“Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3–4).
One evening, during a family gathering in our home, one of my daughter’s children was “into” the aggravation of a sibling. I called him down, and he turned and glared at me; it was the look of Cain. He gave me a dark, malicious stare. His mother, Jill, saw it all and said to me, “Dad, you have just seen the dark side of Baugh Doster.” How is it that you can see when a person is angry by looking at his face? How is it that you can see a person is mean, jealous, or bitter by looking at his face? How is it that you can see that a person is sad or sorrowful by looking at his face?
There is a biblical principle at work here: The inner man shapes the outer man, whatever is in the heart of man shapes his face.
Peter was working from that principle when he directed ladies not to rely on jewelry, clothes, and a $150 visit to the salon to make them beautiful. He was saying that true beauty begins on the inside. I read recently of the billions being spent on plastic surgery by men and women striving to retain physical beauty and youth. However, no plastic surgery can stop someone’s face from being reshaped in a few years by anger and bitterness.
Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to see Jesus (John 3), had been trying to change from the outside in. He had adorned his life with an impeccable, religious morality. He was meticulous in his keeping of the Law. Jesus told him that his inside had remained unchanged. Nicodemus had it backward. He needed a spiritual change of heart.
The beauty of the Christian begins with the rebirth and continues as he is conformed to the image of Jesus Himself (Rom. 8:29). That is why Paul instructed the Philippians to dwell in their hearts and minds on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Phil. 4:8). I love that verse! If those godly characteristics are gathered and stored in the inner treasure house of our lives, then we will live noble and just lives, speaking the truth with arresting grace. What is on the inside will come out. If we are filled with insecurity, jealousy, and anger, then slanderous and indicting gossip will pour out of our mouths. If we are filled with the love, joy, and peace of the Holy Spirit then our lips will drip with the sweet honey of grace.
Every few months I go back and read a story told by Calvin Miller in his book, The Table of Inwardness. I keep returning to it because it serves as a convicting reminder of what I ought to be feeding my soul. Someone had given Miller an antique wooden dynamite box. The box was meticulously structured, and across the top of the box was printed in red and black letters “Danger Dynamite.” People were careful with how they handled it because they knew the contents were explosive. The box had been in his living room for a while. There is a “gremlin” that lives in all our houses that will not allow boxes to remain empty. One day Miller looked inside his beautiful box and saw all sorts of common household odds and ends. A box designed to carry dynamite had become a catchall for junk. The hearts of many Christians are like that box. Designed to house the Spirit, the beauty and power of Christ, we become filled with the inane trinkets of the world.
So do we throw away our watches, jewelry, suits, and ties? Do Christian ladies forego the hair salon? There are groups of Christians who take Peter’s words and reshape their outer selves to look humble and unadorned. They refuse to wear jewelry or makeup. They wear plain clothes that lack any color. These folks have taken the words of Peter and done exactly what he warned against. They too, are trying to change the inside by outward image. Humble hearts are not created by humble clothing. In fact, the plain dress code sometimes shouts in pride, “Look how humble we are.”
Our society lives by the credo, “Image is everything.” If I look good, if I look the part, that is what matters. Sitting in a booth in a coffee shop wearing a tweed jacket with elbow pads and writing in a journal does not make me a writer or author. Our image, the world’s concept of who we are, only means something if it genuinely reflects who we are on the inside. Our image with each other and in the world is important. Peter was not saying, “Forget how other Christians and the world see you.” He was saying, “What they see ultimately will be a reflection of what is in the heart.” We usually stand in front of a mirror when we are dressing. We would do well to stand before Scripture — before God’s Word — and ask, “How do I look? How do I sound?” We might be compelled to spend more time with the clothing of the soul than the gilding of the body.