Does God want women to hide their beauty in order to “save it” for their husband? Does God want women to hide their beauty so that other men may not lust after them?
While there are some subtle differences, this is actually one of a few things that Muslims, Jews and Christians have in common. The only difference is in how far each side goes with their teaching. The two reasons taught in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for a woman covering her beauty are these:
- A woman’s beauty belongs to her husband, or if she is unmarried, her future husband and it is his alone to enjoy in private.
- A woman should cover her beauty as to not cause other men to lust and thus sin against God even if only in their sexual thoughts.
Does the Bible say a woman’s beauty belongs to her husband?
Some might point to I Corinthians 7:4 to say that a wife’s body(and therefore her beauty) belongs to her husband. I would have too in times past. But if we look closely and examine this passage it is talking about the equal right of a husband and wife to have sexual access to each others body for the purposes of sex.
“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”
I Corinthians 7:4(KJV)
But this is not talking about exhaustive ownership of each other’s bodies in all ways because one who is to be in subjection(I Peter 3:1-2,Ephesians 5:22-24) – the wife, cannot own the one who is her master – the husband.
God made wives the property of their husbands
There are some relationships in Scripture where the submission of one to another does not involve the ownership of one by the other. Examples of this would be the Biblical admonition to citizens to submit to civil governments and for church members to submit to their church leaders. God does not give governments ownership rights over their citizens and he does not give church leaders ownership rights over their members. These two spheres of authority are limited in their powers and jurisdictions.
But God established some spheres of human authority where ownership of human property is either allowed(such as slavery under certain circumstances) or ownership is simply implied such as the relationship between a father and his children or a husband and his wife.
The ownership of the wife by the husband is confirmed in the 10th commandment where a man’s wife is included in a list of his possessions:
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.“
Exodus 20:17 (KJV)
Again in the book of Deuteronomy a man’s wife is included in his possessions:
“5 And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. 6 And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. 7 And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.”
Deuteronomy 20:5-7 (KJV)
These possessions all belonged to the man and he had the right to make use of them. In fact he was encouraged to make use of these possessions.
There are many that falsely attack the Bible based on these and other passages saying that the Bible makes a woman a possession that is no more valuable than cattle(Exodus 20:17) and a peace of land(Deuteronomy 20:5-7).
Another way of saying their argument is “If a woman is owned by her husband then she has no value as a person”.
But this could not be farther from the truth. While it conflicts with our modern values a person can be owned by another and yet have great value. The Bible says “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.“ (Proverbs 31:10). I don’t know about you – but I think rubies are far more valuable than a house, cattle or a vineyard!
Also the Bible calls on husbands to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel“(I Peter 3:7). So just because women are the property of their husbands does not mean husbands can treat them the same as their cattle. This a false argument proposed by those who do understand the Biblical concept of human property verses the world’s concept of human property.
I find it utterly fascinating that people have no problem if you made this statement “Christ owns his Church” yet they go utterly bonkers if you say “A husband owns his wife”. Yet the Scriptures clearly show that the husband/wife relationship was designed as a picture of the relationship of Christ and his Church:
“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
Ephesians 5:22-24 (KJV)
How does the Church relate to Christ? As an equal partner? No my friends. The church relates to Christ as her owner and master. She conforms herself to his will.
The husband/wife relationship was not only the first human authority relationship that God designed, but it was in fact the most powerful human authority relationship that God ever designed.
It surpasses the jurisdictions and powers of civil government, church government and even parents toward their children. In no other human relationship are we told that the one under authority is to submit to the other as “unto the Lord” or literally as unto God himself.
Our culture utterly rejects the concept of a husband owning his wife because we worship the false god of equality rather than the one true God of the Bible.
Fifty years ago what I am teaching here was heard in pulpits across America but now because of the rise feminism Pastor’s fear teaching these truths for fear of being called male chauvinists or misogynists. Many Pastor’s and Christian teachers have actually convinced themselves that these teachings of the Scriptures are for times past and do not apply to our modern era. They live in a constant state of self-denial when it comes to the truth of the Scriptures in these matters.
