Thursday, February 5, 2009

Modesty, The Biblical Standard of Dress

Many have set standards of dress, especially for women. Some have forbidden slacks, others forbid bright colors, or bare arms. Several groups have restricted the wearing of jewelry or makeup. Timothy 2:9-10 gives the following instruction. "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 key word in the passage is 'modest'. Strongs Concordance defines the Greek word used as meaning 'orderly, or decorus'. it is translated as of good behaviour or modest. Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary defines modest as, "Restrained by a sense of propriety; not forward or bold; unpretending; bashful; diffident; free from anything suggestive of sexual impurity; pure; moderate; not excessive, extreme, or extravagant." A simple working definition is not calling attention to oneself.

These definitions cause us to understand that Paul is not forbidding the use of any jewelry, or demanding long skirts, etc., but is advocating resraint in all these things. Sexually revealing attire is not modest, but neither is dress which emphasizes ones religious beliefs. To dress in a long plain dress, with long sleeves, no makeup and no jewelry, as some advocate is immodest. It calls attention to you.

To say it is dressing so everyone will know that that you are a Christian is like the Pharisees Jesus described in Matthew 23;5, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments." He accuses them of hypocrisy and pretense, a contradiction to the definition of modesty. In Mark 12:38-40 warns, "Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."

By the same standard, the woman that told pastors wives that they should never buy a dress costing less than $300 and must go to the beautician at least once a week is equally wrong and immodest. She is also advocating rejection of God's standard as described in the verse in I Timothy, as well a I Peter 3:1-4, which says, "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 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."

Quite simply, emphasis on dress, whatever the purpose, implies a fleshly, worldly perspective. As I Samuel 16:7 says' "for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." The focus needs to be on God, not our appearance. It is the world that says "appearance is everything."

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