“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
People seek popularity and praise, and there are some who attempt to gain it by any means possible. They want to be liked and admired. They want approval. And in the attempt to gain praise and approval, they get deceived into thinking that it’s about appearance, when in reality it is about character.
This proverb warns us not to get fooled by things that are outwardly charming but inwardly deceitful. It warns us that external beauty is vain. The Hebrew word used for vain is hebel, and it means “vapor or breath.” In other words, external beauty is superficial … and it is fleeting, transitory, and quickly fading.
We live in a world that is obsessed with image, outward appearance, and superficial beauty. As an example, consider the people who undergo cosmetic surgery in the quest to appear younger or to augment their outward appearance, all in the hopes of seeking approval and praise. The irony is that in many cases, it is clearly evident that their appearance has been surgically altered, but it does not make them look better; rather, it makes them look odd.
What if, instead of cosmetic surgery to alter their external appearance, these people invested their focus and effort on developing their inner character? What if they submitted their heart to Jesus and allowed him to transform them from the inside out?
This proverb speaks directly to the modern mindset that has fallen into the trap of deceitful charm and superficial beauty. Consider what the Lord said to the prophet Samuel: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16.7)
The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is not concerned with superficial beauty. She does not try to be charming in order to gain approval from others. Instead, her primary focus is on her inner character and heart toward God. She does not seek the external praise of people; rather, she fears the Lord and seeks his approval.
As a result of her deep commitment to the Lord and his standards, her true inner beauty and character are displayed, and she gains the respect and admiration of her family and her community.
No doubt there were people in the community who resented or disliked her, because there are always people who reject the Lord and his people. But the opposition or hostility of those people did not change her convictions or commitment to her God. Her life was not directed by the praise and approval of people; her life was directed by the fear of the Lord.
May we be like the virtuous woman. Let us reject the world’s obsession with outward appearance, and let us cultivate a heart for God.