If God created beauty, he made it to be enjoyed. We can be women of extremes, can’t we? Some of us are so caught up in looking great that we seldom give a thought to God’s purposes for beauty. Others of us are so repulsed by all the glitz and glamour that we pursue plainness with a passion! Lydia was a woman who found the right balance.
In the Word
• Read Acts 16:11-15
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.
Lydia worked in the fashion world. She was a successful businesswoman who sold highly prized purple cloth. In those days, purple dye was rare and expensive, so oftentimes, only royalty could afford it. Scholars say that an ounce of purple dye likely cost more than a pound of gold!
The apostle Paul met Lydia by the river outside the city of Philippi, and he told her about Jesus. God opened Lydia’s heart, and she responded to the message of Christ’s forgiveness.
What did Lydia do immediately after becoming a Christian? Circle the correct answer.
a. Quit her job in the fashion world
b. Burn her purple cloth
c. Invite Paul and Silas over
d. Become a nun
This woman opened up her home to Paul and Silas, providing them a place to stay while they were in the city. As a merchant, it’s likely that Lydia had a large home, with plenty of room for guests. By welcoming these strangers in, Lydia showed that she was putting her faith into action.
Lydia didn’t need to repent of being a merchant or of valuing fine fabrics, and she didn’t have to be ashamed for enjoying the beautiful things in life. But here’s the key: Lydia used what she had—the resources God had blessed her with—to encourage, bless, and support other people. As a Christian, Lydia’s life wasn’t all about her anymore.
Lydia’s example suggests that we can (and should!) enjoy beauty. Fashion, clothing design, and style are examples of how God has made this world to be beautiful, not just functional. Are there extremes? Of course! We go wrong when we allow beauty to become our sole focus. In the Old Testament, God uses the imagery of beautiful clothing to describe his care for his people:
I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head…
The next verse is actually a rebuke to Israel (and to us): “But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute.” Hard words. God calls his people out…not for being beautiful…but for trusting in their beauty, rather than in God. More than just literal prostitution, God is speaking of anytime you or I use our beauty to bring glory to ourselves, rather than God. When we do this, we worship and serve created things, rather than our Creator.
Make it Real
You can be beautiful without being skanky. There. I said it. Do you really believe that? Many of us tend to go to extremes in responding to beauty. Which category sounds more like you?
• Joyless legalism: We cut ourselves down and neglect our appearance, thinking that the only thing God cares about is our hearts. We somehow think that looking pretty is wrong or sinful (think of all the letters of encouragement we could write while other women are putting on their makeup!) Sadly, we fail to express the image of God in our beauty.
• Self-serving vanity: We are obsessed with how we look and find our security in our physical attractiveness. We have to have the perfect nails, every hair in place, and the latest trend in dress. We feel the pressure to be “put together,” but we neglect our hearts. We often judge other people based on their looks rather than showing compassion.
Lydia is one example, but I’m guessing you’re probably not a dealer of purple cloth. Balance allows you to discover yourself—to find your beauty and creativity. What would a balanced approach to beauty look like for you?
Have you seen women out of balance about beauty, some pursuing it at all costs and some who have given up on beauty?
What about you? Do you allow yourself to enjoy beauty? Have you made beauty an idol?
Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.
• “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” Isaiah 43:4
• “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” 1 Peter 2:9
• “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others interests ahead of your own.” Philippians 2:3
Heart to Heart
I love to shop! There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of finding “that” outfit…especially on sale. And there’s also nothing quite like showing up at a party where somebody else is also wearing that outfit. At a friend’s birthday party recently, I noticed a woman across the room.... wearing my dress, only a few sizes smaller. What right did she…? Talk about intimidating! My mind was already sizing her up, comparing how we both looked.
Wait a minute, Julie. I thought. Who’s the woman behind the dress? Is she beautiful? We’ve all been there before. Maybe it wasn’t a dress…or a party…but I know you’ve caught yourself comparing your body, your hair, your outfit…with another woman.
Who are you.... behind your dress? Sure, take a look in your closet, but also take a look in your heart. Have you been neglecting the only kind of beauty that really lasts? Your beauty isn’t just a matter of what you wear, but who you are.
God, thank you for everything you are teaching me about beauty. Convict my heart and show me how to honor you in the way I dress, act and carry myself. Open my eyes to how I can creatively pursue and express my beauty…