Vanity

“Just a minute, mum, I’m doing my hair!”

“Just got to finish my make-up.”

“I’ll be down in a second. I’m just ‘doing my teeth’.”

How many times have we heard these things said, or even said them ourselves? Looking good is such a big issue in our society today. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have to go around looking like tramps, but spending too long in the morning doing our hair, or fixing the right outfit and so on, can soon become vain.

‘Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.’ 1 Sam.16v7

The Bible says that God is more bothered about us making the heart look beautiful than our outer looks. God doesn’t care if we’re too spotty, too fat, too ugly, have the wrong hair colour, or anything like that. We are made in God’s image and in His eyes we are beautiful because He made us just as we are.

God loves the way we look on the outside because He made us like that. But He wants us to strive to be beautiful on the inside.

By Esther Field



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29 comments:

  1. Older woman (in a Titus 2 sense)1 November 2009 at 21:23

    "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30
    Thanks for your succinct article, Esther. Enjoy this praise. What you say is true.

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  2. Esther, Amazing article.

    I do confess I am really vain. I am male so I don't put on makeup but I do wear clothes and do have hair and teeth. And I spend a bit too much time on such things. I really try to focus on looking good. But God as you said looks at the heart. The INSIDE. From now on I will try to get on with better things. Doing worthwhile things. For God's glory. Although looking nice is good, and it is a good witness of what a Christian should look like. We should also be concerned with what a good Christian witness does!

    Esther thank you.

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  3. I've heard the same story of multiple old ladies, where they've been asked how they had such wonderful skin in their old age. Their replies:
    the first: 'nothing, except some vaseline for dry skin'
    the other: 'soap and water, that's my secret'

    Avoiding wrinkles is when a lot of makeup is piled on, and at that age, the body is not so good at repairing itself and so a lot of damage is done to the skin.

    To spend a lifetime under a coat of makeup though, must be really wrecking the skin - to say nothing of the hours wasted every week doing it.

    To be fair, a little makeup on a special occasion will look great, but if that's what's normally done, it becomes normal, and the attempt to look good is lost.

    The example of Esther 2 v 15:
    'she required nothing but what Hegai ... appointed'
    contrasted with v13, they could have anything to adorn them that they desired.

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  4. Esther, this is an excellent piece. I have a question though that has been simmering on my mind (shock horror! A soon to be ordained man thinking about make up!!!) Anyway, I was having a discussion with the lovely Rachel and we stumbled upon the question of make up. Here is the question we couldn't quite answer. At what age (if at all) is appropriate for a girl to start putting on make up? Kip'

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  5. Thank you Kip'.
    In my family my sisters (age 22 and 20) are 'allowed' and do wear make up most days, where as my dad has asked me not to. I don't agree with young girls wearing make up, but I really don't think it's wrong in itself. This may well be just me, but I would say that about 16 a girl could decide whether to or not.
    I don't have a great answer to this (as you can see!), does anyone else have any ideas?
    Blessings,
    Esther

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  6. Thanks Esther. More questions. Why don't you agree with young girls wearing make up. Wouldn't it be ok for a young girl to wear a little make up say on the wedding of her sister or something like that? Also why 16? At the moment I reckon it should be a gradual thing although I don't yet have good reasons. Any other ideas? Kip'

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  7. This is a tough one, and I think it really varies from one person to another. I started wearing make-up when I was about 14, to try and cover up my spots. I only wear foundation and a little bit of blusher (as I have quite a pale complexion) and occassionaly I'll wear a little lip gloss, but that's it. I don't even wear it all the time - I don't think it's neccessary. I hate to see girls who wear lots of make-up - it actually spoils their looks instead of enhancing it. Make-up is meant to enhance your looks, and too much just makes one look like a doll. Personally I think when a girl gets 'dolled up' she starts sending out a wrong message. A liitle bit of make-up to enhance one's looks is, in my opinion, absolutely fine, but too much, I think, is wrong. It's all about balance. I hope this helps!

