Pretty Woman
Wednesday of Epiphany 7
22 February 2017
Our culture has made an idol of external beauty. Both men and women spend billions of dollars annually on beauty aids and cosmetics. The word cosmetic comes from the Greek word meaning "worldly." This is the myth of the "Pretty Woman." We cannot deny that humans have an eye for beauty. God created us with the sense that seeks the beautiful. But because of the fall into sin that sense has been tragically reoriented from pursuing moral beauty to seeking only physical or "cosmetic" beauty. This shallow and self-centered attitude leaves men pining for "babes" and women seeking "hunks." Because of our human perversity this will be the case until Christ comes again.
One of the antidotes to this perversity is holy marriage in which God joins husband and wife to each other that they might cleave only to each other forsaking all others. The wife of a friend of mine said that he was welcome to look at other women, "but not to touch." While this theory had no detrimental results in their marriage, it is not a good program for true Christian chastity. Our eyes easily lead our hearts astray by focusing only on external beauty. This happens when perhaps our wife or husband becomes tiresome to us through familiarity. We can see all their weaknesses and flaws and suddenly another woman or man with what we take to be an exciting beauty presents himself or herself. The leap from inquisitive eyes to an acquisitive heart is tragically short.
In civil life, the remedy to such diseased eyes is that God grants us our husband or wife as a gift. The Word of God tells us what a blessing marriage is and how wonderful our own spouse is for us. Here is where we need to reside and remain. Here is the house for our heart; the home for our eyes. Our wife or husband becomes the most beautiful because God gives him or her to us. God's giving makes the beautiful woman and the handsome man.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"When a man does not look at his wife, on the basis of the Word of God, as the one whom God gives him and whom He blesses, and when instead he turns his gaze to another woman, this is the chief cause of adultery, which then is almost inevitable. Soon the heart follows the eyes, bringing on the desire and appetite that I ought to reserve for my wife alone. Flesh and blood is curious enough anyway. It soon has its fill and loses its taste for what it has, and it gapes at something else. With the devil's promptings, a person sees only his wife's faults, losing sight of her good and laudable qualities. As a consequence, every other woman seems more beautiful and better to my eyes than my own wife. Indeed, many a man with a truly beautiful and pious wife lets himself be hoodwinked into hating her and taking up with some vile and ugly hag.
"As I have pointed out more fully in my other discussions of marriage and married life, it would be a real art and a very strong safeguard against all this if everyone learned to look at his spouse correctly, according to God's Word, which is the dearest treasure and the loveliest ornament you can find in a man or a woman. If he mirrored himself in this, then he would hold his wife in love and honor as a divine gift and treasure. If he saw another woman, even one more beautiful than his own wife, he would say: 'Is she beautiful? As far as I am concerned, she is not very beautiful. And even if she were the most beautiful woman on earth, in my wife at home I have a lovelier adornment, one that God has given me and has adorned with His Word beyond others, even though she may not have a beautiful body or may have other failings. Though I may look over all the women in the world, I cannot find any about whom I can boast with a joyful conscience as I can about mine: "This is the one whom God has granted to me and put into my arms." I know that He and all the angels are heartily pleased if I cling to her lovingly and faithfully. Then why should I despise this precious gift of God and take up with someone else, where I can find no such treasure or adornment?'
"Thus I could look at all women, talk with them, laugh, and have a good time with them, without experiencing any lust or desire and without letting any of them seem so beautiful or desirable to me that I would be willing to transgress the Word and commandment of God. Though I might be tempted by flesh and blood, I would not have to consent or let myself be overcome; but I would have to battle against it like a knight and conquer through the Word of God, living in the world in such a way that no evil could corrupt me and no attraction could seduce me into adultery. But because a person does not give this Word of God a glance or a thought, it is easy for him to get tired of his wife and to despise her. He finds his love drawn to another, and his lust and appetite for her are irresistible. For he has not learned the art of looking at his wife correctly, according to the beauty and adornment with which God has clothed her for him. He cannot see beyond what his eyes see, that his wife seems to have a poor shape or other faults, while another one seems prettier and better. Thus you understand when it is a sin and when it is not a sin to look at a woman, namely, that you should not look at another woman the way a man should look only at his wife."

Martin Luther, The Sermon on the Mount, 5.27-30
1 Peter 3:1-8

Likewise, 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-when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-but 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. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have named marriage as a gift to humans. Help us to treasure this gift by keeping our eyes only for our own spouse. Amen.
For those who are caught in the sin of adultery, that they would be led to purity of body, mind, and spirit
For police, that God would watch over them as they keep the peace so necessary to the success of a civil society
For Pastor Matthew Heise and the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, that God would bless their work of proclaiming the gospel throughout the world
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio  Wedding Feast at Cana  (c. 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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