1 Peter 3:3, 4
Many years ago, my wife and I were invited to minister in a church that believed it was a sin for women to wear jewelry or cosmetics. We only discovered it was this kind of church when we arrived that evening.
As is our custom in our ministry before I preach the Word, Denise stood to sing. Her song was exceptionally beautiful and anointed that night. However, I noticed that while she sang, the people kept pointing to her lips and to her earrings. They were obviously distraught about Denise’s jewelry and cosmetics—and as a result, they missed the entire song!
It is on the basis of First Peter 3:3, 4 that some religious groups believe the use of jewelry and cosmetics is a sin. Those verses say, “Whose adorning let is not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
Was Peter really saying that it was a sin for a wife or a woman to wear jewelry or cosmetics? Let’s look at these verses to see exactly what Peter was communicating when he wrote them. You will see that Peter was not bothered by wives or women wearing jewelry or cosmetics. Instead, he was telling them not to invest all their time in their faces and their outward appearance while forgetting to invest time in developing their hearts.
You see, women in the first century, especially upper-class Greek and Roman women, were obsessed with their outward appearance. They were flamboyant in their hairstyles, spent vast amounts of money on cosmetics, arrayed themselves in luxurious jewelry, and prided themselves in the lavish clothing they wore. Nothing was wrong with their desire to look nice—except they were so consumed with adorning their bodies that they forgot to adorn their hearts!
The word “adorning” in First Peter 3:3 is the Greek word kosmos, which is used 187 times in the New Testament. As noted earlier, the word kosmos carries the idea of something that is ordered or something that is set in a certain arrangement. This word kosmos is where we get the word cosmetics. This tells us that when a woman applies makeup to her face, she is trying to add order to her face. The King James Version translates it adorning because the application of cosmetics not only beautifies a woman’s appearance, but also gives it a greater sense of order. I assure you that husbands appreciate this “adorning” very much!
Contrary to what some religious groups assert, there is no implication in this verse that cosmetics are a sin. Peter simply never says that! As noted above, Peter’s point is that women shouldn’t put all their efforts into adorning their faces; they need to remember to adorn their hearts as well.
Then Peter goes on to mention the “plaiting of hair.” By using this phrase, he is referring to a practice that was very common among Greek and Roman women in the first century. These women didn’t just pull out the blow dryer and spend twenty minutes preparing their hair for the day. Rather, they literally spent multiplied hours toiling with their hair! I say women “toiled” with their hair because it took a great deal of work and time to produce the fashionable hairstyles of that time. In fact, the word “plaiting” used by Peter is the Greek word emploke, which describes the intricate, complex, and outrageously elaborate braiding of a woman’s hair.
You see, the Greek and Roman women were obsessed with turning their hair into towers of intricate curls and braids. If you visit a museum of antiquities and look at the statues of first-century women, it will amaze you to see the thousands of little curls that were woven into women’s hair.
This hairstyle was considered beautiful, elegant, and fashionable in the first century. Husbands must have thought this style was beautiful on their wives because the fashion trend was imitated all over the Roman Empire. As a result of this popular rage, women invested huge amounts of time and great sums of money to produce the desired effect.
As you will see, Peter was not against woman making their hair more beautiful. He simply didn’t want believing women to focus all their attention on their hair and forget to improve the condition of their hearts.
Next, Peter mentions the “wearing of gold.” This was another common practice that was considered very fashionable. The word “wearing” is from the Greek word perithesis, and it describes placing an object, such as a piece of jewelry, around oneself. You see, the Greek and Roman women loved to drape many chains of gold around their necks, affix multiple solid gold bands around their upper arms, and wear many golden rings on each finger. They considered their appearance to be more impressive and beautiful when they were elaborately decked out in layers of gold.
Peter then discusses the “putting on of apparel.” The word “apparel” is the Greek word himation. It pictures the brightly colored, richly beaded, posh clothing that was popular among Greek and Roman women in the first century. Women were so fashion-conscious that they frequently changed their clothes during the course of the day. This means they were constantly running in and out of the closet and looking at themselves in the mirror as they fine-tuned their outward appearance for the day’s different events.
Consider the many hours women spent applying their cosmetics, fixing their hair, and draping themselves in gold. Now add the multiple times they changed clothes in a day and all the time spent adjusting their clothes in front of a mirror after each change. When you take all this into account, you realize that these women used a very significant portion of their time—not to mention investing a large amount of their money—in maintaining their outward appearance.
When Peter wrote about all these things, he began by saying, “Whose adorning let it not be….” Many have understood this statement to be a prohibition against wearing cosmetics, gold, or expensive clothing and against fixing one’s hair. But in reality, Peter was simply urging wives not to make the mistake of putting so much time and attention into improving their outward appearance that they failed to invest time in the maintenance and beautifying of their inner man.
This is why Peter goes on to say, “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” In essence, he was saying, “Ladies, it’s all right to do what you can to look outwardly beautiful. However, don’t forget that the most important emphasis and the place to invest most of your time should be in the beautifying of the hidden man of the heart.”
Dear wife, it is all right for you to look beautiful. In fact, your husband appreciates it when you make yourself look beautiful for him. Demonstrating to your husband that you want to look pretty for him is one way you can show honor to him. Therefore, Peter’s words are not a prohibition against trying to look the best you can in your outward appearance!
Then what is Peter saying to wives and women? He is simply stating that it is a mistake for women to put so much time and effort into their outward appearance that they ignore their inner man—the true source of their beauty. Peter knew it was the custom of first-century wives and women in general to spend countless hours working on their face and hair, so he wanted to encourage them to work on their hearts as much as they worked on their outward appearance!
So do all you can to look beautiful, wife, and don’t feel guilty because you wear beautiful jewelry or nice clothes. But at the same time, don’t forget that your spirit is the real you and the most beautiful part of you. God isn’t against your desire to work on your outward appearance; however, He wants you to spend at least an equal amount of time developing and beautifying your spirit.
Are you spending enough time “adorning” your spirit the way God wants you to? The answer to that question will largely determine the quality not only of your marriage, but of your life!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, thank You for wanting me to look beautiful, both inside and outside, both for myself and for my spouse. I take this word to my heart today, and I make the decision that from this day forward, I will spend at least the same amount of time beautifying my spirit as I spend looking nice in my outward appearance. Forgive me, Lord, for those days when I have found time to dress properly and look outwardly attractive, but I didn’t take the time to pray or read my Bible. Help me get my priorities in order as I make the development of my spirit a higher priority than fixing my hair or putting on makeup.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that the beautifying of my spirit is a high priority in my life. I don’t make the mistake of putting all my time and effort into improving my outward appearance while forgetting to invest time in the development of my spirit. I read my Bible; I pray; and I let God deal with my heart. Because I have made the choice to make my spirit beautiful, I am becoming more godly and beautiful all the time. I have an inward beauty that far outshines anything I could ever do to improve the appearance of my outward man!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- How much time do you spend on your outward appearance every day? How does that compare to the amount of time you daily spend with God?
- How much time do you think you should be spending alone with God every day in order to develop and beautify your spirit the way God wants you to?
- What is one area in your inner thoughts and attitudes that you know needs to be changed? What steps are you taking to remove the ugliness that keeps springing from that part of your life and to replace it with the godly fragrance of Jesus Christ?