress up physically). I think this is a trap lots of Christians fall into– the whole idea of women and beauty and that somehow being pretty is a biblical ideal. It’s just bad theology, in my opinion, and distracts us from other important spiritual pursuits.

    I think it also creates a huge double standard between men and women– women have to try their best to be physically pleasing to their man because it’s their biblical duty, but there is no similar suggestion for men. It seems like something a man who buys into this could very easily hold over his wife’s head.

    Personally, I think both men and women should apply themselves to taking care of themselves physically. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I want to take care of it. I don’t want to let myself go because I respect myself. I love my husband, and I want him to find me attractive, but I think we also need to be careful about being slaves to male approval.

    So basically, all that to say, I don’t think this article is necessary or helpful at all. Be happy with who you are and how you were made, and do your best to take care of yourself because you respect yourself and know that you are an image-bearer of God. Right?

  45. Elizabeth says:

    I believe there is a difference between beauty and sexual. Our culture intermingles the two and we tend to buy into it. My husband told me not long ago, while having Drinking coffee, he said I looked “beautiful.” I was shocked. I was sleepy, my short hair standing straight up, still in my sleep shirt. As I sipped my coffee he explained that my “morning messy look” was one of his favorite looks because there was an “innocent quality” about it. I am 47, and can’t imagine what he is seeing…I am definetly not a morning person!

    And just this past weekend, we were riding our scooters on a very hot day and pulled over for lunch at a sandwich shop. I had really bad “helmet hair” and was very sweaty and out of no where my husband tells me ” you are so beautiful.” Again I am shocked, but happy and worried at the same time that he may be having a heat stroke.

    But seriously. What I think what he found “beautiful” was my contentment and happiness and eagerness to just be there with him. I do dress up and put on makeup but I have added ten pounds since we married and he about thirty.

    I am not thrilled with the aging and these spots that just show up and I could do without the constant reminders at the checkout counters of the cover girls (and I do mean GIRLS) but our culture is promoting sexuality, not BEAUTY. And when you really, really think about it….beauty is on BOTH inside and out, not sexuality. That is why sexuality can sell – because it is easy to market what you can see and can buy. Beauty is priceless and never-ending. AND it can’t be bought because it is in the eye of the beholder!

    • Bee says:

      My husband tells me i’m beautiful in the same scenarios Elizabeth, and it makes you realise men don’t need that magazine cover look, they actually DO see real beauty.. it’s so wonderful! If i am willing to try surfing or do something a little adventurous with him, thats when i often (i think) look my worst, but when he thinks i look my best! because i am spending time doing what he loves! we have brought all men down to the lowest-common-denominator. Most men really can see true beauty :)

  46. Lee says:

    Ladies, I’m a guy and I’ll just say that I can’t believe the way you’re discussing this.

    I eat right, work out and style my hair to look good for my wife. I WANT to do this because she likes/appreciates it.

    How in the world a woman doing the same for her husband turned into something wrong or shallow is beyond me.

    But I guess it’s just always open season on men. If we like it, there must be something wrong with it, right? Sheesh.

    • Bee says:

      Thanks Lee, I love this! I am a woman and i totally agree with you. The pressure on women about how to look I think is much more than on men. But trying to be someone else and getting breast implants & botox is not what men want, they just want us to be the best we can be.. that’s who they fell in love with! We need to take the blame off the guys and stop falling victim to the world’s view of beauty. Strive to be your best for your husband, he will appreciate it so much and you will feel good too!! When men look at the beauty of other women in a not-so-pure way.. that is definitely wrong (same goes with women!!) but for a man to want to look at the beauty of his wife in wonderful!! soak it up ladies.. your husband WANTS to look at you.. he wants his attractions to be for you! go with him on this one :)

      • J says:

        Amen to both replies, it is really rather simple and being propagated by some on here to just divide men and women, thank you both for seeing the obvious. Dressing well, men and women, is a sign and act of pleasing our spouse, which is a good and right thing to do. Not confusing it with the “worlds” idea.

    • Marg says:

      Lee, the problem I have with this article begins with the title: Female Beauty Matters.

      We’re not having a go at men. (Well I’m not.) My problem is with the idea that female “beauty” matters more than male “beauty” and that it is somehow a Biblical issue.

      I don’t believe it is a Biblical issue and I think it is important (for a whole bunch of reasons) that we all take care of ourselves – men and women.

