Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Christian Man's Beard

We're working through a series at St Luke's at the moment called Everyday Spirituality. Here is a link to iTunes where you can subscribe to our Podcast and get a hold of the various messages. Sadly we're not going to have time to cover everyday spirituality and the beard at one of our Sunday gatherings so I thought I'd jot down a couple of thoughts here in an attempt to at least scratch the surface of this vast and important topic.  

In regards to everyday life, one of the challenges of authentic Christian living is to overcome artificial dualisms that compartmentalize a 'religious' life as separate from 'normal' life. With this in mind we must be careful that all spheres of daily living are seen as sacramental rather than simply instrumental or idolatrous. All of life is a gift from God, points to God and can be lived to the glory of God.

In no area of life is that perhaps more obvious than in regards to the Christian man's beard.

In some circles of Christendom great debates rage in regards to biblical manhood and biblical womanhood. What does it mean to be a Christian man or a Christian woman. All sorts of blog posts, books, sermons, conferences and seminars have attempted to address these issues. I won't even bother linking to them as a solid hermeneutical praxis that is cool headed, objective, exegetically sound and discerning will quickly conclude (at least in regards to biblical manhood) that the essence of Christian manhood is the beard. Full stop.  

Throughout the biblical cannon - though of course we only need to consider two isolated verse from Leviticus - we see that the honour of a man is his beard.

Leviticus 14:9
On the seventh day they must shave off all their hair; they must shave their head, their beard, their eyebrows and the rest of their hair. They must wash their clothes and bathe themselves with water, and they will be clean.

Leviticus 19:27
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

In Leviticus 14 one is only to shave when unclean. One must spend some time isolated from the community and shave everything; head, beard, eyebrows and the rest of their hair... They will then be clean, everyone will know they had been unclean, but at least now they can set about growing their bearded awesomeness back and, in time, will be totally reincorporated into the life of the community. The beard is not something to be squandered, taken lightly or shaven. Only in times of reproach, or rebuke, or dishonour would a man remain clean shaven.

In Leviticus 19 we have an extended version of the Ten Commandments - pretty obvious here - don't shave. Honour the Lord your God, don't murder, and, don't shave! Grow and awesome beard.

Men were created in the image of God. Through puberty they gain the ability to be fruitful and multiply and to grow facial hair. These things all go together - for how is a man supposed to attract a wife without a beard!?!

Ultimately the Christian man's beard is sacramental in that it is symbolic or a reminder or indicative or iconic in the way it speaks to other facets of an honourable life lived to the glory of God. Three particular features must be considered; flavour & smell, shape, and also that the beard is intended to be iconic not instrumental or an idol.

Flavour and Smell:

As any Godly beard wearer knows, it is the nature of the beard to take on particular flavours and smells. At one point in my life I was poorly stewarding my beard. Everywhere I went there was a smell and I couldn't distinguish where it was coming from or what it was. Eventually I discovered it to be my poorly kept beard. Its odour was strong and offensive not subtle and inviting. It smelt like a week of meals and was musky and damp. Again, it was poor stewardship on my behalf which I quickly remedied.

A beard should, like a good Australian Shiraz or a Scottish Single Malt, be layered with subtlety and nuance. The first hints of flavour and smell will be feminine in character; the delightful floral smells of your wife's perfume lingering after a passionate kiss and also of her body wash, borrowed to give the beard and occasional clean. No Christian man actually owns their own soap.

Following on from these more feminine notes there will be more masculine notes. It will be slightly smoky, left over reminders of an occasionally smoked pipe or perhaps from the nightly lighting of the fire to warm the home in winter. It may even be from a few drops of Lagavulin absorbed into the moustache after a fine single malt has been enjoyed with other wonderful beared men of God. At the same time the beard will be salty. The sweat of a hard days labour or of physical exertion at the gym, running or playing sport will leave a salty residue. As will the sea spray of a wild ocean.

Finally the flavour and smell of the beard will give way to more pleasant and sweet reminders of daily life; bubble mixture from playing with the kids, coffee, dessert, a ripe orange, the cinnamon of homemade scrolls, bbq sauce.  

These flavours and smells found in the Christian man's beard are iconic reminders of one's life as a gift from God, of the down-to-earth joys of daily living, of hard work, of simple pleasures, of hearth and health, of wife and children. They compel one to give thanks and glory to God.


The shape of the Christian man's beard is also an important part of the integration of faith into an everyday spirituality. The beard will not to too well crafted and yet it will not be wild and scraggy. It will not be wispy nor close cropped, nor so long as to seem ignored. It will be carefully maintained as to reflect good stewardship but lacking in prideful manicuring. Ultimately this care for the Christian man's beard is a reminder of the responsibility one has before God to steward the gift of life. To steward one's gifts talents, resources, abilities, friendships, possessions before God as Lord and Saviour of all.

Too well manicured...

   Too wild...

 Just right...


It is essential to remember that the Christian man's beard is always intended to be iconic; it speaks to, reminds of, and is indicative of one's attempt to live faithfully as a Christ follower. It is not simply a means to an end; attract a wife, look amazing, ooze manliness. Yes, these things will happen but they must be not lead to pride. The beard is also not to become idolatrous. The beard itself is not to be worshipped or followed. The beard too can be a white-washed tomb if one does not live authentically, beneath the beard, the life Christ has called us to live.

Finally, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, if a husband and wife want to mutually abstain from sexual intimacy for a time of prayer, this is fine. Of course this would be the time to go clean shaven. At the conclusion of this brief season one would grow one's beard back and normally intimacy with one's spouse would resume.

That my friends is everyday spirituality and the beard.