A casual glance at the magazine racks in the local supermarket is an easy way to be reminded of the preoccupation our society has with a woman’s physical appearance. Provocatively dressed cover models stand surrounded by captions advertising articles on achieving the look to instantly attract that certain someone. In addition to their covers, the contents inside many of these periodicals promote the ungodly and self-destructive idea that flawless physical beauty, rather than the development of good character, is the key to success.
Unfortunately, many of these ideas are also alive and well in the church. One can look at the covers of certain contemporary Christian music albums and wonder if the standards of that industry are in reality so different than those of the secular culture. It is also too easy to find immodest clothing on display in many of our churches.
In today’s passage, Peter calls the women of the church to stand firm in the faith by refusing to submit to the standards of beauty set by the secular culture. He exhorts the women in his audience to remember the beauty that is precious in God’s sight, namely the beauty of character reflected in a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:3–4). Faithful women have always known that true beauty — lasting beauty — is found ultimately not in physical appearance but in the display of a godly character that produces good works and that fears only God Himself (vv. 5–6).
In these verses, Peter is not condemning all wearing of jewelry or all concern with outward appearance. If he were, then we would have to read verse 3 as forbidding the wearing of any clothing at all. What he is condemning is an overt concern with physical appearance that reflects the vanity and ungodliness of the surrounding culture. A person’s dress is not indifferent; rather, it illustrates the concerns of their heart. John Calvin reminds us that “they who object and say, that to clothe one’s-self in this or that manner is an indifferent thing, in which all are free to do as they please, may be easily confuted; for excessive elegance and superfluous display, in short, all excesses, arise from a corrupted mind.”
This passage has a message for men and women. Unlike the surrounding culture, we are not to be vainly concerned with our physical attractiveness, but we are to develop the permanent inward beauty of a godly character. Take some time to consider how concerned you are with your physical appearance. Begin to model a godly character and get rid of anything that would cause you to focus vainly on your outward beauty.