Thursday, January 25, 2018

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” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 NKJV).

When the subject of modesty comes up, this passage is quoted.  Yet, our modesty problem is not the one Paul is discussing.  For example, how is “propriety and moderation” defined in our society?  Not even close to what Paul, by inspiration stated in this passage.  The way this passage should read to define what we believe is modesty would be as follows:

That the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, dressed respectfully and in moderation, not with see through blouses, or ones that are cut too low, or dresses five inches above their knees, but, which is proper for God fearing women who cover themselves up, and who have good works.

If a modern-day woman entered the assembly wearing a $10,000 sequined diamond dress, we would not send her home to find a cheaper one.  If her hair had gold or pears decorating it, we would not shame her for being immodest, but compliment her artistic talent.  Rather than be admonished, she would be congratulated for her style.  We would not see anything immodest about her dressing in the way that Paul is condemning!

What we do is quote 1 Timothy 2:9-10 as if it speaks against what we view as immodest.  Our modesty is acclimated to our specific culture.  If a woman was dressed as we define modesty, but was transported back to the culture of 1850, she would be immodest.  If a modern-day woman, who was declared modest by the church, was time machined back to the first century, she would probably fit the picture of what Paul describes as immodest!

Paul by inspiration describes a woman wearing too much as immodest.  Today, we are on the opposite end by defining it as a woman taking off too much!  So, we are describing the word “modesty” in two different ways.  Since Paul was inspired and we are not, which definition is the biblical one?

What we do is quote the passage and then upgrade it to our definition.  We literally rewrite the passage to fit our culture, rather than Paul’s.   One of the problems we run into is that as culture changes, we must continue to define “modesty” to stay current with those changes!  The modesty of 1850 is not our definition today.  When Paul wrote Timothy, giving the young man his inspired definition of modesty, was the Holy Spirit oblivious to changes that would take place?  The immodest in Ephesus, where Timothy was located, was not immodesty in Rome, nor would it be in the United States in 2018.

It is not that we don’t believe in modesty, but that we need to realize that the parameters change with time.  We need to recognize that Paul, led by God’s Spirit, was dealing with a different experience than we do.  We need to recognize that Paul was not describing our problem, but his.

This brings us to another question.  May we change a God given description of modesty, which doesn’t fit ours, and claim that ours is God given?  Let’s say modesty is defined as a woman’s dress being 4” below her knees.  Five years later we redefine modesty as a woman’s dress being 2” below her knees.  Where does God give us the right to change definitions?  Is 2” now scriptural because we have become acclimated to seeing women wear dresses that length below their knees?  If so, then isn’t the definition of modesty fluid rather than set in concrete?   If not, then whose definition would be the original and bound throughout time?  Wouldn’t we be required to return to Paul’s inspired definition rather than our uninspired, fluid changing one?

Defining modesty isn’t easy because culture continues to change.  Each change, if different, is shocking until we are acclimated to it.  Then, that becomes our new definition of modesty.  What we need to ask ourselves is, are Christian women dressed in such a way, that they fulfill Paul’s statement, “which is proper for women professing godliness.”