‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a well-known way of saying that beauty can be subjective. As I pondered this aphorism I began to wonder if the other four senses could be included with the eye. A piece of music can be beautiful to the ear, food to the taste, perfume to the nose, and silk to the touch. So, why just the eye? Before we try to answer let us consider the nature of beauty. Let us just say that beauty is something that excites the senses. Perhaps a truly beautiful meal is one that excites all five senses? When a gifted chef prepares a dish he/she considers how it looks as well as how it smells and tastes and also how it is going to feel to the tongue. Do top chefs take sound into consideration? Crispy lettuce, crunchy nuts and squeaky green beans spring to mind. We are sensual beings. A fresh red apple excites all my senses all at once. Beautiful!
‘So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’ Genesis 3:6. We do not know what kind of fruit it was but what Eve fed to her husband was edible, beautiful and desirable. However, more importantly, it was forbidden. The gratification sought after by eating this meal was wisdom, but, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’ Proverbs 9:10.
The LORD God could have as easily drawn a line in the sand and told Adam and Eve not to cross it as an outward test of the covenant He had made with mankind, (Adam being our representative). However, He chose the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as the outward test of their covenant faithfulness to Him. There may be some truth to the old adage, ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ The Serpent seemed to think so. He seduced Eve into eating the forbidden fruit but Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he ate (1 Timothy 2:14). However, notice what the Scripture says, ‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.’ Genesis 3:7. Yes, their eyes were opened. However, darkness not light poured in. Jesus says, ‘But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.’ Matthew 6:23. Thus the sensible became sensual. The eye of the beholder became untrustworthy, unable properly to distinguish good from evil, unable properly to discern the beauty of holiness from the ugliness of sin.
Is beauty really only what the beholder’s eye decides it is? Is the beholder able, for example, to distinguish between love and lust? When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they wanted to be the ones to determine what was good and evil without God’s interference. It was then that mankind’s eye of discernment grew a cataract resulting in our collective spiritual blindness. ‘But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.’ 2 Corinthians 4:4.
Only a mature Christian is equipped to truly appreciate beauty in God’s creation. God’s Word is likened to good food. ‘But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.’ Hebrews 5:14. We need God to renew us before we will be able properly to discern and really appreciate beauty in all five of our senses, for He made us. And, ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time’ Ecclesiastes 3:11a. ‘Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good’ Psalm 34:8a. And may you give thanks to Him whenever your eye beholds beauty!