1 Peter – Chapter Three V

by Ed Urzi

“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes” (1 Peter 3:3-4 HCSB).

Genuine beauty starts from within, and our external appearance often serves to reflect our internal character. Thus, our internal relationship with God in Christ should be evident in our outward appearance. That brings us to the hairstyles mentioned here in 1 Peter 3:3-4.

An affluent woman of that era often sought to adorn herself in a manner that highlighted her jewelry and accessories. Elaborate hairstyles embellished with golden bands, pearls, or other forms of jewelry typically crowned those adornments. One source amusingly describes those hairstyles as an “…excess of mountainous coiffures with terraces of braids, which were popular in ancient Rome.” (1)

Thus, we can say that this verse does not contain a universal prohibition against the use of cosmetics, braided hairstyles, jewelry, or fashionable clothing. With this in mind, it’s important to distinguish between “attractiveness” and “drawing attention to oneself.” It is that latter distinction that our author takes issue with. Although our text is devoted to women, this concept applies to everyone: a Godly attitude should govern our appearance.

One author expands upon this idea by highlighting other gratuitous or self-promotional forms of expression…

“Christians are to spend more time developing their inner character than attempting to make themselves look beautiful on the outside (1 Sam. 16:7). Peter is not condemning women who wear jewelry. He is emphasizing the importance of a woman’s character. We can spend most of our lives on things that are transitory rather than on things that are permanent—such as what clothes or jewelry we wear, or the car we drive. It is not wrong to be involved in temporal things, but we must put special effort into the development of inner character (compare 1 Tim. 2:9, 10).” (2)

Thus, we should ask if our appearance lends dignity to our relationship with Christ. Of course, the answer to that question will often vary according to our activities. For instance, a person who is running a weekend errand, a person who is relaxing at home, and a person who is attending a formal event will each answer that question differently. Nevertheless, we should avoid an unhealthy emphasis on our external appearance at the expense of our internal character wherever we happen to be.

(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publishers [pg. 2267]

(2) Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1683.