We live in an age of personal freedom. Freedom to do, for the most part, whatever we want whenever we want. Society tells us if we want to wear that halter top with a mini skirt, go ahead! If you want to drink away your paycheck, not a problem! When I attended college at Oklahoma State University I heard a phrase on campus that I had never heard before: “If you got it, flaunt it.” What the girls were referring to was their body, but I also see it as more than just their body. What they’re “flaunting” can be so much more than just what should be saved for their spouse’s viewing, it can be their job, financial income, or the new “toy” they just bought.Paul writes to the young man Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:9 “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” The word “modest” in this verse refers to something that is orderly, or of good behavior. In regards to clothing, this is referring to clothing that is neat, and covers the body in a manner that would not draw unseemly attention to certain parts of the body. But the verse goes on to say that women are to adorn themselves “with shamefacedness and sobriety”. Shamefacedness here gives an impression of “downcast eyes,” or a demeanor that does not draw unnecessary attention to herself. She does not “strut her stuff” nor does she call out through her body language, “Look at me!” Following the same train of thought, sobriety means to have self-control or soundness of mind.
The braided hair or gold or pearls mentioned in this verse also has a specific meaning. Paul was writing to Timothy in a time of moral upheaval. Rome was the sole power at this time in history and prostitution was a very common activity. The prostitutes of the day would braid pearls, gold chains, lace, or other such gaudy material in their hair to draw attention to themselves. They also would wear ankle bracelets with bells on them and wear much jewelry on their face and neck to further draw attention and thus business. Paul wanted Timothy to advise and warn the women of the early church about this danger of being drawn into the world or being mistaken for someone they were not.
Peter writes similarly in 1 Peter 3:3-5 “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves…” Here Peter is echoing what Paul wrote earlier. Peter is telling the early church that was scattered throughout Asia Minor to be sure to not adorn themselves with clothing that is unseemly, or act in such a way that would draw attention to themselves.
The key idea that Paul and Peter are trying to get across to their audience is not only be careful what you wear if it will draw attention to your body that is ungodly, but also for them to watch their actions. Be sober and shamefaced Paul writes. Be meek and quiet Peter tells them. These men understood that how one acts will lead to how they dress or speak.
Modesty is not just a problem for high-school and college age girls. It is a problem for all ages. I’m not just talking about clothing, although I will admit is getting harder to find modest clothing. I am speaking of actions and words. Men as well as women can have the problem of immodesty through what they say and how they act. A person can be fully covered from chin to ankle and still be immodest. How, you may ask? They may be fully covered, but if their clothing or even their attitude can draw attention to themselves. Do their words only draw attention to themselves rather than the well-being of others? Do their actions help the needy or is it just drawing more eyes to them? Are they concerned for the widows and orphans (James 1:27) or are they just concerned for how they are doing and what is going on in their lives?
We must put on a spirit of meekness, a quiet spirit, and shamefacedness to fight the immodesty that is in our society and the Lord’s church.
Erin Blair is the wife of Jordan Blair who preaches for the New Madrid church of Christ in New Madrid, MO. Erin has helped organize church activities like Prom Alternatives, Youth Rallies, has helped with Bible classes and VBS. She is currently completing her Paralegal Program in the College of Business at the University of Texas at San Antonio where she will graduate in December 2011.