What Does the Bible Say about Beauty?
Beauty, from a human perspective, is relative. What is beautiful in the eyes of one may be considered commonplace or even ugly to another. Beauty, for humans, is individual and subjective; but God defines His own concept of beauty, and we would be wise to consider it.
The Old and New Testaments say much about beauty, what is truly lovely. Does beauty involve only physical appearance, or something more? Is it sinful to desire to be beautiful? How do we respond to the biblical concept of beauty? Let’s explore these questions together.
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What Does the Old Testament Say about Beauty?
The Old Testament includes many defining principles about God’s beauty, the beauty of creation, the beauty of wisdom, human beauty, and beauty that’s misused by the ungodly.
Because mankind was created in God’s beautiful image and “wonderfully” so, we should not allow others to define beauty for us (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:14). God looks on the heart of a person more than physical appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).
What Does the New Testament Say about Beauty?
The New Testament offers many practical principles about the nature of true beauty, inner beauty in Christ, and how godly Christian women should be “adorned.”
Matthew says nature gives us an example of true beauty in the splendor of God’s creation (Matthew 6:28-29). Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, reminding them that they can appear beautiful and righteous on the outside, but be full of hypocrisy and wickedness inside (Matthew 23:27-28).
Christian women are advised to adorn themselves modestly, with decency and propriety, and with good deeds rather than focusing on their outward appearance (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Women are to cultivate “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
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Is It a Sin to Be Beautiful?
It is not a sin to be beautiful, and the converse is true — being beautiful does not mean that we are more righteous or favored by God. The Bible says God created all humans in His image. It’s not about our “body image,” but rather His perfect image. We were created to reflect Him. Nothing about our creation was an accident because God specifically designed us in His beautiful image. He considers everything about us, even what we consider our “flaws,” as precious in His eyes. God’s workmanship is wonderfully complex!
Comparisons of any kind are foolish (2 Corinthians 10:12). When we consider that we were created by a sovereign, good, and loving God — on purpose and for His purposes — it should not matter to us whether we are physically attractive or not. As one example, it was Leah, less attractive than her beautiful sister Rachel, who bore Judah, and from his line came Jesus, the Savior.
God uses people no matter how they appear. Consider Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. He ministers around the globe to massive audiences, drawing crowds because of his appearance, not despite it. God values the “deformed” at birth as highly as the “perfectly” formed because according to Scripture, every person is “fearfully and wonderfully” knit together in his or her mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). “Fearfully” suggests that our creation is a reverent and sacred process.
Again, if people appear naturally beautiful by human standards, that is not a sin. It’s simply how God shaped or formed them as individuals — with loving, purposeful care.
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Is It a Sin to Want to Be Beautiful?
Who doesn’t want to be beautiful, right? Desiring beauty, in and of itself, is not sinful; but constantly focusing on it might be, and misusing or abusing it would be. People can use beauty to get approval, gain power, find comfort, or exert control. We have to ask, “Why do we want to be beautiful, and is that desire wrong?” It’s similar to the question about money and wealth. Wanting money or wealth is not necessarily wrong, but why do we want it? What is our heart motive?
In the Bible, pride is sometimes mentioned alongside beauty. Satan was beautiful and his beauty made him proud, leading to his being cast from heaven. Queen Jezebel beautified herself, but she was a proud, power-hungry woman who came to a terrible end. Isaiah said the women of Jerusalem were also proud — parading around in their gaudy, garish cheap jewelry — trying to seduce men with their beauty.
A woman might choose to enhance her natural beauty to delight her husband, as Solomon’s bride apparently did. A person might even cultivate outward beauty to pursue a special calling from the Lord. In a biblical example, God gave Esther natural beauty, but she also spent a year working to become even more beautified in ways that would captivate the king — not only with her outward beauty, but also with her heart and wisdom (Esther 2:7-12-17). Ultimately, God used a beauty pageant to save His people!
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Why Does God Make Beautiful Things?
As the Creator, God makes beautiful things for us to appreciate and cultivate. Throughout the Bible, we realize the beautiful glory, splendor, and majesty of God Himself. As we glance around His creation, we see the magnificent beauty that surrounds us and we experience great wonder. When we consider how we are made in His image, we realize His beauty lives within us.
Beauty also testifies to the creative wisdom of God. God wants us to consider His goodness and greatness as we see the vastness of His creation. Consider the immenseness of the universe with its galaxies, planets, and stars. Or the chambers in the shell of the pearly nautilus, which multiply as the nautilus grows. Or the countless shades of green in nature, when God could have simply created one kind of green. Or the melodic song of nightingale. Or the soft tufts of white in a cotton field. Or the comforting aroma of a freshly baked apple. The beautiful creations of God reach all of our senses!
