In 1864, 29-year-old Folliott S. Pierpoint of Bath, England, penned the classic communion hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth.” The hymnist lists dozens of reasons, from the minute to the majestic, for the “sacrifice of praise” being offered to God. The first two verses specifically focus on beautiful things God has created: earth and sky; hill and vale; tree and flower; sun, moon, and stars.
About 14 centuries earlier, Augustine wrote “The Beauty of Creation Bears Witness to God,” a poem that challenges the reader to “question the beauty” of the things God created and listen for the reply. Augustine writes, “They will answer you: ‘Behold and see, we are beautiful.’ Their beauty is their confession of God.”
A number of modern Christian songs, however, seem to reflect a shift in perspective. Whereas worship used to focus on expressing believers’ love for God and their awe at His glory, many songs now talk about our own worth and the Father’s love for us as individuals (instead of His broader love for mankind). Lyrics affirming our beauty in God’s eyes may not be theologically unsound, but have we become too self-absorbed? What happens when we become preoccupied with feeling beautiful instead of looking for—and creating—beauty in the world around us?
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-14
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
The mythological King Midas wished he could turn everything he touched into gold. This proved to be a foolish desire as, ultimately, his greed changed his own daughter into a golden statue. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, King Solomon (who, incidentally, yearned for something much better—wisdom) observed a somewhat analogous spiritual truth. But instead of gaining monetary value, whatever God touches is transformed into a thing of beauty—a thing we can’t attach a price tag to, a thing we may not even notice is beautiful until He opens our eyes to see.
What happens when we become preoccupied with feeling beautiful instead of looking for—and creating—beauty in the world around us?
In the book following Ecclesiastes, Solomon uses vivid description to extol his beloved’s physical attractiveness (Song of Solomon 1:1-8:14), yet just a few pages earlier, he also warns that outward beauty is fleeting (Prov. 31:30 NIV). Scripture tells us the same is true of the natural world as well. (See Isa. 40:8.)
In the Genesis 1 account of creation, we see that at the end of each day, God declared His handiwork “good.” However, after forming man and breathing His life into him, He looked at what He had made and pronounced it “very good.” Was the human form the most beautiful thing in creation, or did God delight in something deeper than physical beauty?
Write your thoughts in the space provided for notes or in a journal.
• Until the 20th century, beauty was a highly valued virtue, alongside goodness, truth, and justice. Then, in some ways, it temporarily began to decline—for example, as a primary goal of certain artists. At the same time, we’ve seen an unprecedented emphasis on physical appearance as billions of dollars are spent on cosmetics, surgical procedures, clothing, diet programs, and gym memberships. Perhaps we need to return to a proper understanding of what beauty is.
Beauty relates more to how much pleasure something gives—not only to the eyes, but to all the senses and to the mind.
• Too often, the word beautiful is relegated to a descriptor of how pretty something is. However, its definition relates more to how much pleasure something gives—not only to the eyes, but to all the senses and to the mind. Beauty is about excellence. What happens when we look at creation? Do we delight only in how lovely it is to gaze upon, but disregard the brilliant design, functionality, and purpose of each molecule, magnolia, mountain, and moon? If so, we enjoy only a slice of what true beauty is and rob God of the awe He deserves. Similarly, we may put too much thought into how attractive we look and not enough effort into following our Creator’s example in making beauty.
• What comes to mind when you think of beauty? Reflect on how much time and energy you put into looking beautiful (or handsome) compared to making beauty. If you feel you lack gifts or artistic talent for doing so, consider these suggestions for creating other kinds of beauty. You could: show hospitality; perform random acts of kindness; write notes of encouragement; cook a meal; plant a garden; share your testimony; fix something that is broken; clean a home; care for a child, senior, or shut-in; affirm someone else’s gift; mentor a young person; treat someone to a dinner out; do your best at work or school; promote peace; be silent and listen; pray for someone.
• Ask God to show you how the talents He’s given you can be used as instruments that bless others and reflect His wondrous beauty in your corner of the world.
• Don’t worry about whether your attempts at making beauty garner attention and appreciation. Consider the lovely things God has created that we don’t perceive, such as wildflowers off the beaten path or birds singing in remote areas. God makes beauty not to impress us or even serve us, but because it’s in His nature to make beauty. In fact, His very nature is beautiful (Psalm 27:4).
• Each day this week, read and meditate on one of the following passages. As you reflect on each verse, ask God to teach you new things about making beauty. Jot down anything you discover, and pray about ways to put it into practice.
• Psalm 139:14
• 1 Samuel 16:7
• Ezekiel 28:17
• Isaiah 52:7
• Matthew 5:14-16
• Romans 8:5
• Romans 12:6-8