My Thoughts. . .
“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
The Greek word for “modest” is kosmios (κοσμιος). It is found twice in the New Testament. It is located once in the above passage and the other in 1 Timothy 3:2. In the latter it is one of the qualifications of an elder. Most English translations render it with different English expressions. “Good behavior” (KJV, NKJV), “Orderly” (ASV), “Respectful” (NASV), “Dignified” (RSV), “Full of good deeds” (TLB), or “Good reputation” (NLT). In a sense a woman will show those characteristics by the way she is dressed. A modest mind and a modest disposition usually will equal modest clothing.
The word “modesty” is usually interpreted today in harmony with twenty-first century culture rather than Paul’s environment. Paul uses the word to describe how a woman will manifest her belief through how she presents herself. He discusses her outward appearance by what she does or does not display. She is not to have an (1) elaborate hairstyle, 2) not wear gold or pearls, (3) nor dress in expensive clothes. (4) When she follows Paul’s instruction, she is being appropriate as a child of God.
There is a contrast between first and twenty-first century women in what is considered modest or appropriate. For example, a woman wearing a ring, necklace, or bracelet of gold would hardly be noticed in our society. In Paul’s day, she would have stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Some older folks may remember the first time a female member entered the church building in a “pantsuit”? That introduction became next Sunday’s sermon topic dug up from the Old rather than the New Testament. When culture changes it often leaves one’s view of modesty behind. Think what attitude folks today would have if a preacher stood up to speak wearing what Paul, Peter, or Jesus wore every day? Imagine the adverse comments of the audience when they viewed the preacher’s toes due to his first century sandals? Would anyone comment if his wife or daughter entered the church building wearing a dark colored dress that covered her head down to the top of her feet? The audience would not notice if she were wearing a ring, necklace, or bracelet of gold. Some would believe she was improperly dressed and doing so only to be noticed. Since that “notice” would be for the wrong reason, would she not be considered immodest?
When your wife or daughter enters the church building do male and female members gasp because both have been to the hairdresser, and each is wearing several rings, bracelets, or necklaces made of gold? No? Why not? Because such wear is not considered immodest by our culture. Even if it were considered immodest because they were overly burdened with gold, probably some of the ladies would think Paul needed to mind his own business. Why? Then as well as today, people have different ideas about what is or is not modesty. For example, where does Paul say that women in the first century need to be judged by the standard of modesty recognized in the twenty-first century? He does not. Neither does he give permission for twenty-first century female members to discard his instruction and substitute their definition. Culture changes and so does the view of what is or is not modest. For example, is God’s view of modesty for today taken from the standard of what was modest in 1890? If not, where does scripture state the correct universal standard for modesty in each century or nation? Modesty finds its negative and positive sides in the culture of that day. Sometimes that culture may be sinful for one country but not another. If so, members of faith will be challenged to practice a better standard. There may be some disagreement concerning what is “better.” If that culture is too conservative, the challenge is in finding the proper application without alienating those who believe their standard is divine and universal. Sadly, Paul does not discuss nor approve of those suggestions. If not, would they be valid?
In our attempts to be modest, let us not be guilty of binding human mentality upon others as if our judgments are divine. If Paul’s instruction is bound despite culture changing, then 1 Timothy 2:9-10 continues to stand as God’s standard of what is or is not modest. Since we do not use Paul’s definition today, apparently, we have been given divine liberty to change Paul’s instruction to fit our views? Has that been approved?
As you finish reading this article, I hope you will keep in mind that it is only My Thoughts. Hopefully, it is in harmony with why Paul gave his instruction. Each person is responsible for his own study of God’s word and the applications made.