What makes something beautiful? How can beauty be added or enhanced?
Most references to beauty in the Bible have to do with something added to make it more beautiful—something being adorned or clothed, or some kind of apparel that literally “fashions” or enhances the basic element God created.
Exodus 28:1-40 discuss the beauty of the high priest, as provided by his exquisite wardrobe. Proverbs 20:29 talks about gray hair being something that adds beauty to an elderly man. Psalm 45:10-14 mention Jesus Christ’s Bride being adorned with a certain attitude as well as a specific kind of apparel. Ezekiel 16:13-14 are also about Christ’s Bride being decked with many adornments that God put on her, and He praises her for her “perfect” beauty. The Bible even refers to God’s beauty, and how it is enhanced by certain things.
Now, God did not create anything innately ugly. There is an intrinsic, “natural” beauty to nature’s essential elements and framework—showing a creative genius and precise measurement.
The classic example (and the earliest) of an addition being a way to enhance beauty is found in Genesis 3:20-21: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”
The word for “clothed” is the Hebrew labash—one of two words in the Hebrew generally used to describe covering or clothing something. Herbert W. Armstrong explained this superbly in The Missing Dimension in Sex: “The Hebrew word meaning to conceal nakedness is kasah. But the word Moses was inspired to write, labash, means, rather, the donning of apparel, raiment. It refers rather to outer garments than underclothing. It implies the idea of adorning, or decorating, or displaying, rather than concealing or covering over, or hiding. … So notice, God did not kasah Adam and Eve—did not hide shamefulness, conceal nakedness, but rather He labashed them—adorned, clothed them. Of course this clothing did cover nakedness. The difference between the two Hebrew words, labash and kasah, is one of purpose and intent, rather than the fact of being covered. Both do cover nudity. But the Hebrew kasah carries the connotation of concealing, or hiding something that might be shameful, while labash includes no such meaning, and implies adding attractiveness rather than hiding shamefulness.”
That last phrase is key: When God clothed Adam and Eve, it was about “adding attractiveness rather than hiding shamefulness.”
Contrast that with the fruits of going Satan’s way: When Eve and Adam partook of the forbidden tree, “… the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (verse 7). Yes, God was going to clothe them anyway, but when Satan got to them, they covered themselves out of shame. Verse 8 says they “hid themselves” when they heard God.
When Adam admitted to hiding from God because of His nakedness, God asked: “… Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (verse 11). God knew their attitude of shame regarding their nakedness had to come from another source. Genesis 2:25 shows that, before this point, Adam and Eve were not ashamed to be naked.
The human body is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). There is beauty in that, but a kind reserved for the privacy of marriage. Genesis 3:20 showed that it was in the context of Eve being the “mother of all living” that God clothed them. Not because it was shameful, but for modesty.
God’s way of making them more modest was a way to make them more beautiful. It was about “adding attractiveness,” as labash implies. If God only wanted to cover the private areas, God could have used an ugly blanket or sack of some sort. But He used modesty as a means of enhancing the beauty. Again, labash isn’t just about “covering,” but adorning. It’s better-looking! Modesty is beautiful! Consider this in your fashion choices!
Contrast this truth with the message emanating from our world. Western society tends to view more skin (or skin tight) as the ideal, exposing parts of the body that would honestly make their owners far prettier if those parts were covered. Society’s approach often is designed to incite lust, which is pure ugliness in the spiritual realm.
God gave some broad principles regarding modesty, fashion and beauty in Eden. That, along with other biblical principles, informs the judgments God’s Church makes about this subject.
The Church is not alone in enforcing standards of dress. In her book Strong Fathers Strong Daughters, Meg Meeker acknowledges how girls need guidelines in the area of clothing. She talks about modesty as “another form of respect—for herself, for you [speaking to fathers], and for what she expects from boys” (emphasis added throughout).
Her reasoning for fathers establishing groundrules for fashion is not rooted in religion. She says it respects your body by keeping it from being overly sexualized. Otherwise, you can become an object in a guy’s mind.
“Tell her that the point of your guidelines is not for her to be ashamed of her body, but to be respectful of it.” Note how this author brings up the attitude of shame. How easy is it to connect modesty to a sense of shame. As we learned from the Garden of Eden, that is exactly the broadcast Satan is saturating the air with (Ephesians 2:2). Rather, connect modesty with respect, beauty and “adding attractiveness.”
Meeker discusses society’s tendency to flash more flesh at our girls and what message this sends: “The voices in her head will tell her that if she isn’t sexy, she’s nothing.” That’s another way of saying, be a sexual object or be ashamed. “Don’t make her feel bad about her desire to be attractive. Just affirm that modesty is attractive too—and more self-respecting. Help her to understand what signals she sends to boys through her clothes and behavior.”