  47. Cortney says:

    Why not just take care of yourself because YOU are priceless? Your body is God’s temple. I don’t understand why most of the focus is on attractively displaying yourself toward men. It rather seems like we’re too geared toward pleasing others when instead it should be about pleasing God.

    You feel better when you take care of yourself. You’re more confident & more satisfied. Do it because YOU matter & because YOU have something to offer the world. Your beauty, your grace, your joy, your love – all gifts from God.

    Why wouldn’t you want to polish up the tool you have to share those gifts with others, aka your body?

    Thanks for the post & the discussion. It’s been interesting.

  48. John says:

    Easy to say ‘but what about men’ or ‘what about spiritual beauty’, both more important and legit questions but both dodge this one (which could be nuanced b/c ‘letting herself go’ insinuates a purposeful decision as opposed to challenged b/c of busyness). To me it’s about love. If a wife loves her husband she will want to please him, even if he is a jerk, because that’s the love of Christ that we are called to – love your enemies and do good to them. Of course this is framed in the context of what the husband is asking for (which could be a sinful request), but as a general rule love gives. You could say ‘what about the man pleasing the woman, and doing what she would like best’. But love doesn’t speak that way. Which also leads into the man leading and the woman submitting. (Oh no, I used that word that’s in the Bible!)

  49. Stephanie says:

    WOW Mary! You are good at what you do! God has really gifted you with the ability to take His beautiful Truth and help His people understand it better.

    THANK YOU for this post. very timely for me personally.

  50. Brooke says:

    “Human sexuality is a parable-a testimony to the character of God and to His spectacular plan of redemption through Jesus. This spiritual truth is so magnificent that God chose to put it on display permanently. Everywhere. Men were created to reflect the strength, love, and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the grace and beauty of the Bride He redeemed.”

    This is a wonderful perspective Mary. As a 28yr old woman I am in the middle of this. No longer a young girl but not yet seasoned….So I begin to see the curve of my body change the elasticity in my skin give way and so forth and so on but what I have noticed is that there are two extremes our enemy has provided for women. Either there is too much emphasis on beauty or no enough and this can be inner beauty and outer beauty.

    This is another way for women to rebel so to speak against our husbands and the word of God. We are definately at a cross roads and being a single woman it is extremely hard because there is so much attention being paid to my outer beauty that the inner beauty gets looked passed.

    God does everything perfect…we were created in his image. Sin entered the world and man died….spiritually and physically we immediately began to die once we were born. I believe Eve and Adam were the most beautiful creatures God ever created…this world has never seen such beauty…physically and spiritually. But one day we will be just like him, and with him once again in perfect beauty!!

  51. rr says:

    Ladies if you dont try to look good for your husbands, there are plenty of women out there who will. It’s not right but its the way of the society that we live in.

  52. Sharon Rose says:

    Why do women find it painful that they cannot meet their perfectionistic ideal of beauty? Because of pride.

    Why is it necessary to defend the desire for beauty in the human face and form, when beauty is unquestionably a valuable trait in nature and artwork? Because of deceit.

    Why are women who temporarily “let themselves go” for the sake of more urgent priorities treated as though they do not care how they look? Because of a lack of compassion.

  53. Marjorie says:

    To my beloved sisters who think this is a base “unbiblical” conversation, let’s just look for a second at what Paul says about marriage. He makes it clear that once we are married there is that “pulling” of pleasing our husbands and pleasing the Lord (I Corinthians 7:34) That is not a curse. Also, the Bible tells me to esteem all others (that includes my babe) as better than myself. So if something matters to him, it matters to me. That is the spirit of Christ-likeness. Lastly, I Cor 11 tells me that I am my hubby’s crown and glory and was created for him.

    Please don’t get it mixed up. I’m not “free” with lots of time on my hands or money. I am a homeschool mom of 4 kids (lost those stomach muscles long ago with all those c-sections!). I also do so much other stuff in a day that I won’t bore you with the details. But because I love God and my hubby, I want to please them both. In this case we can balance pleasing both. I will NEVER be a runway model (nor do I wanna be), but my husband is thankful that I don’t discount his feelings. Some of our husbands would be happy if we put forth good effort. That communicates respect for their desires. Beloved, let us love one another (I John 4:7).