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  8. Kip',
    I just think it feels slightly weird for a girl of, say, 7 wearing make up. This might just be me, but to me it just feels slightly wrong...
    I don't really know why 16, I just feel that at the age of 16 a girl is much more of a woman, but I don;t know why I've always thought 16. I think on special occasions it's fine for young teens to wear make up (e.g. for my sisters wedding where I am a bridesmaid I will wear make up). But I also agree with what Rebekah says - many girls wear far too much and it takes away from their looks rather than enhancing it.
    Any others have thoughts?
    Esther

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  9. Good article, Esther.
    Is make up an age dependant thing anyway? The Bible does not indicate that there is any age limit for making oneself look beautiful so might this also apply to make up? If we are Christians then we aught to believe that the Bible, God's word, applies to every area of life. This would mean that we can make a biblical decision about make up.

    Now, since make up isn't mentioned in the Bible, we have to appeal to principles that talk about the ideas of women looking beautiful/adorning themselves etc. What we do see when we look is stuff about being modest and stuff about honouring your head.

    Two big guidlines that we can therefore use in the decision of whether such things are right are these; 1. Is it modest? 2. If I am not married then, Is this in line with my father's will/honouring him? If married then, is this in line with my husband's will/ submitting to him.

    This may not be an accurate look at what the Bible does say. My main point, however, is that we must consult the Bible in every thing and find out what God says so as to be inside his will.

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  10. Good topic, people! I agree with you, Kip' that the wearing of make up should be a gradual thing. I think I would say that young girls probably shouldn't be wearing it as it does take away from just being a child (of course, playing with make up is a different thing from wearing it regularly. Same with high-heeled shoes.) But I also think that when a girl comes of an age where she can give good reasons as to why she wants to wear it, seems to have good motives and is simply no longer a child then, with the permission of her parents, she should be allowed to wear it.
    I do agree somewhat with Rebekah with regards to too much make up (although it's obviously subjective, the eye of the beholder and all that jazz). Make up is supposed to beautify and there is definitely a point where it not only doesn't beautify but is a negative thing.
    When to wear make up is something that I'm not sure of. I wear a little make up most days but on the days I go to work I wear much more. This is mainly a culture thing - in my workplace it would be odd for a woman not to wear make up. But what is fine in a work environment might not be ok for a quiet day with my family. I guess it comes back to motives again.
    Basically, I don't know! I'm pretty clear in my own mind that once a woman can't go out of the house without a full face of make up then something has gone wrong - it's almost certainly not a beautify thing any more but a cover up thing and I think that's probably headed down the wrong path. But again, I'm no authority on the subject and would love for someone to come up with a set of rules from the Bible for this! I guess I'll be waiting a long time...

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  11. Liking the discussion folks. Lots of very helpful comment... Something that occurred to me this morning as I was speaking to a certain wise old man (thanks Ron) was the place of the family head (father/husband) in all this. Would it be right to say that for an unmarried girl the Father should have the final say on this and that for the married woman, her husband should have the final say? This however doesn't eradicate the question of if it is a right thing to do and if it is, when is the right age to put it on. I still think that make-up like many other things in our households (when children go to sleep, going out shopping etc) should be a gradual thing. This obviously doesnt answer the question but I wonder if it would help us to consider what are all the reasons that people wear make up?

    Also can we think of places in the bible where there are suggestions of women putting on make up. One example than I can think of is in Song of Songs and there I note the relationship in view is that of husband/wife or betrothed/suitor which might possibly mean that make up is limited to these situations? What do people think? Kip'

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  12. I agree with you Ruth when you say that when a woman thinks she can't go out without a full face of make-up because she wants to 'cover up' instead of beautify then that's definately wrong. A scripture comes to mind from the book of Psalms. "I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfull made. Marvellous are Thy works O Lord, and that my soul knoweth right well." If girls are wearing lots of make-up to cover up their looks because they are not happy with how they are, isn't that a sign of discontentmet? Isn't it an outward statement that says, "I'm not happy with how you have made me God and I want to change it!"? I said that I started wearing a litle make-up to try and cover up my spots. I think that's fine; but when one covers their whole face with make-up to try and change their whole look completely, I think that's wrong. Like Ruth says, it's all down to motives. It's important that we are honest with ourselves and answer truthfully why we want to wear make-up? What are everyone's thoughts on this?

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  13. Hi everyone.

