Pigs’ Snouts And Beautiful Women

Walt Disney and Looney Toons popularized the idea of pigs as cute and lovable critters. But Jews of ancient Israel despised them as one of the species that Yahweh declared to be unclean (Leviticus 11:7). Therefore, you can imagine their shock and horror at this proverb of Solomon’s:

As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout
So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. ~~Proverbs 11:22 (NASB95)

As you can see, Solomon contrasts lovely things with things which completely ruin their beauty. Golden rings, even today, are precious and highly valued, so naturally Jews would deem them as incongruous with the noses of filthy swine. If the image repulses 21st Century Gentiles, surely it would have repulsed Solomon’s original audience. And consequently they would have seen his point even more vividly than we do. Plainly, a lack of discretion destroys any beauty in a woman.

The word “discretion” generally denotes a sense of modesty and appropriate behavior. Scripture teaches that Christian women should cultivate those qualities. For example, take a moment to look at 1 Timothy 2:9-11 and1 Peter 3:1-6. It’s interesting that both passages indicate a relationship between how women ought to dress and how we ought to act.

Usually, we equate modesty solely with avoiding provocative clothing. Although dressing in ways that don’t invite men to view us as sexual objects is a big part of modesty, discretion also leads us to be careful that our clothes and hairstyles don’t call undue attention to ourselves. Wearing a few tasteful pieces of jewelry has its place, and braided hair can indicate a humble attitude, but women in the First Century often used these things to communicate that they had wealth and social prominence. Their immodesty consisted of flaunting more than their beautiful bodies. The apostles Paul and Peter therefore wrote these instructions primarily as a warning against ostentation.

Of course, women can also call attention to ourselves by choosing attire that flaunts our self-righteousness. Obvious head coverings, outdated dresses and unbecoming hairstyles can sometimes advertise holier than thou attitudes just as much as too much jewelry and fancy clothes can advertise social superiority. Women can actually use overly modest dressing in an attempt to show people our spirituality. By seemingly downplaying our appearance, we work hard to promote ourselves as women of modesty, all the while nourishing feelings of pride that we aren’t worldly. We ignore Paul’s indictment in Colossians 2:18-23 against asceticism.

A woman of discretion avoids either extreme. Rather, she will dress and behave in ways that honor Christ.

What sort of behavior honors Christ? The passages in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 give us a starting place by commanding submission. Peter especially helps us through encouraging us toward a gentle, quiet attitude that shows respect for our husbands. I want to spend a little time talking about that respect in terms of ways it demonstrates a woman’s discretion.

Ladies, we have imperfect husbands. Like us, they have sin natures that all too often lead them to do stupid — and sometimes despicable — things. Occasionally, we may need to ask our pastors and law enforcement agencies to intervene in order to protect our physical safety and the safety of our children. Whether our husbands only mildly irritate us with annoying habits or engage in criminal actions, discretion constrains us to speak about them to others as respectfully as possible.

When a husband sins, a discrete wife limits the circle of people she talks with about his sin. Indeed, in most situations she should keep her grievances between herself, her husband and the Lord. Offhand comments and cute jokes about his flaws and foibles may seem innocuous enough in social conversations, but I know none of us appreciate it when our husbands reveal our sins to their friends and co-workers. We don’t exhibit discretion by broadcasting the sins of anyone to other people (see Proverbs 10:12 and 1 Peter 4:8).

What about an ex-husband? Shouldn’t a woman expose his sin so that people will know that she had Biblical grounds for divorce? Admittedly, Christians will judge women who divorce their husbands unless they hear the reasons, and such judgment can be appropriate. (That’s a subject better suited to a separate blog post.) At the same time, women who divorce their husbands must resist the temptation to dishonor their ex-husbands regardless of the abuse they suffer. Again, discretion requires her to avoid sharing specific information except in the contexts of Biblical counseling and legal proceedings.

Lack of discretion doesn’t become a godly woman any more than a pig’s snout becomes a golden ring. Discretion in our appearance and our behavior gives us inner beauty that pleases God and strengthens our testimony for Him.

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