Over the summer, my husband and I were blessed to travel to Washington D.C. and see many of the beautiful sights in our nation’s capital. We spent one afternoon walking around the National Cathedral, which is a very impressive building. But as we took in the tall ceilings, the incredible stained glass windows, and all the ornate details and carvings, the building felt more and more empty. I kept remembering the verse in Acts 7:48 that tells how God does not dwell in temples made with hands. Many hands must have worked on the building of that cathedral. But I would guess that this cathedral has never felt the presence of God. The physical building, although beautiful, is simply an empty building.
The Lord asked the prophet Isaiah “where is the house that you will build Me?” He goes on to say “for all those things my hand has made.”God does not need man to build him beautiful and ornate buildings, for he is the creator of all things and does not need to dwell in any kind of man-made temple. Instead, God lives within us. 2 Corinthians 6:16 says that “you are the temple of the living God.” Romans chapter 8 contrasts those who live according to the flesh (or the physical world) with those who have a more spiritual mind. Romans 8:9 says that we should live according to the spirit because the Spirit of God dwells in us.
If we are going to be God’s temple and He is going to live within us, we need to be concerned with how we care for that temple. We need to see ourselves as God sees us. And God does not see our outward appearance. In I Peter 3, the women are encourage not to spend time adorning themselves on the outside fixing their hair and concerning themselves with their clothing and jewelry. Instead, they are encouraged to focus on the “hidden person of the heart.” Just as a building does not need to be adorned with stained glass windows and ornate decorations in order to be pleasing to God, we do not need to be overly concerned about the physical dressings on our temple.
It is possible for us to become so concerned with maintaining our outward appearance that we forget to maintain our “hidden person.” Jesus warned the Pharisees of the danger of focusing only on their outward appearance. They wanted to appear to be righteous on the outside, but inside they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Jesus compared them to white sepulchers, which are beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27) We, too, can be guilty of presenting a beautiful outside to the world, while our insides remain sorely neglected.
Living in this physical world, it can be easy to become wrapped up in all the ways we can adorn our physical bodies. We are constantly temped by the latest styles of clothing, shoes, and expensive jewelry. We can spend a fortune on makeup, and hair cuts, dyes, and styling. But as God’s temple, Christian women should not be overly concerned with these things. We should adorn ourselves with the “incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (I Peter 3:4)
A beautiful woman, in God’s sight, let’s her beauty shine from within. She has a loving heart, cares for those around her, works hard, and speaks with kindness and wisdom. These elements of beauty can only grow with time. They do not wrinkle, turn gray, or fade as physical beauty can. A woman who chooses to focus on true beauty can maintain her beauty throughout her entire life.
By Valerie Enoch
Originally published in the spring 2012 issue V5N2