hope in a jar

“Those who look to him are radiant,

and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:3

Has anyone heard of this book, Hope in a Jar? A book about the beauty industry– was recommended to me by one of my professors from Div School. I haven’t read it yet but want to. I have been looking up some statistics, and Americans spend about $7 billion on beauty products per year (not including, I think, fitness and surgery– just makeup and skin creams).

Here’s an article in the Economist about the beauty industry. (You might have to register to see the whole article– you can do it for free. Worth it.) They estimate that the beauty industry (“encompassing make-up, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health clubs and diet pills”) is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. The article ends with these words, “During the second world war, the American government had to reverse a decision to remove lipstick from its list of essential commodities in order to prevent a rebellion by female war workers. The beauty business—the selling of “hope in a jar”, as Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, once called it—is as permanent as its effects are ephemeral.”

“As its effects are ephemeral.” Wow. It just makes me wonder. As Christian women, where is our hope? It’s in Jesus, we will all say! But as I creep towards 30 I must confess I am starting to see that so much of my hope is also in jars….. The beautiful glass jars in rows in department stores, with ingredients that promise youth, beauty, clarity of complexion…. We can’t serve two masters, and I wonder, if we just look at our spending and not just at the words we say and the songs we sing on Sundays, who would our masters turn out to be, and where would our hope really be? Is it really following Jesus if we lay up for ourselves treasures in the form of youthful skin into our 50s and 60s? Even the writer in the Economist knows well enough that the results, even of the priciest creams, are “ephemeral.”

This comes down to a question of whether I believe what God says about who I am and who he is. Do I believe that I have been crucified with Christ and that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me? Do I truly live my life in the flesh through faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20)? Do I believe that I am supposed to pour myself out for the hungry (Is. 58) rather than satisfy the desires of my wrinkling flesh? Do I believe that all flesh is as grass (Is. 40) or do I believe the glossy pages in magazines that declare, “No, in fact flesh is not as grass, if only you buy these products”? Do we (American Christian women) live like we only should buy “essential commodities” in order to spend our money to feed and clothe those who are dying in streets for lack of a piece of bread (Mt. 25 etc.) or do we, like the factory workers, demand our painted lips at all costs?

Am I saying that to be a Christian you can’t spend money on make-up or some night cream? To quote my wonderful, amazing theology professor when someone asked a question like that, “There’s a sense in which I don’t have a dog in that fight.” That is not the question. I’m not sure what the question is. Maybe the question is, do we see Jesus? We say we love Jesus so much, but do we believe his words in Matthew 25 that he is standing in front of us hungry and naked and sick and in prison? (No, not even do we believe his words, because the demons believe. Do we actually change our lives and act because of his words? James 1-5).Do we see Jesus/the hungry when we are buying our anti-aging (I mean, what is that supposed to mean, anyway?) creams and eye-liner, eye shadow, perfume, mascara, pedicures, hair products, hair-dye, etc.? What would it look like if Christian women stopped buying so much stuff– for the sake of feeding hungry people? What would it look like if we started really trusting in the resurrection rather than spend our money trying to cheat age and death? What would it look like if we believed that if we look to Jesus, we will be radiant and that our faces will never be ashamed? What would it look like if our hope was in Jesus rather than in jars?


2 thoughts on “hope in a jar”

  1. You’re crazy. I’ve know you all your life- you’re crazy. JJ!!!! One teacher here younger than you gave up makeup along w/ other stuff for lent. Some women my age are so concerned w/ looking young. It is good that I wasn’t a beauty before so it doesn’t bother me not to be a beauty now. Folks like cheerleaders who are used to self worth being tied to beauty have it harder as they age, I believe, unless they are strong Christians.
    Love you!!!
    I’m so proud of you!

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