3Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-- 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Ours is a culture fixated on what is seen. We encounter an endless stream of images each day. We have the ability to capture, edit, and share dozens of pictures instantly on our phones. And this weekend, Academy Awards will be presented to those considered the most skilled storytellers of our day, and who tell their stories on screens.
In this passage, Peter focuses our attention on what others see when they look at us. First, he reveals the human tendency to focus on what is external, and our reciprocal tendency to adorn our external appearance (v. 3). While Peter’s analysis is wise, it isn’t necessarily unique; all kinds of thoughtful people are able to discern our narcissistic obsession with external beauty.
What is unique and amazing in this passage is what Peter reveals next: that God sees what no one else sees: “the hidden person of the heart (v. 4).” While man can see certain evidences what is hidden, God sees, understands, and evaluates all that is in our heart (vv. 2-4). At times, the Bible cites this truth to celebrate justice (1 Samuel 16:6-7). At other times, it portrays this truth as a means of comfort (Psalm 139:1-6). But in this passage, Peter reminds us that God sees our hearts in order to rebuke and reorient us.
Because God sees, understands, and evaluates our hearts, Peter commands us to turn away from adorning our bodies and towards adorning our hearts. For women, Peter encourages a heart adorned by gentleness and quiet, leading to loving submission (vv. 4-6). For men, Peter encourages a heart adorned by honor and prayer, leading to loving understanding (v. 7). If you know your heart, you know these commands are as counter-intuitive as any of the biblical commands, and are particularly counter-cultural in our day.
But like all of God’s commands, there is wisdom, life, and freedom in this command to adorn the hidden person of our heart. And when we walk in the ways of God’s commands, our fixation on what is seen by man grows strangely hollow, and our love for God and what God sees grows strangely holy. As Psalm 119:127 says, “I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.”