Author’s note: An earlier version of my article first appeared on RelevantMagazine.com. This one’s new and improved for 2015.
There was an old man with a beard, who said: ‘It is just as I feared! Two owls and a hen, four larks and a wren have all built their nests in my beard. -Edward Lear
I spent the past year of my life on a 37,000-mile prayer pilgrimage around the world. As I trekked around our giant planet, I discovered an entire world of interesting prayer traditions- silent prayers with Quakers, loud prayers at a Benny Hinn convention, dancing prayers with ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews, desperate prayers as I walked across a bed of hot coals, and prayers of thanksgiving while eating lunch at the Pope’s house.
As I experienced the vast array of incredibly beautiful Judeo-Christian prayer traditions, I discovered one powerful thing that unites the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox worlds…
I had the opportunity to visit Mount Athos, an all-male (animals included) ‘holy mountain’ in Greece. I was surrounded by Gandalfs and Dumbledores, each with an average beard length of about 8 inches. One particularly godly monk had a knee-brusher so long that he stopped wearing clothes.
Speaking of Gandalfs, do you remember the dwarves in Lord of the Rings? All bearded. Otto the Great swore great oaths by his beard. In the Middle Ages, touching a dude’s chin wig was grounds for a duel. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m also pretty certain that Vikings were born with beards.
Regardless, it’s time to set the record straight: if you’re a man, here are 10 reasons why you should grow a beard this year:
1. A Strong Start
Consider this fact: Men have been growing facial foliage since the beginning of time. While it’s not officially mentioned in Genesis, I’m pretty sure that in the Beard-ginning, God created the heavens and the beard.
For further proof, see: Abraham Lincoln.
2. For the Bible Tells Me So
Speaking of Abrahams… did you know that the Abraham had a beard? So did his son, Isaac. Though not as hairy as his caveman brother Esau, Jacob is often depicted with a manly mane. King David wore a beard, as did his wise-guy son, Solomon. It goes without saying that Moses’s face was well-forested, and Aaron’s beard is specifically mentioned in Psalm 133. Technicolor-dream-coated Joseph also had a crumb-catcher, until the Pharaoh turned him into a sassy Egyptian. Noah/Russell Crowe had a beard, obviously. And let’s not even pretend that Methuselah was baby-faced. Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezra, and the Apostle Paul- all bearded. Though I couldn’t find any women in the Bible who had a beard, there’s no version that says that they didn’t have a beard. So that’s something.
Do you know who else had a 24-hour-o-clock shadow?
Jesus The Man Christ.
And, if we believe the (bearded) Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel, then we know that even God Almighty Himself proudly displays Santa-like plumage.
Is there a connection between hairiness and holiness?
One might even say that we are justified by face. Every hair is a prayer, every collar cover an offering of love. Beards teach a man contentment- when you have a beard, you have enough. Throughout history, Christian men have gloried in male pattern magnificence. Saint Benedict of Nursia wore an superb double forker. The benevolently-bushed Euthymius wouldn’t allow cleanshaven monks to enter his Judean Desert monastery. St. Francis of Assisi had a beard, and now there’s a Pope named after him.
This article isn’t the first piece that’s been written in defense of beards, of course.
According to Ted Olson, Abbot Burchard of Bellavaux wrote Apologia de Barbis in 1160, as “a treatise on the biblical, theological, moral, social, and allegorical implications of beards.”
In 1531, Piero Valeriano Bolzani wrote Pro Sacerdotum Barbis, after the (beardless) Pope Clement VII thought about forcing priests to manscape their forested faces. Little did he know that a beard covers a multitude of chins.
There’s a reason that time is measured in weeks, months, and beards.
Of all the great Christian men who wore beards, none stands so highly as the headless martyr Sir Thomas More. On the day of his beheading, the tufted knight supposedly positioned his beard away from his soon-to-be-severed neck, saying:
My beard has not been guilty of treason, and it would be an injustice to punish it.
Nevermind that clean-shaven John C. Maxwell fellow. John Knox, Menno Simons, and George Muller founded entire denominations, most likely on the strength of their beards. The well-bearded General William Booth founded an army on the strength of his food saver. Hasidic Jews, Quakers, Greek Orthodox, hipster pastors and worship leaders… all bearded.
A beard confers instant leadership. It’s the difference between Mr. and Sir.
7. A Great Cloud of Bearded Witnesses
Just look at the history of Beard-ianity: St. John Chrysostom, Lactantius, James the Greater, Saint Nicholas, Saint Patrick, Gregory of Nyssa, Charles Finney… beards, beards, beardy beards. Why do godly men choose to grow their own neck scarves?
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Yet, despite a clear Biblical and historical bias towards beardliness, a number of Christian institutions and Bible colleges have, throughout the years, created policies that expressly forbade the cultivation of facial manliness. Historical anti-beards include Bob Jones University, Moody Bible Institute, The Salvation Army, and Pensacola Christian College. Liberty University’s dress code stills insists that “facial hair should be neatly trimmed.” So much for liberty.
8. God-Given Genetics
Hear these words, baby-faced college deans: Dihydrotestosterone, the chemical that promotes beard growth (and sadly, balding) is God’s gift to man-folk. For it is by grace we are saved through face, not of ourselves, lest any man can boast.
Beards or baldness…choose this day whom you will serve.
But don’t take my word for it- we barbates stand on the shoulders of elegantly bearded giants…
Growing a beard is a habit most natural, Scriptural, manly and beneficial. –C.H. Spurgeon
The beard must not be plucked. ‘You will not deface the figure of your beard’. -St. Cyprian (Even his statue has a beard.)
The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies…to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength. -Lactantius
The beard signifies the courageous… the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man. -St. Augustine
How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor… to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them! [God] adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood…a sign of strength and rule. -Clement of Alexandria
I also suspect that this is what Jesus meant when He told us to “re-mane” in Him.
10. Scriptural Support
You need Biblical proof, you say? Then let their be no shaves of grey about it. I willl give you three, but be forewarned: if we hear the Word of God, yet fail to do what it says…
“If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.” -Judges 16:17
“The men were greatly ashamed. And King David said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.” -2 Sam 10:5
“You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” -Lev 19:27
“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” -Genesis 2:18
So there you have it. We, like sheep, have gone astray- shave henceforth at your own peril. And so I exhort you, as Paul did the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Men of God, grow your beards!