  54. Dina says:

    Im so very shocked that so many women seem to be offended by this topic. How about we take care of our bodies and ourselves because the Lord said to take care of the “temple”

    I think there are many reasons a person, man or woman, should present themselves in a clean and cared for manner. Dont we as mothers expect our children to get out of bed in the morning, get dressed in CLEAN clothes, and brush their hair and teeth? What example does it set for your child if the mother doesnt do the same? I dont think that people are implying that we should get up and go through a 2 hour beauty routine, but I do think it doesnt hurt anyone to do the basics.

    • Marg says:

      Dina, as I’ve replied to Lee (above), the issue here isn’t about men and women looking after themselves. No one is suggesting that men and women shouldn’t take care of their bodies – their health, fitness, cleanliness and grooming. Mary’s article is about “Female Beauty Matters”.

      Is it more important for women to look after themselves than men?

  55. Julia K says:

    Seriously?

    Beauty is good. But “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes” – 1 Peter 3:3; and 1 Timothy 2:9 says much the same thing.

    I don’t take this to mean that, in our culture, it is wrong do to those specific things. I take it to mean that, in any culture, it is wrong to focus “too much” – whatever that means – on adorning our bodies to look beautiful.

    We do people a disservice by pressuring them to spend large quantities of time and grief each week agonizing and competing over what clothes to buy or how to do their hair.

    We do people a disservice by defining beauty too narrowly, as being “well-put together” or “young-looking” or “sexually attractive.”

    And we most certainly do people a disservice by having double standards for men and women, in both of whose image the beauty of God is reflected.

  56. phil says:

    I have been following the discussion via The Gospel Coalition website. I am 56 years old and from my early teens I have been ogled by males and have been made to feel my only worth was as a sex toy for some male. Even if there are men out there who feel they have a grievance, under the cultural circumstances maybe it would be better if they dealt with their complaint in other than a demanding and entitled way. Just a suggestion, instead of hammering on the love of your life (?) why don’t YOU be the kind of man she would want to please. Want to be the head, leader, the grand pupa, set the example of self-sacrificing love. Let’s see some leadership in that.

  57. Sarah says:

    I’m curious why don’t men get entire articles about letting themselves go if it is indeed a sin just as grave? Such an article can’t be found on any “boys gone wise” blog either. Why don’t you write entire articles instructing men and boys not to wear things that sexually attract women? (Tightly fit dockers usually turn me on and yes women do get aroused visually). Why are the men in these particular articles always the afterthought? I’ve never seen a Challies article specifically attacking what men wear. They are always afterthoughts in articles, never the main attraction.

    You people always apologize for and instruct men as afterthoughts in these articles about physical beauty but never make the articles mostly about them as you do with women.

    I think this reveals an inherent sexism no matter how long you try to deny it. There are no surveys for asking women what turns them on, and no forums advising men and boys to dress against the answers to those surveys. I think this reveals again that you think what women think matters less.

    I’m not talking about instructing men in general, I’m talking these specific issues. If you actually deemed it equal sin, Challies would have just as many articles with the focus being on men when it comes to physical beauty as you do with women. And before you say women are just more concerned with physical beauty so it makes sense, I’d like to point out that that is probably because men like Challies write articles like that and the fact that you make it so central to a woman’s life by writing these articles as well. The more you instruct on clothes, the more your followers become obsessed with what they are wearing.

    Just because men wear less revealing clothes doesn’t mean it doesn’t make women avert their eyes and become distracted. After all the idea of modesty is based on the fact that revealing clothes even turns men on to begin with. If it didn’t there’d be no reason to cover up right?

    All I’m saying is that if you really cared equally what we think, I’d be asked at least once what turns me on and distracts me in church and what being kept means to me.

    • Allie says:

      very well said.

      • capepamela says:

        I disagree… yes to the idea of fairness between genders, but neither gender should be dressing to sexually attract the other outside of a marriage bedroom. Dressing to be sexy is tempting someone else to sin, unless you are within the privacy of your marriage. You don’t have to sleep with someone to feel lust, and one is no worse than the other.