God is the Author of beauty; He created it everywhere. And in the case of human beings, He used clothing to enhance it. When you are told to wear something longer on your legs, higher on your torso, or looser in certain areas, the first impulse Satan is going to try to broadcast is that of shame—to think, I should be ashamed of my skin, or ashamed of my shape. In actuality, God wants to adorn you.
Beauty can be a deceptive concept. Science and math show that humans generally agree on some of the basic aspects of visual beauty. There’s a certain ratio (proportion or measurement) that shows up in all sorts of things in nature that we agree are visually beautiful. The Bible acknowledges that some men (and even women) possessed a certain fundamental beauty, aside from their clothing or adornment.
At the same time, there is a lot of deceit in this area. This is because of the serpent who deceived our first parents in Eden. He is the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), holding sway over societal and shifting cultural norms.
The goalposts have constantly been moving when it comes to what we are told is beautiful. James Dobson writes about this in Bringing Up Boys, when he talks about celebrities of a few decades ago who would not be considered “beautiful” today. Going far back as the 1600s, he writes: “In Rembrandt’s day, the women considered exceptionally beautiful were downright fat. Today, extreme thinness and ‘hard bodies’ have become the ideal—sometimes bordering on masculinity.”
Women can also get into an echo chamber of what they think is beautiful, trying to impress other females based on what they think is beautiful (when men might totally disagree on their assessment).
The point is: We can be deceived into thinking that cultural or current standards of beauty are the standards. Satan the devil is responsible for all this confusion. And behind his deception is the fundamental sense of shame with which he tries to flood our minds.
This is a being who was once beautiful himself—but his beauty became corrupted. Ezekiel 28 describes his beauty and how his “perfect … beauty” had much to do with how he was adorned: “… every precious stone was thy covering …” (verses 12-13). He himself adorned God’s throne (verse 14) until his focus on beauty lifted his heart and corrupted his wisdom (verse 15).
God says this being is now a hideous dragon who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9). He tries to take human beings on the same path to lawlessness that he took—to become absorbed in a personal sense of beauty. At the same time, he’ll pummel us with another form of vanity—broadcasting attitudes of shame about ourselves. He’s happy for us to be completely vain or completely ashamed, or even both at once.
This was all evident back in Eden, where God endorsed beauty and adornment and Satan endorsed a sense of shame. And he is still broadcasting that today—whether you’re in a swimsuit at the pool, putting on a dress for a formal event, or you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror on your way into the shower. Satan wants you to be ashamed of yourself, and to “remedy” that in a number of unhealthy ways. He definitely wants you think that the way God’s Church directs you to dress is because there is something shameful about your body.
Look Like This
Satan broadcasts in the form of moods, impulses and feelings. He is also often behind the sounds and images going over the actual airwaves. You can watch images go by on a screen and accept what you see as the standard. You can look in a storefront window and see pictures of women currently being promoted as the embodiment of beauty. And the satanic broadcast accompanying those literal images is: This is what you want to look like. If you don’t, you should be ASHAMED of yourself.
James Dobson talks about the first time Western entertainment was broadcast over the airwaves into the South Pacific, projecting “images of gorgeous, very thin actresses” starring in teen-oriented shows popular at that time. “Four years later, a survey of 65 Fijian girls revealed how their attitudes had been shaped (or warped) by what they had seen. Almost immediately, the girls began to dress and try to fix their hair like Western women. … [Officials saw] serious changes in eating habits among … adolescents. Those who watched tv three times per week or more were 50 percent more likely to perceive themselves as ‘too big’ or ‘too fat’ than those who did not. More than 62 percent had attempted to diet in the previous 30 days.”
The pressure from society can be intense. Many girls request cosmetic surgery on their bodies long before they are finished developing! Is this because they want to be more beautiful, or because they are ashamed of themselves?
“[V]ulnerability to one’s peers has always been part of the human experience, but today’s children and teens are even more sensitive to it,” Dobson continues, “The reason is that popular culture has become a tyrannical master that demands ever greater conformity to its shifting ideal of perfection.” This is indicated in the prophecy of Isaiah 3:12 where “children are their oppressors,” speaking of the end-time nations of Israel. In this way, children are oppressors of their own peers.
Verse 16 shows our nations’ improper values in women’s appearance and the power they try to exert through their beauty. Whether it’s through cosmetics or seductive ways of walking, there is no self-respect there. They are happy to turn themselves into mere objects in the minds of men.
Accessorizing Your Character
Again, most references to beauty in the Bible relate to something being labashed.
Just as the opening pages of your Bible show God as a fashion designer, the end of the Bible also has a fascinating reference: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). A bride bedecking herself for her wedding helps us understand the incomparable beauty of the Holy City.
