“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”
This most vivid proverb is one of my all-time favorites because of the humorous mental picture it conjures. However, the lesson it teaches and its relevancy to our culture is no laughing matter.
Proverbs 11:22 invites us to imagine a beautiful and precious ornament, a golden ring. A ring made from such precious metal would be expensive, something to be worn for special occasions. Now imagine saving up for such a thing, taking it home and instead of wearing it yourself you slap it on a pig’s snout! No one will see the ring at an elegant celebration gilding the ears or nose of woman. Because a pig, not a woman, wears the ring, it will spend its life rooting around in mud and the excrement of its wearer. What a waste!
Wisdom calls us to compare that precious ring to a woman’s beauty. God created women with natural beauty. But that beauty, like all gifts from God, is sacred. Physical beauty is as powerful and deceptive as wealth. Like wealth, a woman’s outward beauty can betray her into trusting in it for security, purpose and self-worth. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain," wisdom says (Prov. 31:30a).
When a woman makes choices that reflect an improper understanding of her beauty she cheapens herself. She seeks for her identity in a corruptible physical characteristic. It is a futile endeavor. “A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30b) because she has found her value and purpose in her Creator who endowed her with an “imperishable beauty” (1 Pet. 3:4).
For a woman’s beauty to achieve its divine purpose it must be displayed with “discretion.” Like a precious ring in a pig’s snout, the attractiveness of a woman is nullified by her lack of discretion. A golden ornament and a pig are as incongruous as a beautiful woman who has no taste.The term “discretion” or “taste” (NET) can refer to physical taste (Ex. 16:31), intellectual discretion (1 Sam. 25:33) or ethical judgment (Psa. 119:66). Here, it probably means the latter. The proverb is describing a woman who has no moral sense of propriety or good taste. She puts her beauty to wrong uses.
In this age of digital-hyper-documentation, a woman’s online media presence can easily turn into a 24-7 fashion show. Young women already feel pressured by society to look a certain way and when they can't live up to this unrealistic and unattainable standard, they develop low self-esteem and an unhealthy self-image. Couple that with fathers shirking their responsibility to guide their daughters to a correct view of themselves and you have a cocktail for disaster.
Some think, “If I put on this outfit, show a little here, a little more there, then maybe I will feel good about myself.” Men, if you don’t believe me that women are saying this to themselves when they go shopping or look in the mirror then start an Instagram account. Never mind. Don’t.
A woman with such distorted concepts of beauty will never find self-confidence or self-worth. Instead, she will find just the opposite. She will only further objectify herself and degrade her divine reflection. She will be doomed to feelings of inadequacy, purposelessness and insecurity. She will never have enough adoration, digital likes or verbal compliments to substitute for the divine acceptance, which is the only acceptance we really need.
This is the ring on the pig’s snout. Physical beauty is not a trinket to be used to lure men. Beauty must be used with caution, with taste, with propriety, with “modesty” (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3-4).
But this inward adornment of the gospel is not just a responsibility for Christian women. Men have created the problem of female insecurity and it will be up to men behaving like real men to solve it. It begins with what men allow their eyes to behold (Job 31:1; Mt. 5:27-30), how men speak to women, what men expect on a date, what men look for in a marriage partner, and, most importantly, how men treat their spouse and what men teach their daughters, which is the same thing.