Let’s face it; we live in a world of misplaced values. We value the seen above the unseen. In our earthly culture, image is everything. We were taught from very young how to mask our flaws, cover our nakedness, and follow fashion trends. Hollywood has brainwashed us into believing that there is a “perfect” skin tone, weight, height and figure to aspire to in order to be considered “beautiful.” The more physically gifted or “beautiful” we are, the more valuable we seem to become to the shallow minded society in which we live.
The pressure and temptation to seek to bolster our physical image or appearance becomes significantly intensified during our high school and college years as we desperately long for greater love and acceptance beyond the boundaries of our immediate family relationships. We want to fit in and be liked or accepted among a group of adolescents who, in their own process of self-discovery, can often be downright insensitive and cruel. So we invest more and more time, energy and resource (or rather, our parents’ resource) into styling our hair, wearing trendy clothes or shoes, and making our appearance as physically pleasing as possible, all the while reinforcing the false idea that our true value or identity is determined by our outer image.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making ourselves physically presentable, working out, or having a trendy fashion sense, so long as we understand where our true value lies. When we begin to elevate how we look on the outside above who we really are on the inside, it leads to disaster and a host of different disorders.
The Babylonian Mentality
Mankind’s misplaced value on the physical or external is nothing new. In fact, this corrupt mentality has been around for centuries, and is rooted in the ancient Babylonian culture. Babylon, in Scripture, is synonymous with that which is corrupt and evil.
There was a king in ancient Babylon named Ahasuerus. This king had a wife or queen named Vashti. When Vashti was summoned by the king during a feast or banquet being held for all the people present in the city, she refused to come when bidden. This created a very embarrassing situation for the king before all his nobles and guests gathered together. As a consequence of her dishonoring the king through her disobedience, it was recommended that she be replaced as queen (Esther 2).
From this point in the story is where the corrupt emphasis on the physical or external comes into focus. The process for finding and selecting a suitable replacement for the banished queen Vashti involved the following:
How is that for choosing a wife? In this corrupt Babylonian king’s understanding, the true value of a woman was determined solely by her physical beauty and sexual prowess. To him, nothing else mattered. No doubt queen Vashti herself had been previously chosen based upon similar physical requirements, yet look how she turned out. She may have been gorgeous beyond words and shaped like a goddess, but she was severely deficient in personal character. Her ability in the bedroom may have been second to none, but in every other respect that mattered, she turned out to be a lousy wife. Fortunately for the king this time around, Esther’s true beauty and value was more than skin deep.
The Kingdom Culture
In contrast, when the patriarch Abraham sought to obtain a bride for his son, Isaac, the process of selection consisted of prayer, divine direction, and internal character. Abraham’s servant didn’t host a Miss Universe contest like the king of Babylon did. Instead, he prayed, relied on God’s divine providence, and then established clear criteria in order to determine the young woman’s true character (Read Genesis 24).
Isaac’s wife was selected not because of her remarkable physical beauty (even though she was very beautiful to behold), the sweet smelling fragrance of perfume or scented oils on her skin, or because of her perfectly sculpted figure, even skin tones, fashionable attire, or flattering makeup and jewelry. She was selected as Isaac’s wife because of her strong internal substance and character. She demonstrated humility, compassion, a desire to serve, and a selfless emphasis on placing the needs of others before her own. These are the qualities that give a woman true value. These are the qualities of a great wife. But more importantly, these are the qualities of the Kingdom of God.
If you haven’t read the passage in Genesis 24 yet, I encourage you to take a brief pause and do so now. You will notice that there was no “testing” process with regard to Rebekah’s sexuality. She was never taken into a room to spend a night with Isaac in order for him to prove her worth or her love through sexual activity. This type of mentality and practice, which is widely prevalent in society even today, is of a corrupt and perverse Babylonian standard.
Sex was established by God to operate within the context of a marriage covenant. It was meant to consummate the marriage, not verify or confirm the value of a potential life partner. No marriage will last that is built upon sex or one’s ability in the bedroom. You don’t have to prove yourself by compromising and surrendering your body to anyone. Rebekah’s value as both a woman and potential wife was not in her physical characteristics or sexual ability. The true measure of her value was of an internal nature. Her true beauty was rooted in much more than just clothing, cleavage or cosmetics. It was her internal beauty which set her apart and elevated her above the rest.
The Internal is Far Superior
These internal characteristics will never fade or wither away. However, as beautiful as your hair is now, it will fade away and drop off some day as you grow older. Those breathtaking lips and flattering teeth will begin to crack and fade as well. Your tight skin and sculpted body will eventually wrinkle, stretch and expand. All of your outer beauty will eventually fade away like a beautiful bouquet of roses in a vase of water. What will you do then? If your value is purely in the physical, does that mean that you become worthless once you’re “over the hill?”
If your physical appearance is your greatest asset to attract a spouse, then your physical appearance will be your greatest asset to keep a spouse. Bear in mind that there will ALWAYS be someone out there more physically attractive than you. So if all you’re depending on is your looks, then you’ll always be in danger of losing the one you love to someone physically “better” than you. However, if you learn to develop that inner person, which is far superior to the outer, you will never be put at a disadvantage. The real you, that inner person, will NEVER fade or wither away. That is where you should be placing your greatest investment.
By the way, investing in the real you is never cheap. Unlike stylish shoes, fashionable clothes, expensive jewelry, makeup, a personal trainer, or plastic surgery, character can never be bought, borrowed, or bestowed. Internal character can only be developed, often through pain, pressure, personal discipline, sorrow and sacrifice. Its value far supersedes anything that is earthly or temporal, because it is eternal in nature.
So what are you really worth? And where are you placing your greatest investment? The spiritually blind and shallow minded of this world—and there are billions—may choose to reject, scorn or despise you based on your physical appearance. But if the nature of God has been developed in your life, you are worth more than them all, and you will be valued by the hosts of heaven.
Conversely, you may be loved, valued and accepted by the masses due to your beautiful or handsome physical appearance, but how will you measure up when you stand before God? Where will you find value when the years begin to erode your external beauty?
In the words of king Lemuel’s mother, “Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the fear of God” (Prov. 31:30 MSG).
Toon images copyright (C) Jeff Larson and Tim Walburg
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