The Greek word for “adorned” here is kosmeo, which means to put in order. Satan has perverted that word so we think of cosmetics, but it has more to do with how we arrange things. It should even bring to mind the beauty of the cosmos—for example, the Church being likened to a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars (Revelation 12:1).
Consider the spirit of cosmetics, which is not rooted in labash but in shame, which is a form of vanity.The attitude is: Just cover your entire face—paint over it. Many women in the world say they feel naked without it. God’s approach is to build on the natural order, fashioning what is there in a beautiful arrangement.
Jesus asked: “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:27). There are more permanent aspects about our physical appearances that cannot be changed. There are things we can do health-wise to make adjustments to our bodies and complexions, but adding multiple inches to our height is not one of those things. Don’t seek plastic surgery to change fundamental things out of a spirit of shame. Rather seek to adorn what God has created.
The Bible endorses enhancements related to clothing, jewelry and hair. The next few verses in Matthew 6 are about not overly worrying about clothing though, because God arrayed nature in a way far more exquisite than the richest king could dress, and He’ll do the same for you (verses 28-30).
Regarding jewelry and hair, other verses say to keep those enhancements in check so they don’t become more important to you than your inner beauty and the character God wants to create in you.
To define true beauty, scriptures describe a number of attitudes and aspects of character. These are the enhancements God talks about the most. In the Bible, character and beauty are often linked. A negative example of this is found in Proverbs 11:22, which says a physically beautiful woman without good judgment is like a golden jewel in the nose of a pig!
A couple of the “beauty” verses in the Bible pair the aspects of character with an admonition not to get wrapped up in the physical adornments. These scriptures give great direction on the labash element of beauty, and how physical modesty can reflect a spiritual beauty.
“Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4; Revised Standard Version).
Imagine opening a gift you received in the form of a jewelry box, and you open it to find … meekness. That gentleness of spirit is a jewel to your spiritual “look.”
Another jewel is a “quiet spirit.” The inspired Greek word there means tranquil—not necessarily silent.
When Herbert W. Armstrong met Loma Dillon, his future wife, he noted how electrifying her presence was in any room. She was not “quiet” in the silent sense. (There are plenty of silent girls who do not have a tranquil spirit but are rather a brooding storm ready to explode.)
Godly females should value those spiritual attributes more than physical jewelry, and those character traits inform how they dress and adorn themselves physically.
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Your clothing, jewelry and hair should reflect modesty and beauty. The word for “modest” actually means well arranged. Yes, arrange your hair as best you can, but don’t go to costly extremes, because the spiritual is the priority.
Paul lists two other elements here: “shamefacedness and sobriety.” The first of those is not the “shame” we read about in Eden. The Greek for that word means respect, and can refer to a lookin the eyes. We can’t physically change our eyes, but attitude is sure to reflect through them! The word for sobriety means a sound mind.
So this passage says that the most important part of your adornment is mostly what shows through your face. Character shines through our eyes and expressions. Ecclesiastes 8:1 says wisdom makes the face to shine. Does your face shine with godly beauty?
Can You Make God More Gorgeous?
Considering all that, reflect on how gorgeous God must be—this brilliant Spirit Being possessing such perfect spiritual character.
When God was putting Job in his place, asking him challenging questions to compare his humanity against the greatness of God, He asked: “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself [Hebrew labash] with glory and beauty” (Job 40:9-10).
It is impossible for any man to labash himself as majestically and beautifully as God is arrayed!
When we learn what God values about beauty, when we learn what character traits make us more beautiful spiritually, then we can let God labash us and let Him make us more attractive. Moses prayed for God’s beauty to be “upon us” (Psalm 90:17). He wanted whatever was beautiful about God to adorn His people.
God says Him giving us His character is like a wedding party putting on its most formal attire: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed [labash] me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
The more we take on God’s character, the more we are being labashed spiritually. We’re being given an enhancement to the intrinsic beauty already there. We are “adding attractiveness.”
“Thou shalt also be a crown of glory [Hebrew means beauty] in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God” (Isaiah 62:3). God describes His people as beautiful royalty! And notice how that was worded: If we take on this spiritual beauty, then it is like we are the crown enhancing God’s beauty!
Zechariah 9:16-17 prophesy that “the flock of his people … shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!”
God wants us to learn His way of being beautiful physically and adding attractiveness physically. But He wants that to help us understand how to be beautiful spiritually and what adds attractiveness spiritually.
He prophesies that, if we learn this, we will be turned into gorgeous spirit beings who actually enhance the beauty of God Himself!
Soon the whole world will be seeking us out because of this beauty: “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. … And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out …” (Isaiah 62:10, 12).
People are about to seek you out. They will come to you for beauty tips. God will use your beauty to inspire and adorn the world!