Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.Beauty is vain? What does that mean?
First, what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that beauty is meaningless. We live in a world made by a beautiful God who fills his world with beauty. He is the designer and source of all beauty. It is his glory on display. Beauty matters.
So what does it mean? It means that physical beauty is fleeting. God loves us enough to tell us not to build our identity on something so transient, so fragile. If you do, you'll be building your life on sand. Sand that easily shifts. Sand that pours through your grasping fingers. Hourglass sand that quickly runs out. If you build your identity on how you look, who you are will be tragically fragile.
This was illustrated with sad clarity recently in a World Magazine article by Sophia Lee entitled, "Selfies with a Supermodel."
Through her friend who runs a ministry to the homeless in LA, the author met Ivy Nicholson, a once world-famous model. Nicholson is now elderly and homeless. Pictures of her then and now provide visual aid to the wisdom of Proverbs 31:30. And Lee's article provides sad testimony of the effects of "chasing after the wind" of physical beauty.
Ivy was regaling Regina with tales of her past…how she traveled all around the world doing high-fashion shoots. And for the rest of the afternoon, all she talked about was the past. One of the first things she said to me was, “Do you know who I am? Look me up!”
The once-gorgeous young woman was now an 84-year-old homeless woman, but she still acted as if in the heyday of her 20s, giggling and fixing her hair in her compact mirror. She barely talked about her kids and grandchildren, but bragged how easy it was for her to gain VIP seats at fancy-schmancy bars and hard-to-reserve restaurants.She concludes with this:
I felt rather sad for the poor woman: She seemed to me to be basing so much of her self-worth and value on her physical appearance and past experiences. I also felt convicted, because as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I also base too much of my own worth and self-confidence in how I look and what I’ve accomplished. … Is this really what I want to boast about 50 years from today?
1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV, emphasis added)
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.