The Temptations, Beauty's Only Skin Deep
Now, good looks, I've learned to do without.
'Cause now I know it's love that really counts.
A pretty face you may not possess,
but what I like about you is your tenderness
The Dave Clark Five, You Got What it Takes
Ow! You don't live in a beautiful place
And you don't dress in the best of taste
Nature didn't give you such a beautiful face
But baby, you got what it takes
Jimmy Soul, If You Wanna Be Happy
Don't let your friends say you have no taste
Go ahead and marry her anyway
Her face is ugly, her eyes don't match
Take it from me, she's a better catch
If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you
(Spoken)Hey, Man! I saw your wife the other day!
Yeah and she's UGLY!
Yeah, she's ugly, but she sure can cook!
Physical attractiveness isn't everything, it's true. The Bible says that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (Proverbs 31:30). It is the inner qualities of a woman that make her truly beautiful. But if a woman wishes to highlight her inner beauty, does that mean she needs to look like she was beaten with the ugly stick?
Many people embrace this philosophy, and will twist scripture to support it. They insist that women must be frumpy, plain, and unattractive in order to maintain their modesty. Here are the two scriptures from which many of these ideas originate:
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3-4, NKJV)
In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9, NKJV)
The point of these scriptures is not that a woman cannot look her best on the outside. The point of these scriptures is that a woman should primarily seek to cultivate beauty from within. In 1 Peter 3, the word merely is added to the original text to clarify this idea. Women should look good on the outside, but it doesn't stop there. A pretty face with no substance underneath will surely leave others wondering, "Is this all there is?" If a woman wishes to highlight her inner beauty, does that mean she needs to look like she was beaten with the ugly stick?
Likewise, the verse in 1 Timothy is not suggesting that a woman should only be clothed in good works (otherwise she'd be naked!), instead it is reminding women that they should not seek to gain attention with the external. I do not think the text is saying it is wrong for women to wear makeup or jewelery or nice clothes. Rather, I think the text is warning women not to let their outer appearance upstage their inner beauty.
While it is true that physical attractiveness is often a catalyst for vanity, it is not always a symptom of conceit. Likewise, marrying a woman who is downright ugly is no guarantee of her humility. "Ugly people" are no further along the road to sanctification than anyone else. And contrary to Jimmy Soul's music, men do not go around bragging about how ugly their wives are to one another! Men greatly appreciate when their wives make an effort to look good for them. Feldhahn (2004) states: "In a way, this issue for men is like the romance issue for us," (p. 168). In essence, when you take care of yourself, it makes your husband feel loved.
Physical beauty isn't everything, but this does not imply that physical beauty is something that should be discarded in the interest of "holiness." Much like the expression, "Money isn't everything," money still holds a function, provided it is used correctly and in a godly way. In the same fashion, physical beauty does not necessarily subtract from from one's character. Modesty means that there is a balance. Everything is in moderation. True modesty means we are not overdoing it in any areas. Too many times we fear we are overdoing a good thing, but I believe it is possible to overdo a bad thing as well. In your efforts to be modest, are you "overdoing" it a bit in downplaying your looks?
Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Atlanta, GA: Multnomah.