I read a quote by St. Augustine, which says, “Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.” Could you please explain further what this means?
St. Augustine states this in The City of God, XV, 22. Essentially what Augustine is teaching is that we can become too focused on lesser goods and, thereby, neglect higher goods.
Physical beauty, though somewhat differently defined, does exist, and is a pleasant gift of God to behold. But we can esteem it too much, failing to realize that spiritual beauty; truth, goodness, holiness and God Himself, are far greater gifts. Hence, God signals the limits of physical beauty by often bestowing it on those who may seem undeserving of it, to teach us that physical beauty is a limited good.
St. Augustine continues, “And thus beauty, which is indeed God’s handiwork, but only a temporal, carnal, and lower kind of good, is not fitly loved in preference to God…” The problem is not with beauty, but with us. So Augustine adds, “When the miser prefers gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing.”
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