We live in a world that is obsessed with beauty. The appearance of things and the feelings they create. It’s not so much what lies beneath the surface that wins our attention but the surfaces themselves that catch our eyes and often, our hearts.
“The Lord sees not as man sees for the man looks at the outer appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.
How true that is. It’s a theme that runs through the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. To jog your memory, Beauty (the female lead) rejects the Beast’s many proposals to marry her because she only sees him as a friend – even though he lavishes her with kind gestures. As the Beast is taking his dying breath from a broken heart, the Beauty confesses her love for him, transforming him into his original state – a handsome prince. Think about this. How many of the decisions that you make, generally, are largely swayed by outward appearance? How you respond when you’ve done something wrong (hiding your mistakes?), the people you choose to pursue romantically, the things you buy, the type of career you want to lead, the car you drive etc. How important are looks to you, truly? If like me, the answer is ‘more than they should be’, why is that the case?
1. The Feel Good Factor:
Generally, owning something which we think is attractive makes us feel good – who doesn’t want to feel good? One reason might be because we esteem how others perceive us – maybe we want to be admired, liked, accepted – even though we would never say it that way, our actions suggest it.
2. It Must Be Right:
Another reason might be that in our minds we believe if something looks right it must be right for us. If the advertised salary is good it must be a good opportunity; if the person ticks all the boxes of physical attraction they must be an answer to prayer. And because we believe these things are right for us, we are more inclined to pursue them and less likely to turn them down – even if wisdom suggests otherwise. Now what I am not saying is disregard things that look good, ignore presentation, or forget about physical attraction – we are human and God has already said that we are unlike him in that sense. Beauty is often necessary because it is what attracts us to things in the first place. But maintaining a healthy perspective – to not be carried away by beauty – is something we can do.
‘Charm is deceitful, beauty disappears’ Proverbs 31:30.
What we must remember is that there is always more to something than first meets the eye. You have to go no further than Eve’s conversation with the Snake to see that point. To go one step further, evil rarely presents itself in its true state of ugliness because if it did, it would repulse most people. Its power therefore lies in its deception. It presents itself as a harmless, pleasant, perhaps even a godly thing in order to gain entry in our minds, and once it has done that the mask is off, it strikes and if we are not careful we get burnt.
The passage “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) emphasises this because it shows us that even the devil will go to extreme lengths to appear as light. But what it also implies is that there are things which seem totally fine but are totally corrupting.
For Christians, this means that just because something/someone has caught your eye does not mean it has earned the right to capture your heart. And just because it looks the part doesn’t automatically make it a godly option. Sometimes you can’t control what your eyes see, and most of the time you can’t change what you are attracted to but you can control the decisions you make with that knowledge.
Jesus advises the same: “Watch out for false prophets in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 In a very interesting passage, Jesus makes a distinction between having eyes and seeing, addressing the human habits mentioned earlier.
“15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? – *Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?* And do you not remember?” Mark 8:15-18 Jesus was warning his disciples against the spiritual unbelief of the Pharisees which was spreading like yeast of bread (or a disease). When Jesus said that they had eyes but could not “see”, He wasn’t talking about their physical sight! He was saying that they do not understand the spiritual and serious consequences of a lack of faith. In other words He was asking them to look beyond what was happening at merely a physical level to see what was happening at a deeper level. Through the gospel we have been given a small window through which we can see things from God’s perspective. We have been given ‘new eyes’ to see the world in a different way. Jesus wanted His disciples to use this vision to see what God was up to, I think we would benefit from doing the same.
Mark 8:15-18 Jesus was warning his disciples against the spiritual unbelief of the Pharisees which was spreading like yeast of bread (or a disease). When Jesus said that they had eyes but could not “see”, He wasn’t talking about their physical sight! He was saying that they do not understand the spiritual and serious consequences of a lack of faith. In other words He was asking them to look beyond what was happening at merely a physical level to see what was happening at a deeper level. Through the gospel we have been given a small window through which we can see things from God’s perspective. We have been given ‘new eyes’ to see the world in a different way. Jesus wanted His disciples to use this vision to see what God was up to, I think we would benefit from doing the same.
I want to make a quick point about foundations. “So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 Here, Jesus is talking about listening to His words and obeying them is the wise thing to do – like building your house on a solid foundation. Though storms will come to you – you will stand. Hearing his words and not doing them is as foolish as building your house on sand. If something has weak foundations, you only have to wait for times to get hard and its weakness will get found out. So we do ourselves a favour by appreciating external beauty, but looking for firm foundations because they will keep you in good stead when times get hard – appearances alone, will not.
In the words of the late Dr. Tayo Adeyemi:
“In life, storms will come…whether you are a nice person or not, whether you pray or you do not. In order to withstand the storm we must be built for strength. Therefore build your life, your marriage, your business, for strength – with the storm in mind. Hope for the good days, build for the bad days. Beauty will not be of much use during the storm, but strength will.”