Throughout history, beards have held special significance in many cultures and faiths. As Christians, it’s natural to wonder what God’s Word says about beards. While the Bible does not contain any direct commands for or against growing a beard, there are principles we can draw from Scripture to guide our decision.
In this post, we’ll explore the biblical references to beards and facial hair to understand God’s perspective on this traditional symbol of masculinity.
Old Testament Examples of Beards
In the Old Testament, growing a beard appears to have been the norm for Hebrew men. Beards are frequently mentioned in descriptions of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For example, Genesis 27:11 (NKJV) says “Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.” The implication seems to be that rugged Esau had a full beard befitting a hunter, while gentle Jacob was clean-shaven or had a trimmed beard.
Several Old Testament passages also refer to the beard as a symbol of one’s dignity and identity as a man:
- 2 Samuel 10:4-5 describes the Ammonite king’s servants shaving off half the beards of David’s men to disgrace them.
- In Ezekiel 5:1, God commands Ezekiel to shave his head and beard using a sharp sword as a prophetic sign of coming judgment.
- Leviticus 19:27 forbids cutting the edges of one’s beard, likely to differentiate Hebrew men from the clean-shaven Egyptian priests.
So in ancient Israelite culture, a full beard was considered manly and dignified. Shaving was seen as humiliating and dishonoring.
New Testament References to Beards
The New Testament offers fewer details about beards, but they are sometimes mentioned in Jesus’ parables and teachings. For example:
- Jesus uses the analogy of not allowing a single white hair to perish from your head (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7). Since beards were ubiquitous, this likely included facial hair.
- Christ speaks of the custom of plucking out beard hairs as a way to fulfill an oath (Matthew 5:36).
- Isaiah 50:6 prophesies that during His Passion, Jesus’ beard would be plucked out by His persecutors.
- In John the Baptist’s famous description in Matthew 3:4, he is said to have “his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” This distinctly rugged, unconventional appearance with uncut hair and beard matched his bold preaching in the wilderness.
The Apostle Paul also mentions men wearing long hair and beards as a disgrace in 1 Corinthians 11:14: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Though this verse has been interpreted in various ways, at minimum it reflects the cultural norm that Hebrew men of the time wore beards.
While we lack explicit commands about beards in the New Testament, these references indicate that they were commonplace. Jesus and the apostles lived in a beard-wearing era and did not object to the practice.
Principles for Christian Men Today
Though the Bible does not lay down universal rules about beards, there are some principles we can apply:
- Our bodies belong to God, so we should glorify Him in how we groom and present ourselves. Our hair and clothing choices should align with Biblical values of modesty, neatness, and avoiding offending others (1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Timothy 2:9-10).
- Outward appearance is far less important than inward character. But if our grooming sends misleading signals about our faith and values, we should reconsider (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Timothy 4:12).
- In cultures where beards symbolize something sinful or dangerous, discretion and sensitivity to those perceptions may be appropriate. In other societies where neat beards represent wisdom and maturity, believers have freedom to wear them (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
- Ultimately hair length and facial hair are non-essentials in God’s sight. What matters most is whether we are growing in Christlike love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Our beard style should not become a point of contention or pride.
As you prayerfully decide whether to grow a beard or not, let these Biblical principles guide you beyond personal preference to glorify God in how you present yourself as a man. If in doubt, seek wise counsel from mature believers who know you well (Proverbs 11:14).
5 Key Takeaways on What the Bible Says About Beards
- Old Testament Hebrew men viewed full beards as manly and dignified, while shaving was dishonoring. But no commandment was given.
- Jesus probably wore a beard based on first-century Jewish customs. The apostles did not object to beards.
- Outward appearance matters less than inner character. But our grooming should align with Biblical values.
- In cultures where beards symbolize evil, avoiding them shows sensitivity. Where they represent wisdom, believers have freedom.
- The Bible is far more concerned with growing in Christlike character than beard length. Focus on obeying God from the heart.
Practical Guidance for Christian Men
Given these Biblical principles, here are some practical tips on beard choices as a Christian man today:
Consider your culture and context. If you live in a society where beards have negative associations, you may want to shave or trim closely to avoid sending the wrong message. Your freedom in Christ allows you to adapt your grooming for effective ministry (1 Cor. 9:19-23). But in cultures where neat beards are commonplace and convey maturity, you can feel free to grow one if you desire.
Keep your beard or mustache neat and professional. If you choose to have facial hair, maintain it with regular trimming at a modest length. Follow any employer guidelines. Beards should not be unkempt or make you stand out as odd or dangerous. Remember that cleanliness and orderliness honor God (James 1:27, 1 Cor. 14:40).
Avoid styles linked to ungodly movements. Some beard fashions today have associations with evil philosophies, like long scraggly beards among demonic metal groups. Steer clear of styles meant to symbolize anti-Christian values. You may have freedom in Christ to wear a beard, but don’t use it as a platform for sin (1 Peter 2:16).
Check your motives and guard against pride. Having a beard simply to stand out or flaunt your masculinity can become prideful. Be humble, avoiding arrogance over petty things like hair length (Romans 12:3). You have worth in God’s eyes apart from your appearance.
Don’t judge others over beards. Whether clean-shaven or very bearded, each Christian man prayerfully makes grooming choices based on his culture and conscience before God. Refuse to argue or look down on fellow believers over debatable matters like beards (Romans 14:1-13).
Focus on Developing Inner Godliness. While seeking to honor God in your outward appearance, remember that growing a beard or shaving daily is trivial compared to pursuing the fruits of the Spirit and reflecting Jesus to the world through acts of love (Galatians 5:22-23, Matt. 5:16).
Throughout history, beards have held deep significance in many cultures as a mark of masculinity and wisdom. The Bible contains no direct commands about growing a beard or mustache. Old Testament Hebrew men viewed full beards as dignified and manly, while the New Testament records that Jesus and His disciples wore beards according to first-century Jewish customs.
While the Bible does not forbid beards for Christians, principles like cultivating modesty, avoiding offending others, and focusing on inner character over outward appearance should guide your decision. In cultures where beards symbolize evil, shaving demonstrates sensitivity. Where neat beards represent maturity and wisdom, believers have freedom to wear them.
Above all, how you groom your facial hair matters far less than whether you are growing in Christlike love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control by the power of the Holy Spirit. Seek to please and honor God with your life, not merely your beard.