        • Sarah says:

          This didn’t even respond to my point. I don’t dress TO be sexually attracted to males. But why would they think matter so much to me that I would write an article like this and instruct others what to wear? Who the heck cares what some random person thinks? Thoughts are just thoughts and someone elses don’t effect me. This is so interesting Kassian and Co. always preach that they are counter culture and public opinion but so much of the interpretation of theology is based on how you are perceived by people who have absolutely nothing to do with you. Again my main point is, if its truly about avoiding distractions and not about controlling women, then modesty would be an issue for men to. We would ask them not to dress too attractively. But nope, only men think about sex alot, get turned on visually, and can’t control themselves (poor little old them). This is so out of touch with reality. You create gender stereotypes, extremify them, then use them to defend yourselves as if they are the Truth when in fact you are responsible for their survival. It’s all logically unsound and ridiculous.

  58. Margaret says:

    Thank you for this article, Mary. My husband and I have been married 30 years and I’m GLAD he still finds me attractive. I work at keeping my body in shape and trying to eat right. I believe it’s biblical to take care of myself. We’ve had many discussions about why it seems to be that many women get married and then stop caring about their appearance. Just go to the mall and observe how many very overweight people there are. I find it interesting that some of the comments are defensive and want to point the finger at the man. Why do we do that? Why can’t we just take constructive advice and apply it to ourselves? I believe that it blesses my husband when I take a few minutes to care for my appearance before he comes home in the evening. He does not expect me to go “all out”, but if my shirt has the days work on it, I put on a fresh one. I make sure my hair it tidy and add a little color to my face. I WANT my husband to desire me and men are visual creatures. I wonder if women
    let themselves go as a means of controlling the relationship. I completely agree that how I care about the outside of myself reflects what’s in my heart. If my goal is to glorify Christ in all I do, it will include my physical appearance. Thank you again, Mary.

  59. Jennifer says:

    Love the article and the well thought out points. In the comments there is a struggle to understand the difference between “hollywood” type of beauty and the beauty described in the Bible. I have two Grandmas who I consider beautiful because they both take the time to dress decently (no sweats or stained t-shirts) and they are beautiful on the inside. I imagine this is what Sarah was like.
    A godly man understand what true beauty is and outward beauty without the inward beauty. Conversely, a woman that does not take care of herself outwardly demonstrates a lack of self-control, and a lack of respect. Taking care of yourself does not mean we look like the women on vogue that have been digitally altered but it does mean we live with self control, taking the time and energy to do the best with what we have been given, both physically and financially. I have seen far too many hide behind their interpretation of what the Bible said when the underlying problem is laziness or the attitude of “I won my guy and now I don’t have to work at it anymore.” It is sad that we seem to understand this concept so well when we are dating, but as soon as we are married, we are confused (and I have been guilty of this).
    With so many failed marriages and families falling apart in our Christian community AND my personal experience with what doesn’t work, SEEK the truth, and the truth will set you free!

  60. Elizabeth C. says:

    I really appreciate this article. It’s an issue God has worked me through over the past few years. He used my now-husband to start to show me that even I, as plain and simple as I felt I was, should present my beauty for God’s glory better by wearing nicer clothes and doing my hair and makeup better, etc. I never realized that I was beautiful, and now it is my passion to help other women realize just how beautiful God has created them.

    There is an issue, though, that I feel should have been addressed in the article, and it is one that my husband and I worked through pretty intensively while we were dating. It is the issue of the importance of a man’s acceptance of his wife no matter how she measures up to the cultural standard of beauty. Just as we as women have a responsibility to groom ourselves well for our husbands, it is their responsibility to accept us as are and to make sure we understand that we are their standard for beauty. This was something we learned as we listened to Mark Driscoll’s messages on Song of Solomon. Nate came to realize that if he were going to marry me, I needed to be his standard – he would no longer measure me up to other women. In this I find safety and security because I know that while I am dressing cute and doing my hair and makeup well (and the way he likes it), I don’t have to worry that I’m not measuring up because I know he isn’t measuring me to anyone else. It’s been a really huge blessing in our lives and I hope/pray will be a safeguard for our marriage as the years go by.

    Thank you again for your words of encouragement in the article!

  61. Veronica Harrison says:

    I think the fact that there is even a back-and-forth (and at times, heated) discussion about this amongst women speaks to our broken humanity.

    The issue of beauty, and whether or not a wife should be concerned with it, will always reveal a woman’s true heart.
    If she is obsessed with beauty to the point of vanity, she will strive to be outwardly beautiful at all costs. This is where you get into Botox and implants. If she were truthful, she’d admit that she is seeking only to be pleased with herself and is more concerned with impressing OTHER husbands, and not really her own.
    Obviously, this standard of beauty is not what any Godly man wishes for his wife, and its not what Jesus calls any woman to. So the extreme arguments that suggest this is what is implied by taking care of ourselves are just silly.

