It doesn’t take much life experience to know that, given a choice, a young man will choose a young woman with a beautiful face and gorgeous figure over an average woman with weak eyes. Even biblical patriarchs were susceptible to an attractive external. “Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel” (Genesis 29:16–18a). He picked the pretty girl. And in a time before Maybelline, she was probably born with it. She didn’t beat Leah at the win-the-man game because she was better at application and had contacts. God made Rachel more beautiful than her sister, and it won her the love of the husband.
We are inclined to like the pretty, aren’t we? It’s nice to look at, and we assume that it’s nice to be around. Victorian novelist George Eliot said this about pretty eyes: “Long dark eyelashes, now—what can be more exquisite? I find it impossible not to expect some depth of soul behind a deep grey eye with a long dark eyelash, in spite of an experience which has shown me that they may go along with deceit, peculation, and stupidity. …One begins to suspect at length that there is no direct correlation between eyelashes and morals…” (Adam Bede, 154).
It takes life experience and wisdom to look beyond the eyes and see the character. Perhaps this is why the book of Proverbs is so explicit about the internal/external dichotomy as it speaks to young men: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30). In the Genesis narrative, we see that after years of difficult marriage, Leah is learning to praise the Lord (Genesis 30:35), while Rachel is still clinging to false religion so much that she steals her father’s idols and lies about it (Genesis 31:19). Weak eyes weren’t hampering God’s care for Leah, and a pretty face wasn’t helping Rachel.
Augustine commented that beauty was God’s gift, but He gave it to all people so that believers would not prize it too highly in themselves. People are often blind to this. Even wily Jezebel, when she heard that Jehu was on his way to deal with her, thought that some mascara and eyeliner would distract him from fulfilling God’s prophecy of her death (2 Kings 9:30–33). It’s spiritual immaturity that make us associate the pretty with the good, confusing true beauty with external attraction.
Pretty eyes can cause us to sin (Mark 9:47) or be full of adultery (2 Peter 2:14). They can see the Lord at work and be unchanged (1 Sam. 24:10). They can be blind to their own faults (Luke 6:42). Conversely, weak eyes can fill the whole body with light (Luke 11:34). They can see the return of the Lord (Is. 52:8).
In the end, it is Leah who is buried in the cave of Machpelah, with others in the Messiah’s line. Weak eyes, a pretty sister, and a loveless marriage could not stop the Lord from using Leah in a mighty way. This should be an encouragement to those of us who are not as pretty as we could wish, as well as a warning to those who are duped by pretty eyes with no substance behind them. That’s not to condemn mascara as inherently evil; it’s to give perspective and align priorities.