    Great article, thanks Esther! I love the way all of you have been bringing this discussion to the Bible and looking at God's standards.

    Going back to what Kip said, it does depend on our motives. I once asked a girl why she wore make-up and she said it was "To look pretty and to get boys"!!! So perhaps wondering girls should examine their reasons for desiring to be allowed it!!!
    I think that wearing a little make-up to enhance ones features is not wrong (I do myself occasionally), as you said Rebekah, but it goes back to the "everything in moderation" idea, doesn't it? We need a balance. There are some women who cake it on and think nothing of it, but then there are some women who look like they could really do with something to make their faces a little paler/darker or whatever.
    But if we cover our faces in the stuff, and make our features almost unrecognisable, then I feel that we are just trying to alter the way God has made us. The Bible does not forbid us making oursleves look nice (I mean think of Esther's 1 year of preparation!!), don't get me wrong, but it's like plastic surgery; if we go too far we're changing the way God has designed us which shows ingratitude and ungratefulness. And besides our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, supposed to be honoured and treated with respect.
    Hope that made sense and is helpful!
    Elspeth

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  14. I couldn't agree with you more, Elspeth - that's exactly how I feel about it. I also agree with Thomas regarding the guidelines we should examine regarding the make-up issue: 1.Is it modest and 2.Is it in line with father's/husband's will. I think that once again it's down to motives. If girls are wearing make-up to attract attention then that's not modest. Also some fathers may not like their daughters to wear make-up, and therefore the daughter must respect her father's decision and obey him, and of course the same principle applies with husband and wife - the husband may not want his wife to wear make-up, and then of course the wife must submit herself to her husband's decision. Regarding age, I don't believe that young girls should wear make-up. I've seen ten years old girls making themselves look like sixteen, seventeen year-olds with the amount of make-up they have put on, which is not modest or safe either. I think that when to wear make-up is a question girls ought to approach their parents with, as it varies from person to person.
    What does everyone think?

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  15. Hello everyone!
    Jonah here. Just reading all your comments etc. I find them all interesting. But what the Titus 2 woman (whoever she is!) said was good. Quoting from Proverbs.'' Charm is Deceitful, and beauty is passing,but a women who fears the Lord shall be praised.''

    Does make-up cover up your face? Is it hiding stuff? One of you said it hid up acne etc. Is that deceitful? I think that hiding your face could be in the department of deceit.

    Is make-up making you look better? Is it really making you beautiful? I think that showing ones true self is good.
    Now looking nice is good and God glorifing. But look what the end of Prov31:30 says(NKJV): But a women who fears the Lord,she SHALL be praised.
    Women today should focus on fearing the Lord.

    We must remember that we (men and women) are made in the image of God. That is all we need! Why should we focus on trying to look better than we really are?

    I once knew this lady who said '' I am gonna put a bit of Lippy(lipstick) for the Lord'' If it is for the Lord then do it. Look nice in church. Making your ''Body(including face) a living Sacrifice, Holy, acceptable to God. Which is your reasonable service''Rom12:1

    Now I am probably going to be pennalized by all these make-up-wearing girls. I am not condemming make up. I am just saying my veiws. Which may change. Anyway I am sorry for taking up 1/2 the page with my comment.(more like my article!)

    God bless!

    JONAH M

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  16. David van den Broek5 November 2009 at 00:07

    Hey folks! Am loving all this commenting -especially where we are dealing with things that actually matter as we seek to submit every area of our lives to Christ!

    To change the tone a little bit, it's interesting that in old testament times it was quite acceptable for men to where jewellery (Ex 35v22 would be an example).

    Now I know that ‘jewellery’ is not the same as make-up but the point that I would like to make is really just to support what many of you have already said: most of this question comes down to motive and context. It was appropriate for Rebekah to wear a nose ring weighing a beka (sounds like it would hurt!) and it made her look beautiful according to the culture of her day -I don't believe the same would be true today.

    In response to your comment, Jonah, I agree that above all God wants young ladies to have the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (I love that passage in 1 Peter 3v3-6). But wouldn't you agree that as a godly woman beautifies her body in addition to that gentle and quiet spirit she makes herself even more pleasing in the sight of God?

    Enough from me.