As a result this capitulation to feminism, in the last half century the Church has made an unholy alliance with our culture and has allowed the husband/wife authority sphere to be made into the weakest of all authority spheres. But God’s Word has not changed even if our culture has.
I say all that to say this.
The Bible clearly teaches that wives are not only to submit to their husbands in everything but that they are in fact the property of their husbands. A wife’s body and her beauty does in fact belong to her husband.
So does a husband have the right to organize his wife’s appearance as he would the appearance his vineyard? Of course he does.
The Bible even shows that Christ molds his church to his own liking:
“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Again this passage is one that has been so twisted and warped because of feminist influences on our churches today. We hear Pastors quote verse 25 of Ephesians chapter five telling husbands that they need to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did the Church. But then they do not tell you what the point of his sacrifice was!
Was it to appease his Church and give her whatever she wants? Was it to let her do her own thing? Was it just to make her happy? No my friends it was not. It was to make her holy and pleasing to him. It was so he could present her to himself the way he wanted her to be.
I know it took us a while to get to this point but it was necessary for us to build this foundation first. The Bible is utterly clear that a wife is not only to submit to her husband but that she is his property. The Bible further confirms this ownership relationship by telling us that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of Christ and his Church and Christ conforms his church to his will and molds her as he would to present her to himself in all her glory.
So, not only in the area of sexuality, but in all areas of life a woman is to submit to her husband. That means in the area of how a wife dresses and how she keeps her body and appearance her husband does have the ultimate authority. Her appearance should be made to please her husband – including what she wears.
Since a husband has authority over how his wife dresses, does this mean he is required to keep her beauty from the outside world and only for himself in private?
The Bible never commands a husband to hide his wife’s beauty from the world.
Except for if a husband asks his wife to do something sinful, he has absolute authority over his wife. So technically speaking, if a husband asks his wife to completely cover herself in a burqa Biblically speaking, she ought to obey her husband.
But the real question is – should he force his wife to completely cover her body from head to toe when she is outside their home or in the presence of non-family men?
My answer would to Christian husbands be NO. While a husband’s authority over his wife is almost absolute (besides him asking his wife to engage in sinful activity) – God commands a husband to exercise his authority toward his wife in love, in honor, and in knowledge of how she is made as a woman.
A husband is commanded to honor his wife and live with her in a knowledgeable way
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
I Peter 3:7(KJV)
Yes husbands have authority over their wives – but God gives a solemn warning to husbands. If a husband does not live with his wife in a knowledgeable way, and give honor to her, God will not hear his prayers.
One of the ways a husband is knowledgeable of his wife is by accepting her natural desire to be beautiful and to display her beauty. He honors her by displaying her beauty for all to see.
Women have a natural desire to display their beauty
A common theme you see throughout this site is – God designed man and woman in distinctive ways to represent very important symbols. Yes beauty fades, as does our short lives here on earth, but God’s symbolism in man and woman existed long before we did, and it will continue long after we are gone.
God purposefully designed a woman to want to be beautiful, because he desires the beauty of his Church.
Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:
“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…”
In this prophecy it shows that the King (symbolic of God) desires the beauty of his wife, the daughter (symbolic of the Church) is made “glorious” with clothing that is “gold” and “raiment of needlework”.
As we mentioned previously regarding Christ and the Church, Christ wants to “present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing“(Ephesians 5:27)
Just as God wants his Church to be glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and without blemish, so too a woman naturally desires to keep up her appearance. Why do wrinkles and the aging process bother women more than men? Why do women want to cover up facial blemishes with makeup and most men could care less?
The reason is because a woman is wired to make herself beautiful, her desire to be physically beautiful is symbolic of the Church’s desire to be beautiful for God.
