Beauty, Blessings, Culture, Feminism, Living Free, Sex

What Is Beauty? {VS Vanity}

This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

‘You were the seal of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty

You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created
    till wickedness was found in you…

Your heart became proud
    on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
    because of your splendor’

~Ezekiel 28

Beauty vs. Vanity

What is the difference between true beauty & vanity — its ugly stepsister? I love breaching this subject because it’s controversial and misunderstood. I believe the Lord wants to enlighten us that BEAUTY is not the enemy; VANITY is.

I used to believe all beauty was bad, even dangerous. Many women wield it as a weapon to get their way, some men turn into terrible people in search of it, the media villifies it. The root of villify is vile — in other words, to cheapen, abuse or disparage something precious.

I couldn’t mentally reconcile the two: Our good, pure Father creating something vile, cheap, even seductive. Why would He give women such a powerful “gift”? Why would men so grossly abuse it?

But in Scripture, beauty is spoken of so positively! In the passage above, God made Lucifer “perfect in beauty”. Wow! So beauty isn’t the issue. It was once Lucifer grew proud on account of his beauty and corrupted his wisdom (worshipping himself rather than the Lord!) that he fell. That’s how powerful this gift of beauty is… it can even corrupt a perfect angel 🙂

My Epiphany

One day while living in Atlanta, I sensed the Lord challenge my thinking on this issue. I remember exactly where I was — circling a parking garage at Buckhead Church — when He gave me this epiphany. It rang so clear in my heart.

What He showed me that day is the fallen nature of beauty in this world & its original heavenly purpose. Beauty is God-made. Let’s get that out of the way right away! So when does it turn into vanity (or even worse, seduction)?

When we do something “in vain”, it means we don’t accomplish our intended result. Our actions don’t live up to their purpose. Vanity is like that. Vanity is beauty that has lost its way, forgetting its divine purpose — to glorify God — and vainly drawing people to itself. It is then that beauty becomes “purposeless”, vain.

As women, our goal isn’t to see how many heads we turn or “likes” we get on pictures of our clothes / hair / fit bodies. This trivializes who we are, those carrying His beauty to the people around us. Beauty is meant to point people to the Lord!

The issue is when beauty turns inward, seeking attention for oneself.

God didn’t create beautiful waterfalls, women, & sunsets to captivate the world with them alone. Yes, beauty draws us towards these things, but the ultimate goal is to open people’s hearts up to HIM (!) and reflect His nature to the world. What a weighty goal!

Vanity, on the other hand, is an endless pit. The mythological Narcissus (where we get today’s word “narcissist”) ends with him losing sight of reality & staring at himself in the water, eventually dying there. Lucifer’s perfect life ended this way, too (& then became hell on earth, lol). 🙂 Our selfie-obssessed culture also leads us to a similar end, encouraging our vanity instead of drawing attention to our Creator. When we fall for it, we stall our purpose as we focus on the wrong thing & lose sight of the right one (Him)! We start living for ourselves & how much glory we can gain each day.

Vanity has two outcomes: 1) Dissatisfaction and 2) failure to achieve one’s ultimate purpose: Reflecting any glory back to the Lord. I believe it’s likely that vanity marks everyone it encounters with discontentment because it fails in its very purpose! God put a desire in our hearts to crave beauty!! It isn’t a bad desire, but it’s certainly been misguided over the years. This craving was to pull us closer to HIM, so when we seek earthly beauty alone, we feel empty & crave it all the more.

The Beauty of the Lord

True beauty, in contrast, satisfies our hearts with its purity & draws us nearer to Him. The Lord’s beauty gives us a richness no earthly beauty could touch. Let’s remember, the Psalmist David said he sought only one thing in life! What was it?

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek Him in His temple.

Psalm 27:4

WHAT! Of all the things King David had within his reach, he — a man after God’s own heart — pursued the presence & beauty of the Lord most. Kind of crazy. Beauty must be a big deal to God. It’s what we do with our own (ladies) & whose we seek most (men) that determines who we become.

As women, pursuing His beauty also settles our own desire to be beautiful because we aren’t stealing God’s glory from Him. As the Lord warned us in Isaiah,

“I am the Lord; that is My name!
    I will not yield My glory to another
    or My praise to idols.

Isaiah 42

The most beautiful women in the world realize their beauty isn’t about them but about Him. This is so hard, I know! The world only seems to appreciate the cheap beauty we can see with our eyes, but true beauty is unseen.

The irony is that, when we try to be beautiful and gain approval in an earthly way, we lose our true beauty. But when we reflect all praise back to Him for how He made us (beautiful, in His image), we are the most captivating! Our beauty is pure & genuine when we honor Him with it, not ourselves.

Isn’t that how the Lord works? He gives us what we want most — but only once we put Him first. 

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

p.s. Let’s also keep in mind what we praise in the ladies & young girls around us. Is it skin-deep beauty that focuses on her (& makes her feel self-conscious & insecure) or true inner beauty that honors the Lord with her gift?