As of 2017, the beauty industry was worth 445 billion dollars. The current highest paid model makes 22 million dollars a year. Beauty Youtubers reportedly make over 100 thousand dollars a month. Top influencers on Instagram can get paid 2-3 thousand dollars per sponsored post. We are a culture that consumes so-called beauty like candy, fattening our egos and starving our wallets for the sake of being made beautiful.
These numbers show something deeper, though. It shows to whom we look to in order to decide what is beautiful. We look to celebrities, trendsetters, and brands. We look to secular sources, and I think that should frighten us more than it actually does. This isn't to say that the beauty and fashion industries are inherently wicked and should be avoided at all costs, but as believers, we ought to look for beauty with transformed eyes.
At this point, I'm not really talking about shimmer eyeshadows or matte lipsticks or New York Fashion Week. Instead, I beg the question: where do we seek beauty, and where is beauty objectively found?
God declares beauty with His works
I don't think it is a stretch to say that beauty and goodness go hand in hand. What is good tends to be what is beautiful, and what is beautiful tends to be what is good. For example: a beautiful sunset is a good thing to enjoy, and a good friendship is a beautiful thing to experience. We see within the first chapter of the first book of the Bible that God created the universe and all confined within it and deemed it good. God encapsulates beauty and goodness, and His creation reflects that. Psalm 19:1 asserts that the heavens declare the glory of God. Can you think of anything more beautiful that the glory of the Lord? Revelation 21:11 describes His glory as a rare jewel, likening it to jasper or crystal. Throughout Revelation, we see that God's glory is something to rejoice in and worship.
We have the privilege of experiencing the beauty of the Lord every single day. We see it in each other when we see the reflection God's image in our friends. We see it in weather patterns and seasons, branches frosted in snow or dew-covered petals. We see it in the rocks, cliffs, valleys, mountains, seas, and rivers. The beauty that God has endowed this world with is inescapable. And if it is all around, waiting for us to take the time to enjoy it, shouldn't we be looking for it everywhere, praising and worshiping God through His good beauty?
God desires to look-on beauty
From reading Scripture, we know that God cares about beauty. Throughout the book of Exodus, we see the blueprints for the tabernacle filled with rich Eden imagery with precious and lavish materials. The tabernacle served as the dwelling place for the glory and presence of the Lord, and in God's instruction of its building, He desired to dwell amid beautiful things that pointed back to the perfect garden and forward to the New Earth.
God enjoys and delights in beautiful things. He loves to peer from the Heavens onto the craftsmanship that He gifts us with. In Exodus 35 we're introduced to a man named Bezalel who has been filled with "the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship to devise artistic deigns, to work in gold and silvers and bronze, in cutting stones for setting and in carving wood for work in every skilled craft" (verses 1-5). God gifted Bezalel with extreme artistic ability, and Bezalel didn't sit on his talent.
The passage continues on to say that Bezalel didn't just craft much of the beauty of tabernacle, but he went on to teach others the skills and craftmanship that he received from God. Part of beauty's purpose is to please God, and we should pass on these skills and gifts by teaching others. We worship God when we take what He's given us to enjoy and share it, giving the glory back to Him. We serve God with beautiful things.
God clothes us in beauty
In Genesis 3 we see sin enter into the world through the rebellion of mankind against God. Suddenly, what God created as so good and so beautiful became maimed and injured. Thousands of years later, we still see the verdant trees and majestic mountains, but there's death and sin behind every rock. Amid the thriving creation there is decay. Amid healthy bodies there is disease. Amid God's goodness and beauty, we see the endemic effects that our sinfulness has caused. Perhaps this is part of the reason we look to clothe ourselves in beauty instead of recognizing and relishing the beauty that the Lord has imparted on us.
But God didn't leave us to wallow in sin, awaiting immanent and eternal death in Hades. He made a way for us to dwell alongside Him in a personal, intimate relationship, inviting us back into His beauty. By the power of the God and with the seal of the Holy Spirit within us, we are participants in something that is objectively beautiful and freed from the injury of sin: The Gospel. Beyond artificial, God has clothed us in righteousness. Further than skin-deep, God has dressed us in His goodness and beauty through the blood of Jesus.
In speaking of the restoration to come, the prophet Isaiah proclaims, "You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God." The Lord Himself grants us access to His beauty, and in so doing cloaks us in His glorious splendor. The rot of the fall no longer has power over the church, determining her beauty. Beauty isn't in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is ordained by God. On this side of the resurrection, we are a part of the objectively beautiful bride of Christ.
Above all, the Gospel is beauty
The epitome of all things beautiful is the great love of God, with which the Father sent the Son to die in our place and sealed us with Holy Spirit upon our salvation. The gospel is the summit of beauty, and we are greatly blessed to participate in it. The Gospel is so splendorous that even the angels long to look at its beauty (see 1 Peter 1:12). As Christians we are given new eyes with which we are enabled to see what is beautiful, godly, and good. There are plenty of glittering things in this world that will catch our gaze and trick us into thinking that it is gold. Resist the temptation to believe that Maybelline calls the shots on beauty, or that magazines tell the whole truth. With those same new eyes, we should be discerning and wary of artificial, superficial beauty. After all, a whitewashed, manicured tomb still has death on the inside (see Matthew 23:27). When we crave beautiful things, let us look to the Word of God that reveals what true beauty is, marveling at the goodness of our Creator.