Does the Bible call on men to hide their wife’s beauty so other men will not lust?
Not one place in all of Scripture, does the Bible say a man has to hide his wife’s beauty from other men so they will not lust. There is nothing wrong with other men appreciating the beauty of another man’s wife. There is nothing wrong with other men even being sexually aroused by the beauty of another man’s wife. Lust occurs when a man thinks about how he may get another man’s wife to sleep with him, Biblically speaking, lust is covetousness.
See my post What does the Bible say about Lust for more the subject of Lust from a Biblical perspective.
But shouldn’t a woman take every step to not cause other men to stumble?
Since appreciation of a wife’s beauty can lead to sexual arousal, and sexual arousal might eventually lead to sexual covetousness (lust), shouldn’t we avoid even the possibility of that by keeping our women covered from head to toe?
Again – this is man adding his own logic to God’s ways. Paul even warns against adding human rules with this type of thinking:
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
We are not to take away from God’s law, and we are not to add to God’s law. Many have done this (adding to God’s law), even with good intentions. We are to follow God’s Law as it is written, we are not to stray to the left, or to the right.
Where the Scriptures are silent, and thus allow freedom, we should be silent and let each man decide in his conscious before God. Where the Scriptures speak clearly, we ought to speak clearly.
Does this mean husbands should let their wives run around naked?
Earlier I mentioned that a husband honors his wife by displaying her beauty for the world to see. That does not mean I think husbands should encourage their wives to walk everywhere naked for the world to see.
There are lines and even we as Christians may sometimes disagree as to where those lines are. Here are some opinions I have seen from those who believe in the strict covering of women, whether they be strict Christian men, or even strict Muslim men:
- If you’re going to let your wife show her hair and face in public, she might as well go around naked.
- If you’re going to let your wife show her bare arms or legs in public, she might as well go around naked.
- If you’re going to let your wife show cleavage on her shirt or blouse, she might as well go around naked.
- If you’re going to let your wife dress in tight clothes, or a tang top and shorts then you might as well let her go around naked.
I could list a lot more opinions on the subject, but I think these four make my point. Most Christians would not have a problem with a woman showing her face and hair publically, but many Muslims do, and they would use the exact logic I have above to be opposed to it.
I have attended Christian churches, and attend a Baptist church now, where many men in including our Pastor, would embrace the opinion in point number four above. I personally disagree with all 4 points above.
I believe there is a time and place for different types of dress, but if it is a hot day and we are playing volley ball and my wife were to wear a tang top and shorts, I would have no problem with this whatsoever. There is no Scripture which forbids her from doing so, unless I as her husband and authority told her not to.
But what about women who don’t desire to be beautiful, or to publically display their beauty?
Let’s come back to the symbolism in God’s design of man and woman. God designed man with a natural instinct to want to lead, provide and protect. But some men, because of either how they were brainwashed growing up, or because of sin they were born with, have no desire to lead, provide and protect. God still calls on these men to lead, provide and protect, whether they have a desire to or not.
It is the same way with women. Even if a woman does not have a natural desire to make herself beautiful, she should cultivate that desire because her beauty is much more than physical, it represents an eternal spiritual symbolism and that is what God wants her to do.
See my post 6 Reasons Why women hide their beauty for more on this subject.
The Bible does say a woman’s body belongs to her husband, but it never says that because her beauty belongs to him that it must be hidden from the world and only revealed to him in private. The Bible also tells men to lead their wives in love, in honor and in knowledge of their nature as a woman. A husband should not hide his wife’s beauty, but should proudly display it to the world as Christ seeks to display the glory of his Church to this world.
He should shower his wife with compliments of how beautiful she is. Even if his wife is shy, he should gently and lovely help to cultivate a sense of beauty in her that her beauty matters not only to him, but also to God.
Never in any passage, does the Bible tell women they need to cover themselves so as not to cause other men to lust after them. If a man lusts after a woman (sexually covets her) that is between him and God.