    Now, if she stands on the other side of the issue, she will purposely dress down as a stubborn declaration that she “shouldn’t have to” impress her husband. He should be impressed by her inner beauty instead. But contention is never beautiful, and when you dig in your heels AGAINST beauty, its pretty ugly. Ironically the ones who are crying out the hardest about inner-beauty being the only thing we ought to be concerned about, are the ones who dont seem to possess much of it themselves.

    Either extreme is dangerous, so the conservative approach is a balanced view of beauty. To take care of ourselves through proper diet and exercise, keep ourselves clean and neat, and embrace whatever femininity attracted our husbands to us in the first place.

    However, I wish the same male pastors who have so much to say about women’s beauty would also come out against the men who have let themselves go TOO. The Song of Solomon talks about a beautiful woman, but it also talks about a handsome, rugged MAN. One who was a warrior with a strong physique, who pleased his bride and sought her out.

    We have a whole generation of man-boys who are weak and soft in the middle from too many videogames or time in front of the TV. And yet aside from a call to GODLY action by a few pastors, the mention of personal upkeep is mysteriously lacking. I think someone needs to stand up against that.

    Its just as much of a turn-off to women to see a sloppy, messy, unkempt husband, but nobody is writing blogs about that. I wonder why?

    • Sarah says:

      I can’t believe how much is taken for granted though. Beauty, sloppiness, messiness etc are the EPITOME of things that are in “the eye of the beholder”. Its like no one here questions anything they’ve had drilled into their heads. OPEN YOUR MINDS.

  62. Keisha says:

    Hi, I just want to make a few comments.
    I actually agree with Tim Challie’s statement that your inner beauty should reflect on the outside as well. I dont believe that you should get all dolled up or go out of your way to impress your husband. Because you shouldnt be living to please MAN but GOD. But for a number of reasons, i agree with his statement. And here are the reasons:

    1)Your body is a temple of God. You shouldn’t treat it w/ a lack of respect. Meaning you shouldn’t “let yourself go”. Be a beauty queen? thats not what im saying. Be a size 0? I’m not saying that either. But as a a christian woman, you need to treat your temple with the respect it deserves. So eat healthy, excercise, take care of your skin.. you dont have to spend hours putting on makeup. But you should STRIVE to keep your physical appearance in tip top shape!

    2)Your appearance can bring God glory! If you let yourself go, your overweight…have alot of acne… dont dress well.. but you claim that you’re a christian? people are not going to want to follow christ because you’re the first thing they see. sometimes you’re the only bible people see. some people dont go to church or dont even have any knowledge/concern for God. So when they look at you, their not even concerned about GOD. their concerned about your appearance. That is the sad truth. When you look decent, people want to listen to you. (I know i have offended some people with that statement. But honestly, i say this to offend no one. But in the society we live in today appeance means alot. Im not saying that if your overweight, or have acne, or dont dress well you cant win people to christ. But im just saying that in whatever state you are, STRIVE to take care of your outward appearance so that when people look at you, they can truely see God’s light and glory THRU you!)

    3) Your inward beauty should shine on the outside. Remember how in the book of Mattew, they talk about how you are the light of the world? And as the light, is it possible for you to hide your light under a bowl? It cant shine that way. The same thing goes for your appearance. It doesnt matter how much virtue you have, if you hide it, it cant really show. Now, with this point i’m making its important you get the WORLDLY definition of BEAUTY out of your heads! Again, i am not saying that you need to wear tons of makeup, have a celebrity stylist, wear $500 boots, and be 100 lbs. That is not beauty. As a matter of fact thats not REAL. Thats pretty plastic in my opinion. But as a virtuous woman, you need to show that on the outside too. Dont hide it. We are all beautiful. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Why wouldnt you want to display that? Yes i understand the fact that many of us are in college, or are mothers and we’re very very busy. We dont have the time to really take care of ourselves as we would like. But we should make an effort. Dont just automatically dismiss the idea that you can look beautiful. Dont just automatically shy this subject away. There are going to be days that you may look — lets just be honest — A HOT MESS!! but still, never the less.. we should strive to be the best “me” we can be! God created us for it! Your inner beauty should definately be reflected sisters!!