God is infinitely creative, and the most beautiful thing of all, perhaps, is how He takes a broken soul and reshapes it for His glory.
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What Is the “Beauty of the Lord”?
Some might be surprised that Jesus was not described as handsome. In fact, Isaiah said the Messiah would have “no beauty” in His appearance. But that is outward beauty. Inwardly, Jesus was most certainly a “beautiful,” impressive person.
In Psalm 27:4, David said he desired to “gaze on the beauty of the LORD.” The word “beauty” there is more than outward appearance. It involves God’s favor and kindness — His grace and goodness. The same word for “beauty” is translated “favor” in Psalm 90:17. That’s what David craved. Like Mary of Bethany in the New Testament, David longed for and delighted in the presence of the One who was altogether lovely and worthy of wonder.
God’s beauty includes His invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature. According to the website Hebrew for Christians, “Theologically, the ‘beauty of the Lord’ can be understood as the effulgence of His manifold perfections — everything about his heart and character that evokes ecstatic wonder, solemn awe, and irresistible attraction in His conscious creatures.”
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What Is Beautiful in God’s Eyes?
A common proverb is, “beauty is as beauty does.” Most people understand that beauty is worthless unless it is accompanied by good character. For example, Rebekah was notably beautiful, but she was also a lying, conniving woman, manipulating her family for her own wicked ends. Actions matter. Proverbs 11:22 reminds us that a beautiful woman with no discretion — a lack of good taste and judgment — is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout!
God treasures qualities that surpass mere outward appearance — qualities like Abraham’s faith, Moses’ meekness, Deborah’s wisdom, Ruth’s loyalty, David’s consecration, Daniel’s reverence, Paul’s obedience.
What else is beautiful to God? Jesus revealed some of the Father’s heart about beauty when, in the beatitudes, He urged people to live out God’s high standards (Matthew 5:2-12). God cherishes things like godly sorrow over evil, hunger and thirst for righteousness, purity of heart, mercy-showing, and peacemaking.
In the gospels and epistles, we also learn that God values things like controlling the tongue, bearing up in faith while enduring physical trials, and acting with courage with biblical convictions, even when persecuted or ridiculed. Thinking about the right things can also lead to a beautiful life.
An important note: While it may be natural to be drawn to people within our own culture, seeing them as attractive or beautiful, the Creator looks beyond a person’s culture, heritage, personal prejudices about beauty, social rank, occupation, etc. God never shows favoritism. While the media points to select “beautiful people” as the ideal, all people and people groups are beautiful to God.
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Should Christians Care about Our Physical Appearance?
Beauty pageants and media promote various standards for physical beauty, and this motivates people to focus excessively on appearance. It is the natural thing to do; but Christ-followers are called to a higher standard. God does not use physical appearance to determine human beauty, and we shouldn’t either. After all, “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
The Old Testament gives an example of how God determines what is attractive or impressive. In Samuel’s search for a king to take Saul’s place, he examined Jesse’s sons for kingly qualities. Samuel was impressed with Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son, who was comely and tall. The old prophet thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” But God rejected Eliab, telling Samuel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
God subsequently rejected seven of Jesse’s sons and chose, instead, the youngest son, David, who proved to be a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Appearance is not the deciding factor for God; the issue is always the heart. But David had more! He glowed with health, was handsome, brave, and a good speaker and musician (1 Samuel 16:12, 18).
Does God’s concern for the heart mean that Christians should not care about physical appearance? No, we should be good stewards of all things, including our bodies. Paul wrote to Timothy that “physical training” is of some value, but “godliness has value for all things.” That’s another way to say that physical beauty and strength are good, but cannot be compared to the beauty of godliness which prepares us both for this life and eternity.
We might consider that some occupations require certain physical characteristics; but we are not hindered in ministry because we are bald, overweight, or gap-toothed. God can and will accomplish His purposes in us if we are willing, obedient servants.
Just as, physically, neglect can result in a slovenly, unlovely appearance, a Christian can become spiritually unattractive through neglect. Spiritual beauty must be cultivated so we will not only be pleasing to the Father, but also fit for Him to use to draw others to Himself.
Hebrew4Christians.com, “The Beauty of the Lord”
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Dawn Wilson has served in revival ministry and missions for more than 50 years. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com.