The Bible has much to say about physical beauty. But we should expect that God’s Word on beauty is not as one-dimensional as our own. Although the very reality of beauty presupposes the nature of attraction, we also see that beauty, according to the wisdom of God, can be deceptive.
For example, in the book of Proverbs, there are warnings given to the male reader about being unduly captivated by a woman’s beauty. In Proverbs 6:25, we read the caution, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.” Is the Lord speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Are we supposed to be attracted to a woman’s beauty but at the same time wary of it?
In a way, yes. The key phrase related to desire in Proverbs 6:25 is “in your heart,” with the added helpful context of the word “capture.” This is not the same as being “captivated,” which can be a good thing. What the Bible repeatedly challenges us toward is getting beyond mere external appearances and wisely considering beauty of the heart.
Another well-known biblical warning is found in Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” For beauty to be vain means it can be superficial and preoccupied solely with the external. For beauty to be deceitful means it can trick us into missing a deeper, darker reality. We can be mistaken by the lure of beauty into being captured – namely, by sin.
In the Bible we see a reflection of a pervasive cultural recognition; it is very often the more physically attractive who prove to be more spiritually deceptive. We can be easily baited by our attractions down the wrong paths. In Matthew 23:27–28, Jesus admonished the Pharisees for their superficially religious behavior:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For
you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly
appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s
bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly
appear righteous to others, but within you are full
of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The old saying that “beauty is only skin-deep” is rich with biblical truth. It is true of the attractive harlot in Proverbs. It is true of David’s sinful pursuit of Bathsheba. It is true of Samson’s lurid relationship with Delilah. And it is certainly true of the deceptive schemes of the evil one himself, whom we are told often masquerades as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).
This is not to say, of course, that you ought to date or marry somebody you find unattractive! It means only that our romance must run much deeper than physical attraction. Certainly in marriage, the ongoing nurturing of attraction must endure the changes that come with the years, affected by the bearing of children, the slowing of metabolisms, the weathering of skin and even the ravages of illness and hardship. Romance in dating and marriage, for it to be truly a mingling of souls, cannot simply be a mingling of body parts. Instead, we must acknowledge both the blessing and the danger of beauty.
This was taken as an excerpt for Matt Chandler’s new book, The Mingling of Souls. For more information on Matt and his book, please visit his website at www.minglingofsouls.com.
As of 2002, Matt Chandler is the Lead Pastor at Highland Village First Baptist Church (now The Village Church) in Highland Village, Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children.