The Surprising Meaning Behind Those Famous Beauty Verses

Does God not want me to wear makeup? Should I donate my cutest clothes to Salvation Army? After all, 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, 

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Hardly. If you read these verses in context, you’ll realize Peter is writing to women who are married to unbelievers. And he’s talking about submission: 

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Cool; then this passage doesn’t apply to me as a single, right? 

Nope, there’s truth here even for you. It’s true that in the context of marriage, we are only commanded to submit to one man, our own husband. You don’t have to submit to other women’s husbands (re-read the first part of verse 1 to see this for yourself). However, God calls all of us to submit to the authorities over us. Not only to those who are “good and gentle,” but also to those who are “unjust.” Why? Because Jesus did this for you and me. God isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done. Notice that 1 Peter 3 starts with the word “Likewise.” Peter is comparing our submission to someone else’s:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21-23).

Obviously there’s a whole lot more to get out of this text, but let me stop and try to answer this girl’s question about how to live out 1 Peter 3:3–4 as a single. I’d suggest starting with this:

  1. Submit to the authorities in your life. 
    1. Make your dad and mom’s parenting job as easy as possible.
    2. Treat that awkward teacher with respect, even when your classmates make fun of her.
    3. Don’t drive 80 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone.
  2. Pay attention not only to your appearance but to your character. Remember: your character will shine long after your beautiful face wrinkles. 
    1. Tell the truth, even when it might mean consequences. 
    2. Love that social misfit, even when it might cost your popularity.
  3. Get to know your God through His revealed Word. This will help your trust in Him grow so you can face frightening circumstances with courage, knowing He is for you and with you. 

Now that you know a bit more of the context of 1 Peter 3:3–4, how else do you think you can begin to become this kind of reverent, fearless, God-trusting woman?

This post has been updated; it was originally posted on

Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate, bold Christian communicator offering you gospel hope, thought-provoking questions, and practical help along the way.

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