  63. brave lady says:

    I think first and foremost you have to focus on your character and your relationship with Christ. I think guys that are not shallow (thank God I am not with one) will feel naturally drawn to you if you have a Godly character.
    Ladies if you ask the man in your life what he likes or loves about you. I am sure that the one’s with their head screwed on will mention your character as well as your hair, figure etc. I agree with someone who commented earlier about men dressing well is important. I can’t stand it when some Christian men demand some pretty wife that is all singing and dancing but have a massive beer gut and dress badly. Men, women are not blind we maybe more forgiving but we were also blessed with the gift of sight.
    Women & men find the same basic things in opposite sex attractive but we all like different things otherwise we would be like made in a factory not designed by God

  64. KS (Male) says:

    Of course female beauty matters. Their character matters much more, however.

  65. kaitlyn says:

    its as simple as this,he should say ur beautiful bc i love you not i love you bc your beautiful!!!comment

  66. Heather Goodman says:

    I just found this amazing quote by Tertullian.
    “No wife is ugly to her own husband. She pleased him enough when she was selected [as his wife]. Let none of you think that, if she abstains from beautifying herself, she will incur the hatred and aversion of her husband. Every husband is the exacter of chastity. But a believing husband does not require beauty. For we are not captivated by the same graces that the Gentiles think are graces.”

  67. magdalena says:

    I think many people is freaking out because we are saying “beauty is important”, but people freaks out because they are thinking about beauty in the sinful false way that sells magazines, the beauty we’re talking about is the beauty in nature, the beauty of taking care of our bodies, our health eating, the clean of our clothed, the care of our skin..girls, first for Jesus who we represent and then our husbands who we love and respects..

  68. Kate says:

    Ok, so right… I must be a model to be a good Christian. I don’t believe that one bit. MOST of my family have been over 250 lbs. and they were beautiful to me and some of them good strong Christians. I believe the requirement for heaven was faith like a child and belief in a wonderful Savior, not a size 4 waist. I’m more than 60 lbs overweight, do I know I’m a bad example for my sons, yes, do I know they may get made fun of by other children for me being fat yes, do I know that my husband would probably like it a lot better if I was the 135 the drs. say I should be rather than the 206 I am today, yes. Do I know my weight will start effecting my heart, blood pressure, kidney function, knees and other joints in my body and my memory and lung function. YES. Do I care, yes, but do I think my heavenly Father will look at me any differently than my 98lb 5’2″ 20 year old half-sister if when we enter the gates of heaven I’m still 206lbs, NO WAY. I seriously hope the rest of the articles I read on this website convince me this isn’t some kind of skinny girl cult.

  69. Name Untold says:

    To be honest, I hate this topic. Here’s why….all my life I have competed to be “beautiful.” My competition was the ones I love, cousins, friends, aunts, etc. Not only have I competed to be “beautiful” but also to be loved! I was depressed and suicidal because I felt ugly and unloved (I was not saved at this time). That was until I met him. He was the first guy to actually pay attention to me, although I tried through numerous methods to get other guys to pay attention via flashing…but they saw what they wanted and that was that. I know I was bad :( Anyways, he paid me attention and we got married….throughout our time of dating he made comments here and there such as, “I wish you were taller,” but I blew those off because he was paying me attention. About a year into our marriage I discover the forbidden on our browsing history. This was a wake-up call…all this time I had been competing for his attention too! It’s so unfair! The pressure and what I have to compete against! I really hate it and wish I was able to think of beauty the way God does but my personal pain gets in the way. Not only that but at times it’s hard to imagine that I’m good enough or beautiful enough for Christ. Yep I hate this topic. :(

    • capepamela says:

      Dear Name Untold,
      Please do not think for one second that you are alone. You will never know how many of the “beautiful” people you see all around you are suffering in just the same way you are. I’m sure you may not have much sympathy for a beautiful girl who got a guy you didn’t, but remember that God is always sovereign. Every person is valuable in God’s eyes, but we shouldn’t spend time or concern to impress others. The way we look is never what satisfies, it is our hearts turned toward God that provide the only answer to contentment. I have found some of the most beautiful people to be some of the most miserable inside. Just do some research on the number of counselors and psychologists in Hollywood or Manhattan! As long as anyone looks to other people for their identity, worth and contentment, there can be no satisfaction. Only our Lord God can provide the truly gracious love and mercy that can fill the empty holes in our hearts. Keep focusing on your true Husband, Lord, Father and God… He has great plans for you.