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  17. Folks, seeing as I had a key role in opening this can of worms/unleashing this hot potato/beginning the interesting discussion on make-up, may I suggest some rules for the comments that we make

    1. Could we please be careful in how we speak and of the implications of what we write givne that the issues we are discussing are personal to many of us (I know that this not all we need to consider when making comments but its worth recognising that this is not merely a theoretical discussion). I reckon this therefore means thinking long and hard before making comments like make-up is wrong (as implied in some of the comments). One way to safeguard against this is to ask those around us (especially parents and other older Christians) for what they think on an issue before putting it to print. Another way to guard against unecessarily hurtful comments is to think carefully about what the WHOLE Bible says on an issue which leads me to my next comment

    2. Bible, Bible, Bible... By which I mean, could we try and look for ways in which the entire Bible helps us answer our issues. For example, are there any instances in Scripture of women wearing make up? Are they presented positively or negatively? What age/stage of life are these women at and so on? Approaching life's issues with this framework reminds us that Scripture is indeed equipped to enable us who are God's children, to live lives that pleasing to Him in every way (1 Corinthians 10:31).

    So now can I suggest that a few questions for us to think about for the next few posts please?

    1. Are there any examples of women wearing make up in the Bible? (So far I can think of the woman in Song of Songs and Esther... Maybe also Rebekah?)

    2. What age/stage of life are these women at?

    3. Are the examples of women with make up presented negatively or positively?

    Kip'

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  18. Thanks for reminding us of that, Kip. I totally agree, this discussion should be in line with the Bible and personal preferences should not be the only source we look to!

    Thanks also for what the rest of you have put, you have all given me a lot to think about and I found it very interesting to read your thoughts.

    After thinking over what Kip said I have thought of some examples from the Bible where these topics are considered. One thing I noticed was about the Proverbs 31 woman. In verse 22 it talks about her clothing herself in purple and implies that she was making herself look nice. This shows that taking care of/beautifying oneself is not wrong, in itself. Obviously wearing nice clothes and putting on make-up are different, but the motives are similar. And (thinking of your 3 questions, Kip), this woman was obviously married and mother to several children. Her husband approved of her looking nice, and therefore she did her best at making herself (and her family) look good.
    As I mentioned in a previous comment ^, Esther spent a year preparing to meet the king, and this is an obvious example of where cosmetics are mentioned (oil of myrrh, spices, ointments, etc). She is not condemned for doing this, nor is it unusual according to her culture. All the women went through this too, and it was seen as normal. Going back to ages, chapter 2 says she was a young woman.
    The Bible describes quite a few women as beautiful and physically attractive, including Rachel, Rebekah, the woman in Song of Solomon, Esther, etc. But the main underlying fact about all of these women seems to be their characters and attitudes, that is what makes them beautiful. Also many of the women whose appearances are not described (e.g. Ruth), are portrayed as lovely, generous, kind, caring, sacrificial and patient. So I suppose that when women are godly and do good deeds they are seen as beautiful (going back to the 1 Peter 3:3-6 passage).
    Anyway, as Esther said in the original article^, we aren't to go around looking like tramps! We are ambassadors of Christ, and as 1 Cor.6:19,20 say, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and we have to glorify Christ with them. We are the body of Christ, and we represent Him, so let us as women (and men) seek to glorify Him through our appearances.
    Hope this is helpful!
    Elspeth

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  19. P.S. Sorry. I forgot to mention the haughty women who are condemned in Isaiah 3. They are reproved for their excessive ornamentation and there is a reference to their perfumes and "well-set hair". This is a negative reaction to cosmetics, and the women are judged for their pride in their looks and extravagance of dress. The detailed description of garments, cosmetics and accessories throws a new light on the verses in 1 Peter 3:3,4, doesn't it?

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  20. Elspeth,

    Many thanks for those comments. Particular thanks for a good knowledge of the bible and for the reminder of those verses from Isaiah (I'd forgotten them!)

    Others in the group, do we know of other passages from Scripture that we think will be relevant for this issue? Richard van den Broek reminded me this morning about Jezebel who is described as putting on make up. Any others? It'd be good to also be thinking of what answers the Bible gives to question 2 above i.e. at what age/stage of life are these women as this will be very significant when we come to apply all that we have seen from Scripture on this issue.

