Inside Out Beauty

I still get some flak from my family concerning "my great idea" for a week long family mission trip over Christmas break, traveling to Yunnan, China, to help provide clean water to a small village. The work entailed digging a ditch about nine miles long… with shovels and picks.

Our “motel” had no heat and no hot water. Sleeping in our clothes, coats and hats for a week with no shower felt like a huge sacrifice. The reality? This was such a small price to pay to help. Despite my college age kids returning to the US sick, we have some amazing memories from that trip. One dinner conversation with a fellow colleague stands out. A conversation I have considered many times.

This business man faced a moral dilemma.

As a marketing agent he represented a large cosmetic firm seeking to grow their business in China. In performing market studies for this potential client, the agency discovered something remarkable: Chinese women believed they were beautiful. They had no felt need- no desire- for cosmetics.

How glorious! What an amazing discovery! A country of women who believed, “I am beautiful!” But what a moral dilemma. If he took this job, he would be telling millions of Chinese women-including the women and girls in the village where we serving- “You are not beautiful. You need help. You need cosmetics. You NEED my client’s outward adornment.”

Sobering, isn’t it?

Friends, when it comes to beauty, what messages are we buying? A lot! Today the global beauty industry is a $532 billion business. One U.S. company found that on average, women will spend approximately $300,000 on makeup in their life time. Three. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars.

Women make a pretty significant investment in outward adornment.

This is not meant to be a guilt trip, but perhaps we need a frank discussion about adornment. Peter’s message is not that we can’t enjoy some fashion, jewelry, or getting our hair done. But God’s Word often provides a heart check on our priorities. Here’s an opportunity to look within: Am I more concerned about temporary things of this “tent” or on things that are imperishable, unfading, eternal?

It’s interesting. If we put on our 1st century glasses, we find that a woman’s desire for outward adornment was no different in the Greco-Roman world. Writers give evidence that women “enjoyed the business of beautification.” They too "encircled their necks and elongated their ears" with sparkly jewelry. They used cosmetics and piled their hair into “numerous tiers and storeys.” (Satires, 6.457-60) Yep...up-dos!