Godly Apparel 1

I 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; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

The 2009 Ms. America contest took on spiritual significance as Miss California, Carrie Prejean – a committed Christian, replied negatively to a question regarding same-sex marriage.  Subsequently, she was pillaged in the media for her position but many Christians agreed with her response and defended her right to believe such while commending her for taking the opportunity to state her belief.  The question arises as to how appropriate it is to participate in such forums, especially when such opportunities present themselves.  For the Biblical answer, we turn to:

  • Historical Context: The book of 1 Timothy was written by the apostle in A.D. 62-66.
    Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him in his responsibility for overseeing the work of the Ephesian church and possibly the other churches in the province of Asia (1 Tim 1:3). This letter lays the foundation for ordaining elders (1 Tim 3:1-7), and provides guidance for ordaining people into offices of the church (1 Tim 3:8-13). In essence, 1 Timothy is a leadership manual for church organization and administration.  This is the first letter Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor who had been a help of Paul in his work. Timothy was a Greek. His mother was a Jewess and his father was Greek. Paul was more than just a mentor and leader to Timothy, he was like a father to him and Timothy was like a son to Paul (1 Tim 1:2). Paul begins the letter by urging Timothy to be on guard for false teachers and false doctrine. However, much of the letter deals with pastoral conduct. Paul instructs Timothy in worship (chapter 2) and developing mature leaders for the church (chapter 3). Most of the letter deals with pastoral conduct, warnings about false teachers, and the church’s responsibility toward sinner members, widows, elders, and slaves. All throughout the letter, Paul encourages Timothy to stand firm, to persevere, and to remain true to his calling.
  • Grammatical Usage: “Modest” in the Greek is “kosmios” meaning, “orderly, well-arranged, decent” however, used in the context of v. 9, the reference to well-ordering is not of dress and demeanor only, but of the inner life, uttering indeed and expressing itself in the outward presentation…a reflection of the spiritual quality; “shamefacedness” or “shamefastness”in the Greek is “aidos” which means “a good sense of shame regarding the demeanor of a woman as ‘fast’ or rooted in the character of the individual which prevents or restrains a good person from an unworthy act.”  “Sobriety” in the Greek is “sophrosune” meaning, “soundness of mind…sound judgment…habitual inner self-government which has constant rein on the passions and desires which hinders temptation from arising in such strength as to overcome shamefastness.”
  • Literal Application: Similarly also I want women to dress themselves in modest apparel, with modesty and good taste; not with artistically fashioned coiffures and gold or pearls or expensive clothing but with good works which is properly to be expected from women who say they wish to worship God.
  • Contextual Interpretation: Paul did not forbid women from wearing jewelry, makeup, or braided hair – rather he tells women to not let their outward appearance become more important than their inner beauty.  The woman who professes to worship God is not forbidden to possess pretty things but is forbidden, as are Christian men, to flaunt these things as a mark of distinction, a cut above anyone else.  There were many Christian women in Ephesus who were too poor to own jewelry and expensive clothing.  Thus modesty is the rule for all in appearance and behavior as such properly reflects the indwelling of God.
  • Scriptural Comparison: Whether or not to wear a bikini is a question many women struggle with, but for a Christian woman, the issue takes on additional implications. The Bible tells us that God calls women to modesty, which means to not draw attention to themselves.  God also calls women to purity: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). The question is whether or not a bikini is consistent with modesty and purity.
    Another issue to consider is that God calls all people to control their thought lives, so as women, they should not cause men to lust: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:27-29; 18:7). When women cause men to look upon their bodies lustfully, they induce them to commit the sin of lust and this is displeasing to God, a misuse of the female body.
    A further consideration is that our bodies, like our minds and hearts, belong to God and are to be used for His glory, not our own.  Rom 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” When we offer our bodies to God as “living sacrifices,” we are saying in effect, “My body is yours, Lord. Use it for your glory.” It’s hard to imagine a bikini-clad body being used for God’s glory.
    1 Peter 3:3-5 reminds us of this spiritual fact, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”   There is nothing wrong with wearing jewelry, makeup, or braided hair as long as it is done in a modest manner. A woman should not be so focused on her outward appearance that she neglects her inner spiritual life.

In fact, our outward appearance should not be our focus. If the reason we try to be the perfect weight, wear the best clothes, have facial treatments, etc., is to impress other people, then our physical appearance has become a matter of pride. We should be humbly aware of our appearance rather than acting to conform to the world’s standard. Mt. 23:12 says, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And Js. 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Conclusion: We must watch out for anything that draws us away from God, including the too-often extreme emphasis the world places on appearances. God does not want us to love the world or anything in it (1 Jn 2;15), and we are not to think  or value as the world does (Rm 12:2). God has shown us His own amazing power and beauty and love in an incredibly diverse creation. We should be humble, not committing idolatry in worshiping the creation rather than the creator (Col. 3:5).  Beauty contests clearly elevate creation in a competitive context, assigning value in flawed human terms via flawed human assessments including physical attributes.  Isaiah 53:2b tells of Jesus, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”  Yet, He is the most desirable of all preciously due to His spiritual essence, not his physical appearance.  Once again, tremendous direction in a life lived as completely pleasing unto God the Father.