“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.
During my time in Missouri I had the enlightening (and fragrant) opportunity to feed swine on occasion. Whenever the Borland family was out of town I was their go-to guy for all their livestock caring needs. I hated it but I loved the Borlands so I did it anyway. It helped that they were also liberal in sharing their frozen bacon with my family.
I have never met a more forward, crude and sloppy animal than a pig. They have a distinctive odor that has a way of sticking on you. In their favor, pigs are very bright. But in my experience they seemed only to used their brains to get into mischief, steal food, escape or break things.
Proverbs 11:22 invites us to imagine a beautiful and precious ornament, a golden ring. Gold is highly coveted and priced accordingly. A ring made from such precious metal would be something special 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!
The Gift of Beauty
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 to provide for her. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain” (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 physical characteristic that time only corrups. 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 sensibility, no propriety or good taste. She is unchaste and 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 develop low self-esteem and an unhealthy self-image when they don’t live up to it. 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. 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 online adoration, lustful stares, digital likes or verbal compliments to substitute for the divine acceptance.
This is the trap of 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 mate, and, most importantly, how men treat their spouse and what men teach their daughters, which is the same thing.