The Bible’s Viewpoint
Should Women Hide Their Beauty?
“WOMEN love fashion,” said George Simonton, a veteran fashion designer and professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He explains: “Women like to express their individuality, to pull themselves together, to enhance their appearance . . . I think doing so shows respect for yourself and respect for the people you’re with.” Yes, adornment has long been recognized as a way for women to express their femininity, to enhance their appearance, and to achieve a measure of self-confidence.
However, in the name of religion, some have cast a negative light on female adornment. “Holy women . . . if . . . naturally beautiful, . . . must not increase beauty, but try to subdue it,” wrote Tertullian in the third century C.E. Regarding cosmetics, he continued: “Women sin against God who anoint their faces with creams, stain their cheeks with rouge, or lengthen their eyebrows.” And he described gold and silver “articles of ornament” as “tools of allurement.”
Today, many still hold strong views about female adornment. Some religions even forbid members to wear any ornamental jewelry, makeup, or colorful clothing. Must a Christian woman hide her beauty, or may she take steps to enhance her appearance?
The Bible does not discuss in detail the wearing of jewelry and the use of cosmetics. Still, there is enough evidence to show that God does not condemn these or other forms of adornment.
For instance, when describing the way he blessed Jerusalem, God spoke as if that city were a woman, saying: “I went on to deck you with ornaments . . . , and you grew to be very, very pretty.” (Ezekiel 16:11-13) Such ornaments, although symbolic, included bracelets, a necklace, and earrings. The Scriptures also favorably compare personal ornaments of gold to a “wise reprover” whose words are received by a willing listener. (Proverbs 25:1, 12) It would seem that if the Scriptures make these favorable comparisons, God would not be against women using beautiful objects to enhance their appearance.
Christian Women Adorn Themselves
Some Bible passages deal directly with the subject of female adornment. The apostle Paul wrote: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress.” When this is done with “modesty and soundness of mind,” it can be a reflection of a woman’s reverence for God. (1 Timothy 2:9, 10) As Christian women exhibit such modest beauty, it can reflect well on the teachings of God and the congregation.
Some people counter that the same verses say the adornment is not to be “with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.” Does this mean that women must not fix their hair or wear jewelry?
No, it does not; the Bible speaks well of adornment. So rather than forbidding certain ornamentation, Paul was encouraging women to focus primarily on adorning themselves with Christian qualities and good works.
The apostle Paul wrote: “Let us not be judging one another any longer, but rather make this your decision, not to put before a brother a stumbling block or a cause for tripping.” (Romans 14:13) How does this apply to what we choose for personal adornment?
First, Paul tells us not to be “judging one another.” We must guard against ‘putting before a brother a stumbling block.’ Standards of what is acceptable may vary from land to land and culture to culture. What is acceptable in one time and place may be inappropriate in another. We should not stumble or offend others by wearing adornment that our culture associates with an objectionable lifestyle. Godly women do well to ask themselves: How does the community view what I wear? Are members of the congregation embarrassed, puzzled, or ashamed because of what I wear? Even if a Christian woman has a right to dress or groom in a certain manner, she will forgo that right if her style of grooming would be offensive.—1 Corinthians 10:23, 24.
Also, focusing too much attention on one’s appearance can lead to an unwholesome attitude. Today in many lands some women flirtatiously use adornment to attract attention to themselves in an immodest way. However, Christian women strictly avoid such a misuse of adornment, striving to be sound in mind and chaste in their personal affairs, “so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.”—Titus 2:4, 5.
Godly women understand that to whatever extent they choose to use external adornment, their real beauty lies within “the secret person of the heart” and is thus reflected in their attitude and demeanor. (1 Peter 3:3, 4) The woman who makes sensible choices regarding her manner of dress, her use of cosmetics, and her jewelry gains the respect of others and honors her Creator.