    Have a good weekend and an edifying Lord's day.

    Kip' C.

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  21. Thanks so much folks for centralising the discussion over the Bible. If we don't keep our discussion over the Bible then we can head anywhere not least of all our opinions, so thanks again.

    It seems to me In the course of discussion (on the blog and elsewhere)that make up is not categorically wrong. It seams that its use must be qualified.

    The only place where make up is used in the Bible is with those who are legally bound to marriage. This would include the betrothal of the woman of song of solomon and Rebakah then even more importantly the Church who Christ is preparing (hallelujah). We see that "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5v25-27) Now I am not saying this is a clear use of make up. Never the less there is very clearly an element of 'beauty treatment' that hearkens back to both Esther's and the woman of Song of Soloman's prep. for marriage.

    So that said, it seams that the Bible points to the conclusion that make up is primarily for women in betrothal or who are married. These women beautify themselves for their Husbands (or, as in the case of the church, beautified).

    If I have missed something out in my conclusion then do point it out. I am looking to find out not to convince!

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  22. Just a quickie comment to add to our Kip's Question One info. There is another category of women who use make up. Ezekiel 23:40 talks of two women who 'painted their eyes and put on their jewellery' for all the wrong reasons.
    So far it looks like make up can either be used to beautify a woman for her husband or to accentuate a woman's looks to attract a man who is not her husband.

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  23. If what Ruth says are the 'options' (So far it looks like make up can either be used to beautify a woman for her husband or to accentuate a woman's looks to attract a man who is not her husband.) then should unmarried girls/women wear make up...?

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  24. One thought on vanity, it is not just confined to looks, it is an attitude, which involves how we view other people and ourselves. Surely the biggest problem of vanity is continually thinking of what others will think of us and not how we can "Esteem others better than ourselves." and help them. On the issue of makeup I cannot help quopting Hamlet. "God gives you one face and you make yourselves another!" it is alright to look after the beauty God has given us but we should not seek to make ourselves "better" than God made us. Far and above beauty A meek and quiet spirit is what God admires.

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  25. Thanks for all your comments everyone! After reading them, I'm beginning to wonder myself whether I should be wearing make-up, even if it is only a little bit. It was good to read the examples from the Bible where those who were wearing make-up were legally bound to marriage. I thought Elspeth's question was challenging. "Should an unmarried girl/woman wear make-up?" That really got me thinking! Above all, it was great to have the reminder that it is a meek and quiet spirit that is of great price to God, and that is what all women should be aiming for! Thanks again everyone for all of their helpful comments.

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  26. CONCLUSION

    Thank you for your comments and for participating in this discussion. We have spent time both reading your comments and looking at what the Bible has to say about this topic. We think it is a fair conclusion to say that throughout the Bible make-up has been used by both righteous and wicked people with both righteous and wicked motives. The most important thing to end with is a reminder that it is not whether or not a girl has make-up on but what the motives behind doing so are.

    If a girl is in two minds about this subject she should go to her father or husband.

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  27. Hi,

    this is a really goos topic to discuss.
    It is awful but I find that in the morning when I am getting ready for school, I get a shower, blow dry my hair, make sure my partin is completely right, get dressed it matching outfit, do my make up. by the time I have done all this I do not have enough time to read my Bible.
    We make ourselves beautiful for the world but often dont think what is beautiful to our Father.

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  28. Esther did not 'take a year' to put on makeup, but rather she was given a year for purification. She was described in Esther 2 v 7 as being fair and beautiful even before this purification. Indeed all the women chosen for this purification were the 'fair young virgins' Esther 2v3.

    This is recorded as what happened, it is not condemned but neither is it approved. It was purification before being considered to be the queen - surely expectations of a queen surpass those of the rest of us? A queen ought to be richly adorned (even though Esther actually refused anything except what was appointed by Hegai [2v15]).

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  29. I think often some things should be done in moderation and I think using makeup is one of them. Often- as has already been said -people put on way too much and it looks AWFUL!!!! but I don't really see anything wrong with a little. As long as God is first in our hearts that is the most important and if we truly love Him we will want to do whats right and will seek him first in everything- even things like make-up.

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