The enormous billboard loomed above me as I sat in late-afternoon city traffic. It featured a scantily-clad woman with dark red lipstick and air-brushed-to-perfection curves. I stared at it transfixed. I’m sure she was meant to be selling some sort of perfume or lingerie. It’s hard to remember because what she was really selling was far more destructive. I thought to myself, “This billboard was designed by Satan to tempt men,” and I blamed it for playing its role in promoting the veritable addiction to pornography that plagues our modern world. I looked away, disdainfully.
Meanwhile, another part of me thought, “It must feel good to have that kind of allure.”
That was the part of me that kept changing outfits the next morning when I tried to get dressed for work. Shirts, skirts, pants—I'd put one on and tear it off again in frustration. It was one of those mornings when nothing looked right. This made me look fat and that made me look flat. This made me look too old and that made me look too young. After 20 very unproductive minutes, I concluded that I simply had no clothes that looked good on me.
Yet the day before I’d had no problem finding something to wear. What had changed?
Staring angrily at the pile of offending garments on my bed, I realized something. That billboard wasn’t just for men; it was for us women, too. I’d dismissed it too easily as a temptation for someone else. I’d underestimated Satan’s deviousness.
They say that sex sells—but what is it selling and to whom? We women want to feel attractive, and this is not necessarily bad, but Satan takes this feeling and twists it. He obsesses us with it. He tempts us with the desire to have just a smidgen of that billboard allure, demanding concessions with modesty to obtain it. It’s brilliant really. Tempt the men with seductive imagery—while also tempting the women to emulate that seductive imagery so that they can feel physically attractive.
The Lord recorded this condition for us in the book of Isaiah, saying, “…the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, making a jingling with their feet…” (Isaiah 3:16). If you’ve ever felt the temptation to add a little more swagger to your step, you know what this means. He continues, “In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents…” (Isaiah 3:18–19). When the billboards, fashions, clothes, and jewelry are gone, what will be left?
For the world, a multitude of very insecure, confused, and hurting women that will need a lot of love and guidance—but for those of us seeking to tune out Satan’s broadcast, hopefully something very different. Peter wrote, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3–4). God designed us to want to be attractive, but He tells us here in what way. Have you ever met a woman who was absolutely radiant, and it had nothing to do with her physical appearance? The hidden person of the heart, the one with an incorruptible beauty, is what should be left when all the finery is gone. That’s a beauty no woman on a billboard can ever sell.
As Christian women, we have the responsibility to be on guard at all times, to never allow ourselves to think Satan is not trying to tempt us. Satan wants us to seek allure, but God wants us to develop an inner, discreet beauty—to be women of propriety and moderation, “professing godliness, with good works” (1 Titus 2:9–10). If we can obtain that, we can look forward to a time when God will quiet us with His love and rejoice over us with gladness and singing (Zephaniah 3:17). Then we can help the victims of Satan’s immoral society learn to shine with radiant inner beauty, too.