M. Div, SABC
This write up is a result of a post that I recently read on facebook pertaining to the issue of Modesty in dressing which was addressed to the women. Unsurprisingly, there was mixed opinions (favored and disfavored) based on their own reason and perspective. And this drew my attention to write on this issue. There could be a lot of resources to refer for information but as a Christian, I believe the “Holy Bible” stands as a complete, authoritative, infallible and sufficient source in doctrine and practice. Therefore, firstly I would like to put forth certain biblical truths on the responsibility of women in dressing. Also, exception of men in this issue would be bias. So, the second section would be addressed to the men.
1 Timothy 2:9 sets the foundation to this issue, “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”. For the sake of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, understanding the context is pivotal. The context of this verse sets out pointing to one of the problems in the church of Ephesus related to the women. “There was heresy, immorality and impurity in general, they were improperly dressed for worship. Under the pretense of coming to worship God, they were flaunting themselves and desecrating the worship service. Their dress and demeanor betrayed an evil intent rather than a heart of worship. The worship services at Ephesus were being polluted by women who saw in them an opportunity to flaunt their wealth and beauty. Their sexual allure was drawing the men’s focus away from the worship service.” (John MacArthur). And such were the characteristics referring to the prostitutes. In light of these circumstances, we see Paul addressing this issue to the church. This does not mean a woman should never do anything with her hair or wear jewelry or put on clothing but the point is not on such things but on spiritual adornment.
John Piper, beautifully states, “Women should dress in such a way that they draw men’s attention towards their eyes, their face, and not towards the other parts of their bodies. One can still dress beautifully and don’t have to look stupid or out of style to be modest. You could still dress modestly and not cause men to stumble. There is something about the face that makes it the most full and complete expression of a person (Numbers 6: 24 – 26). My hands, my shoulders, and my belly tells you hardly anything! But my face says a lot about me—my eyes, my countenance, and my mouth. Having someone just stare at another part of my body would make me very uncomfortable. I’d say, “Look at my face! I’m a person!” Women should handle the desire to be noticed by preserving it for one man, whether he is present yet or not”.
Also the word adorn (verse 9) simplifies well suited to worship. Her clothing should reflect a humble, meek, worshiping heart and also lead her to thankfulness for her beauty. So Paul forbids dressing to show off, to flaunt wealth, to stimulate sexual desire or lust in someone else, to allure someone’s husband away. Anything like that desecrates the worship and dishonors God. A Christian woman should adorn themselves that attracts her character and virtue and carry a sense of shame not to be ashamed to be lovely but ashamed to cause any one to have an evil thought or to be distracted from worship.
Secondly, this section also addresses to the men to practice godliness in all areas. Sexual immorality is a serious problem and many of us struggle with this issue. We are certainly not immune to lust and sexual sin. Any impure thoughts and actions displease and dishonor God. 1 Thess. 4:4 tell us, that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. Therefore, in the words of the author Matt Schmucker, It teaches us to practice godliness in regard to sexual sins and also in our approach to women. Firstly, that we are made in the image of God. And this image signifies the moral attributes of God. And so, we represent our creator – God. Therefore, our lives should honor and glorify God. Secondly, we are to protect and not take advantage of our sisters in Christ – 1 Thess. 4: 3 -6 which means a man defrauds a woman when, by his words or actions, he promises the benefits of marriage to a woman he either has no intention of marrying, or if he does, has no way of finally knowing that he will. Statistically speaking, a single man should recognize that any single woman with whom he speaks will probably be someone’s wife, and he will probably be someone’s husband — maybe each other’s, maybe not. A Christian woman is first and foremost a sister in the Lord. Thirdly, guard your hearts, eyes, and bodies for marriage. This is to mean that let not your past physical relationships become impediments in the marriage bed or affect your marriage. Many married couples face the consequences though their past physical relationships. Therefore, the point is not to take advantage of anyone that will have repercussions in the future but rather protect your heart, eyes, and bodies for marriage. And lastly, men are also not to treat women as mere sexual objects but rather treat them with respect and dignity.