God’s Word for You
1 Peter 3:3 A wife’s beauty (Part 1)
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 20, 2022
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. (NIV)
This verse belongs with the next one and cannot be fully understood without it, but we must explore this verse to fully understand it before moving on. But remember: This is a law passage; both verses 3 and 4 proclaim law and expose error, but in verse 4 we have a demonstration of correct behavior. Yet neither verse proclaims the gospel. For that, we must wait until verse 18.
The “beauty” Peter describes is the wife’s kosmos (κόσμος). Usually this word means “world” or even “universe,” but in this case it is the wife’s “array” or “adornment.” It is all of the little things that surround her body like her private sun, moon and stars. Just as glittering stars draw our attention upward when we see them, what should draw the attention of people to a man’s wife?
If she needs more attention and compliments about her physical beauty, then either her husband is not fulfilling his duty to her by noticing her and complimenting how pretty she is and how well she pleases him, or else she has a nagging sin tugging away at her heartstrings and needs to search the Scriptures to convict herself of whatever temptation is crouching at her door and desires to have her (Genesis 4:7).
The caution about adornment, whether braided hair or jewelry or fine clothes, also applies in our time to such things as tattoos and piercings and liposuction and the many variations of plastic surgery. The problem with all of these things is that once a person (in this case, a wife) starts down that path, she won’t know when to stop. There are plenty of examples of older women in Hollywood who didn’t know when to stop their facial reconstructions and ended up looking like bizarre caricatures. They are to be pitied; they were preyed on by false advertising and men who were after nothing but their fortunes. In an unmarried woman, all that these things say is: “I don’t want you to see who I really am. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t look at me at all.” In a wife, they can become a punch in the husband’s eye. Let him love you because he swore a vow to love you, not a love that is dependent on your looks or your perfume or whether or not you have any hair at all. How many wives complain that their husband is no Prince Charming, but never give him a chance to be what she truly desires?
Isaiah warned the women of Zion that they were “haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes… with ornaments jingling on their ankles” (Isaiah 3:16). Paul also condemns too much attention paid to fashion: “dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes” (1 Timothy 2:9). It would seem that Peter and Paul were both concerned about the fad in their time of women wearing their hair in elaborate, towering styles.
It’s true that Esther wore finery (Esther 2:17), but a legendary quote of the queen has her say (this is in one of the Apocryphal additions): “You know my necessity—that I abhor the sign of my proud position, which is upon my head on days when I appear in public. I abhor it like a menstrual rag, and I do not wear it on the days when I am at leisure” (Esther 14:16). Therefore if a husband wants his wife to wear some special ornament, such as a diamond ring or a beautiful necklace, she is free (indeed, compelled) to wear it, unless by doing so she might somehow commit a sin (Acts 5:29). Such potential sins would include harm to herself (if the ornament were made of something dangerous or if it were potentially harmful because of its design or weight), unnecessary temptation to thieves (such as a queen wearing her crown jewels to the local grocery store), or an undesirable temptation to men other than her husband to be attracted to her by wearing it (this might have been the case in Esther 1:10-11).
When my wife would work in our garden, she would take off her rings and put them on again when she had cleaned up afterward. Very rarely she would forget to put them on, and she always apologized to me about it if she did. This was because she took this passage from Peter very seriously in her Christian living.
So much for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what not to do. In the next verse we will hear the other side. But since there are pitfalls and errors off in the ditches on both sides of this narrow middle road, we need to remember the gospel of the forgiveness of our sins. Sometimes we flatter ourselves too much even to detect or hate our own sins (Psalm 36:2). But we are commanded: “Love the Lord your God. Listen to his voice, and hold fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:20). “Turn from worthless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So if a wife has fallen into error in this way, or her husband has caused or permitted her to fall, there is forgiveness for them both. The blood of Jesus covers over all of our sins, and even those we’re not aware of. His sacrifice means that we will be adorned by his glory for all eternity, shining like stars in the cosmos that is to come.
Pastor Timothy Smith