  70. capepamela says:

    Okay, I expect to step on some toes here, but I think that an important issue to consider is just what each person’s understanding of “reasonable” concern, time and effort is. HOW much is reasonable? Our culture has blinded us to the excesses we think are NORMAL. How much time do we spend shopping for just the right outfit? Do we spend hours each week exercising to maintain a level of fitness, activity and health, or so our glutes and tummies LOOK tight and our arms don’t jiggle? Or, are we spending thousands of dollars to let a surgeon help us turn back the hands of time, or grant us the nose we wish we’d been given? Do we spend thousands on miracle creams and color cosmetics and then hours putting our faith in them? Do we buy expensive hair and nail products, salon services and appliances, and then torture ourselves with their chemical odors, burns, or worse?

    Am I negligent or uncaring if I choose to simplify? Yes, I bathe and brush both my teeth and hair. I use antiperspirant, a bargain priced body lotion, and a facial moisturizer with SPF. On an average day I may go without any makeup at all, or I might quickly put on an undereye concealer if I think I look tired, and maybe even slide on some lip color and a thin coat of mascara, but how much is too much? If my husband and I are going out for a special time together, I’ll spend a bit more time on myself, wear a bit more makeup, quickly style my hair, and wear something less casual. But, I remember that it is ME he wants to go out with, not the image of someone I saw in a magazine and tried to copy, AND he enjoys me being able to get ready quickly and not miss our reservation! My kids enjoy the time I have to spend with them, and not my mirror. They prefer that I not smear makeup on them, or scratch them with jewelry. They don’t have to worry about messing up my fashions, hair or makeup. They also appreciate that I can easily walk, or run, in all my shoes, so I’m capable of racing them to the corner. When we were all younger, I used to even win.

    How much time, effort and money are we spending frivolously? The Bible clearly tells us to keep our minds on the important things of life. I don’t think Philippians 4:8′s “lovely” has anything to do with how I’m dressing, how thin I am, or how well I’m wearing cosmetics, and “true, noble, right and pure” leave little to be confused about. 1 Peter 3 is even more to the point… adorn yourselves with inner beauty. There are numerous other references about beauty… but there are none that condone vanity. We should appreciate beauty as God created it… not as paint and surgery enhance it, or fashion drapes it! What Kingdom work could we do with all the time, effort and money we pour into beauty?

    For a real culture shock, read this… http://www.thercg.org/books/tthbm.html
    Solid statistical numbers are presented, and should not only give us pause, but spur us to change.

    Now, hear this… I DO NOT believe there is anything inherently wrong or evil about exercise, fashion, makeup, or nail and hair products, but there is something very wrong about a culture that idolizes beauty in the way that we Americans regularly do.

  71. SaharaRos says:

    Mathew 6:33 says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” So if we seek Him above everything He is sure to provide us with everything else we need. He’ll mold us into beautiful godly women and match us up with the right man who wil love us just like God created us. I agree though that it is very thoughtful for wives or girlfriends to still look nice because it would please our husband/boyfriend. Romans 12:10 speaks about how we should be kindly affectionate to one another for example in honor giving preference to one another. We love our husband/boyfriend, so don’t we want to make them happy? Maybe they’ll keep giving their girls flowers and romantic notes in return ;)
    By the way, I’m not saying we should be obsessed with looking nice for them. Our main focus should be God. God is love and if we’re in Him and He in us, we’ll abound with love, and true feminine beauty.

    God bless you all! Never forget how wonderfull made you are by Him! (Psalm 139:14)

  72. Julia says:

    “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
    (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
    Spiritual, Mental and Physical. I think all three coordinate with each other. And, as long as you 1) keep Christ and His word in the center and 2) concentrate on them in the right order [Spiritual, Mental, then Physical] I believe you’re well on your way! Of course that is my opinion.
    I agree with the article! :) (Keeping the Spiritual and Mental aspects in 1st and 2nd place of course).
    For me though, as a 14 year old 8th grader, I’m not planning on getting married anytime soon!!! :) So, how does this apply to me? My guess is that while I’m single (and even after I’m married), Christ will always be my first love. So I should make an effort to “honor Him with my body.” After all, it is His face I reflect (or hope and desire to reflect). :)
    What do you think?

