Biblical Illuminations
Sermon illustrations,
object lessons, and
teaching ideas.

External Appearance vs Internal Character

Posted by Douglas Twitchell on Feb 18, 2006
"Your mother's wrinkles, your daughter's pimples, and your face is right in the middle."
That was the voice-over in an Oil Of Olay advertisement I saw last night. And it got me thinking...

Oil of Olay has been around (under various names like Oil of Ulan and Oil of Olaz) since 1949. I remember seeing ads for the product when I was a kid (so very many years ago ). What I got thinking about is this: the women who were targeted by the Oil of Olay ads when I was a kid are the mothers of the women who are now being targeted by the ads.

And apparently it's a done deal that they've got wrinkles now...they're beyond the hope and help of the rejuvenating wonder.

And...let's take this a step further...the women who will be targeted by the ads in another 20 years are the pimply faced daughters, whose pimples will be gone, but will be in fear of those wrinkles...who will be afraid they won't stay young forever...who will be looking at their mothers and praying "Dear Lord let me never have that many wrinkles..."

Seems like a kind of pointless and repetitive cycle. But it made me think of two seemingly unrelated Scripture passages:

Ecclesiastes 1:4-10 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

Kind of depressing, isn't it?

Here's the other one. This is from I Peter.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

There's a word in those verses that I absolutely love - one that keeps cropping up again and again in the book of 1 Peter - imperishable.

When we look at beauty in the terms that the world sees it, it is not imperishable - it is, like any other earthly treasure, destined to fall apart over time. No moisturizing cream, no anti-wrinkle formula, no anti-aging drugs can forever prevent it.

On the other hand, the character we develop, as followers of Jesus Christ, the "hidden person of the heart" - that lasts forever. It is, in a word, imperishable.

But which do we spend more time worrying about? Outward beauty? Or inward character?

No wonder Solomon talked about "vanity". And he didn't mean "vanity" in the way we mean it today - he was talking about emptiness.

And there is something painfully empty about a life spent worrying more about the outward than the inward, more about the perishable than about the imperishable...




Where to Go from Here...

Read more: Character, Mortality
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