Does God say that a woman’s beauty belongs only to her husband? 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.
- 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?
The Bible says a wife’s body belongs to her husband, especially 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)
The Bible also says that a wife should listen to her husband in all areas – which would include how she dresses:
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
So no 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, her husband does have the ultimate authority. She should dress to please her husband. But the Scriptures still do not state that a woman’s beauty belongs only to her husband, only that her body does, and also that she is under his authority.
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 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”.
In Ephesians 5, where Paul talks about marriage being symbolic of the relationship of Christ to his Church Paul writes:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 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.”
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 her beauty only belongs to him and he must hide it from all other men. 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. 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.