  73. Becky says:

    What men need to understand is that all women want to feel like they are physically desirable & attractive. What women want men to understand is that we don’t want our value & worth to be determined by our outer appearance. We want to be loved for who we are as people and what we have to offer as individuals. Hearing things like, “You should look good for your husband,” is NOT motivating for women to upkeep their appearance. That sentence focuses completely on duty, and women are so not inspired by obligation- we are inspired by love. The other part of that sentence that I have trouble with, is that women our encouraged to put their best forward for their husbands and not THEMSELVES. Women: lets be beautiful for ourselves first and foremost. And let God’s love be the motive behind it. Men: if the female in your life is not taking care of her appearance, stop hating on her for it and start appreciating what it is about her that you do love. Focus on that and guaranteed you’ll get better results.

  74. Courtney J says:

    Why are people going into such a debate about this? I agree with what Mary says…We should keep ourselves clean and presentable. Not just for your husbands, but for yourself and your God. I’m not saying you should spend an hour in the morning doing your hair and makeup, but stay clean and healthy. Get your exercise in and try to eat healthy things…Remember our body is our temple. Just don’t OBSESS! There is BALANCE…seek that out and you will be fine. Just remember to focus morn on your inner beauty than outer beauty..but there’s nothing wrong with caring a little bit what you look like, as long as you don’t obsess, and your not doing it to impress anyone but youself, your husband, and your God.

  75. Anonymous says:

    its not debate its aggreement

  76. G.E. says:

    I read this whole article and I am still confused. I really don’t see how physical human beauty could in any way be symbolic of the beauty of Christ. Human beauty fades, within a few years, you really have only a few years between acne and wrinkles to look youthful. It is subjective, what one person finds attractive another person will not. And it isn’t evenly distributed. Some people are physically very attractive, other people are not.
    How can something transitory, be a symbol for something eternal? How can something which is so varying and subjective be in anyway symbolic of eternal truth? If anything, it’s the antithesis of the beauty of Christ.
    We don’t reflect Christ through make-up and clothes, but through our actions.
    I still think the original posts by Challies is about men wanting their wives to look pretty. Hopefully, one of these days a woman will demand that husbands make an effort to look presentable too. Right now, the arguments are very one-sided.

  77. K.L. says:

    My wife was never more beautiful than when I watched her in the hospital bed, body gaunt and no hair from her cancer treatment and she had her Bible open sharing Christ to her nurse. After she got out of the hospital, it took quite a while for her hair to come out but when she came out for dinner wearing the calico dress I always loved, she was even more smoking hot!! And after all her life of having hair down to her mid-back, I casually commented that her short (but growing) hair was kind of a turn-on….well, my awesome wife has kept it short ever since.

  78. Heather says:

    I think that there’s a point to women trying to be attractive to their husbands – within reason! But I also think that men bear a similar responsibility, to attract and romance their wives. I don’t think the burden should rest on one gender more than another, but that each partner do their best to maintain “spark” in the relationship and to show the other that they are valued.

  79. A says:

    “The stalemate in the discussion often boils down to the fact that women resent the fact that men are so attracted to beauty, while men resent the fact that women don’t make the effort to properly attend to it.”

    I don’t really agree with this. The more women I talk with, the more I hear that husbands wish their wives were more “low maintenance” and that the effort they put into their appearance is completely unnecessary and ridiculous in their mind (outside of proper hygiene, & situational efforts to really get “fixed up” like a date night, job interview, family photos, a major event, etc. where you shouldn’t show up in sweat pants and your hair a mess). I think many times women put a lot of effort into their appearance in order to impress or compete with other women. The majority of men don’t notice when you put extra work into your hairstyle or wear more makeup than usual, or put more effort into selecting an outfit, but most women do. Maybe this is a rare conclusion to come to, & I’m just blessed with a husband who think I’m as beautiful without makeup, wearing sweats, & my hair in a ponytail? I think younger generations of men (& society in general) are less obsessed with appearance than generations in the past in some ways (at least every day, real life). The societal archetype of a wife who cleans the house and takes care of the kids while wearing perfect makeup, a dress, and high heels isn’t the norm anymore (thank goodness!).