“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”
I Timothy 2:8-10
This particular scripture was discussed in Bible study last night, and it struck me. How should we apply this scripture? It is pretty straightforward… I took a look at Matthew Henry’s commentary, in which he says:
“Here is a charge, that women who profess the Christian religion should be modest, sober, silent, and submissive, as becomes their place. 1. They must be very modest in their apparel, not affecting gaudiness, gaiety, or costliness (you may read the vanity of a person’s mind in the gaiety and gaudiness of his habit), because they have better ornaments with which they should adorn themselves, with good works. Note, Good works are the best ornament; these are, in the sight of God, of great price. Those that profess godliness should, in their dress, as well as other things, act as becomes their profession; instead of laying out their money on fine clothes, they must lay it out in works of piety and charity, which are properly called good works.”
On first glance, I wondered if this is a complete exclusion of jewelry and doing hair beautifully etc. That we should be completely plain, and never wear anything that calls attention to ourselves. But I quickly dismissed that thought, as the scripture itself points to a much deeper purpose. That our outward appearance should not outshine or undermine our reputation for godliness. And I don’t think Paul meant this as a point of pride either. In the NIV version it says “but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Profess to worship God… Seems there is an issue of glorifying GOD here, and not glorifying our works. Reading this passage has often been a focus on my behavior instead of God’s work. Now I read this passage as an encouragement to let God’s work affect my behavior. It isn’t about me, and my works, it is about God, and his work, and not allowing my dress to inhibit the realization of his work.
So how do we apply this scripture practically? I’ve come to realize that dress can be an outward expression of inward thinking. As Matthew Henry’s commentary stated, gaudy dress denotes vanity. So how to dress that points to God? Paul is right, we shouldn’t distract others from God’s work with dress. So gaudy exhibitionism is out, but this doesn’t mean we can’t wear anything remotely attractive or nice. I noticed something interesting of late. My husband and I bought a house to rent out, it is a foray into a family business for us. Can we legitimately earn money for our family renting or flipping homes? We’ll see how that pans out… meanwhile, our children, girls ages 5, 4, and 1, have been very involved in the whole process. They’ve been along while we’ve done work on the home, and they’ve been along while we’ve made business transactions for the home. Home improvement shopping at home depot, bank trips to shift funds around, meetings with possible tenants, the insurance company, the bank to determine funds needed etc etc. I have noticed a distinct difference in their behavior influenced by the way they dress. When they wear play clothing, they are more inclined to goof around, get overly silly, and be physical about their expression of events around them. When they dress beautifully, they are more likely to behave beautifully. To sit like ladies, respond to adults in a courteous fashion etc. I know part of this could be my discussions with them, their previous experience in such dress (we have no nursery in church, and no children’s church in the summer, so in their church dresses, they sit through church, and act like ladies.) But either way, I have found the same to be with me. Often the way that I dress encourages behavior. When I dress in a way that glorifies God, I am very aware of that fact. Paul properly highlights here the tendency of women to be reminded of their behavior in their dress, and warns us against vain dressing meant to call attention to our own beauty and wit.
In Ezekiel 16 Ezekiel likens Jerusalem to an adulterous woman. He speaks of how God has raised her up, dressed her in beautiful clothing fit for a queen, and how she takes this beauty bestowed on her to her own advantage, and seeks out other men to adore and love her. I’m not going to set forward a code of dress here, with hem lengths, collar depths, a color wheel etc. It isn’t about those useless details, it is about our heart. How are we dressing? Are we taking our feminine beauty, our natural modesty, our God given gifts, and using them to our advantage, or to glorify God, and point to the things he has done in our hearts, our homes, and our lives? Modesty is a trait of the heart. A submission to God, and not to our own will and desires. when our heart is right, our dress will follow. And our dress will continue to encourage us to glorify God, and not ourselves.
Feel free to comment and let me know how you apply this scripture in your life, and what it means to you. How do you apply it in your life? How does it affect how you dress?