Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Modest Proposal

When I wrote the article No Skirts, No Suits, no Service and A Response, I seperated part of it because I was going down two paths. In addition to the fact that our dress should not hinder people from coming to Christ; our dress should be modest and point people to Christ. Modesty is often just a discussion about lines; hemlines and necklines. Modesty is also a discussion of our spirit and attitude. Our clothing choices are a very narrow focus in comparison to the broader discussion of a modest spirit and attitude. When our hearts are modest then our clothing choices will often follow naturally.

We find a few verses on clothing in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. This seems to be the verse most people go to when discussing clothing for women. Clearly, women should be modest. A few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon by Dr. Kevin Bauder titled “Revisiting Biblical Womanhood”. In this message he made a point out of the context of these famous verses. The beginning of the chapter gives us the premise for the rest of the chapter’s instructions. “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” This is one of those times when I knew the well-used verses but never even considered context.

The instructions in this chapter are related to instruction to bring people to Christ! The exhortation to modesty is an instruction not to dress in such a way that we are bringing undue attention to ourselves, for any reason. Whether our clothes attract attention because they show too much skin or because they show that we like to spend a lot of money, at the point our clothes are the focus in any way, the focus is wrong.

It is my belief that our view of modesty has been skewed by time. The idea that women should be covered and modestly dressed is a good thing, and most of us agree with this principle. The problem from my view, is that most have narrowed their view of modesty to simply clothing choices. The context of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 speaks of being both sober and modest. This means we should not be bringing attention to our dress. Although most people think only of clothes which are revealing as “immodest”, the word means more than that. For example, if I wore a ballgown to church, even if it was floor length and came up to my collar bone; I would not be modest because
I would be bringing undue attention to my clothes.

The instruction of 1 Timothy tells us what we should do instead of placing the focus on our clothes. We are to be clothed in good works. Are Christians known for their good works? This is sobering to me. When people think about me do they think about my good works or about my cute outfit? As a Christian I am to be showing Christ to the world around me through my good works. In the New Testament we read time and again about bringing people to Christ because of our good works. This passage falls right in line with this concept of winning souls. In fact it seems to be the point of this chapter.

Maybe I’ve brought up a silly conversation in light of eternity. However, I think it is entirely possible that Satan has used issues like clothing to divide the Body of Christ.

Either way, I hope I have started a discussion. I hope we all have something we can consider as we try to grow in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Paul & Amy said...

Enjoyed your writings! One way I keep the clothing issue simple is to remind myself that the only one I have to please is the Lord. If I do that, then it really doesn't make a difference what everyone else thinks. If I'm pleasing the Lord, every other issue will fall into place. It's true that clothing says a lot about the person, but God knows my heart/motives. If I'm being who God wants me to be, then what I do (or wear) will reflect that.

Enjoyed reading your modesty posts! Good reads! =]

Martin LaBar said...

Modesty is a state of mind. It would be possible to be completely unclothed, and modest. (Presumably Adam and Eve were.)

Of course, the possible effect on others must also be considered. It would be possible for a woman to lust after a modest man, for example.

Well said.

I don't think there's much doubt that Satan has used such issues to divide Christians.

Diane Heeney said...

I don't know if you took in the "Modesty Poll" discussion at SI a little while ago. It was a helpful discussion. I do agree with you...modesty is a spiritual mindset that manifests itself outwardly...not just in clothes, but in facial expression, speech, and comportment. If I were to distill all I have read about, thought about, and prayed about on this subject it would come down to this--"Who are you wearing it for?" It may seem overly simplistic, but it cuts to the heart of the problem.

This is more of a hot button issue now than ever, with our men exposed to sensuality almost everywhere they look (and moreso with summer approaching), and women being trained to think, reason and behave sensually due to their exposure to today's media. Believing ladies ought to submit to the Spirit's instruction--to whatever is necessary to make their churches a haven for their Christian brothers. I believe a step in the right direction on this issue is to get the godly women to follow through on their Titus 2 calling and teach these modesty principles with deliberation. I don't think it's done much...and even as a student at two different Christian colleges, I understood the dress regulations, but they were presented as a list without any explanation. We need to be proactive in this. Thanks for doing your part. :) I am doing mine at a conference next month...two of my sessions will be on this topic, viewing it from both sides.

Keri said...

Diane I'm so happy to "hear" from you. I love that you are taking your Titus 2 role seriously! I did lurk on your modesty poll and I thought it was fascinating. I wish I could come to your conference in a couple weeks. I'll be praying for you.

Amy and Martin, Thank you for your comments as well. I enjoyed reading them.

Truly modesty is a heart centered issue. No amount of rule abiding will please the Lord. Only a heart that is fully given to Him.