Modest Apparel


Connie W. Adams
Akron, Ohio

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (1 Tim. 2:9 10).

I know of no more timely subject for an article or a sermon than this one. So many members of the church have imbibed the spirit of the world around them that very little difference is to be observed between those who profess to serve Christ and those who admittedly serve Satan. For that reason, the passage cited above needs periodic attention.

God's Standard Not Provincial or Seasonal

While fashions may vary from country to country, God's standard requiring decency, modesty and shamefastness is universal. Whatever is ostentatious or contributes to the lust of the eye is just as wrong in Florida or California as it is in Ohio. The fact that "Everyone is doing it" or "nobody thinks anything about it" does not change divine of law. Whatever is modest and demonstrates shamefastness is just as necessary in the summer as in winter.


The Context of Our Passage

In the context, what is said about modesty, shamefastness and sobriety is put in contrast to gaudy display which attracts undue attention to style or wealth. The particular demonstration of it was in the elaborate hairdos of some of the women then as they made a show of their expensive ornaments. There are yet sisters who are vain enough that they want to dress so as to be the envy of those who have less of this world's goods. Such is immodest in the light of this passage.

Immodest apparel involves unseemliness of dress arising from a lack of self-respect and good judgment and betrays a weakness in the character. The same vanity that would prompt one woman to make a dazzling display of her wealth might also prompt another to attract attention to her body by publicly exposing it.

Three Words

1. MODEST – (KOSMIOS) – "Orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest, is used in I Tim. 2:9 of the apparel with which Christian women are to adorn themselves; in I Tim. 3:2, of one of the qualifications essential for a bishop or overseer" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, p. 79). The term, then, concerns the inner orderliness and decency reflected in her dress and conduct.

2. SHAMEFASTNESS (shamefacedness, KJV) – (AIDOS) – "A sense of shame, modesty, is used regarding the demeanor of women in the church, I Tim. 2:9" (Ibid, Vol. 4, p. 17). "Shamefastness is that modesty which is 'fast' or rooted in the character." (Davies; Bible English, p. 12, Quoted in Vine's.) This is the word rendered "reverence" in Heb. 12:28. There it refers to suitable awe and respect toward God. In our passage it refers to a woman's own self-respect related to her reverence for God. Many of the fashions today tend to make people look grotesque and reflect a woeful want or self-respect. It seems that some vie to see who can look the most absurd, and the farthest from sanity or reason. Some are embarrassed over nothing. The ability to blush is a vanishing virtue with many.

3. SOBRIETY – (SOPHROSUNE) "Soberness, sound judgment" (Vine, Vol. 4, p. 44-45) "That habitual inner self-government, with its constant reins on all the passions and desires, which would hinder the temptation to these from arising" (Trench). "Soundness of mind, self-control, sobriety" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, p. 613). Berry's Interlinear translates the word with "discreetness."

The true adornment of a woman professing godliness is her good works. The adornment of her body will be a reflection of the qualities of shamefastness and sobriety. The key word in this whole study is shamefastness. A woman who has this quality should have no difficulty determining what to wear to conform to decency. When once the sense of shame or modesty is gone, then one's dress will not be that which "becometh women professing godliness."

Problems and Prevalence of Immodesty

Jesus taught that a man can lust just by looking on a woman. (Mt. 5:28). Any man who does so will have to answer to God for his thoughts and deeds. But a woman who is dressed so as to naturally attract the lustful gaze must bear responsibility for her action as well. If a woman does not dress like a lady, she should not act surprised when someone treats her as something other than one. The brief attire worn by some women in public places, whether working in the yard, going to the shopping center, to a picnic, or to the beach attracts the notice of the male of the species. I believe that women know this. When a woman knows this, and yet parades her body before the gazing eyes of the public, then she has lost that inner feeling of modesty, decorum, and self-respect. When she becomes daring in her apparel, she violates this passage. She thus betrays a weakness in her character. If this is not true, then what do these words mean in I Tim. 2:9-10?

There are women who attend worship periods immodestly dressed. We have all seen the "clothes horse" who obviously delights in an extravagant display of finery. Such a one is immodest and needs to regain a sense of propriety. Then, there are those who attend with dresses too short on both ends. It is not my purpose to try and establish exactly what length a dress must be. But there are members who are all 'too willing to be dominated by the latest fashion regardless of the question of modesty. The mini-skirt has made it so that a woman with any sense of shamefastness finds it difficult to sit as a lady should. In fact, I have seen women and girls attend services with dresses so short that it was difficult for them to stand modestly to say nothing of sitting with decency. It is true that the fashion people have made it difficult to find dresses that are not too short, but whatever happened to those old fashioned women who knew how to buy some material and operate a sewing machine?

Then we have members of the church who take off to the beaches in the summer to mix and mingle among the bikinis and other brief attire. If this is the place for godly people who have a sense of modesty and inner respect, then I have not comprehended much that I have read in the Bible. There is nothing wrong with sunshine, sand or water, but there is something wrong with those who will not seek to enjoy them away from the public gaze. "Oh, but nobody notices you." Really? Then why do you want to be sure you have the latest attire? Is it really true that nobody at the beach ogles the girls and women? Stop kidding yourselves and others. You know better! My brethren (and sisters), when these conditions prevail, then something more than bare flesh is revealed – there is a loss of spirituality demonstrated which is crippling the progress of truth and right in our time. Truly modest women are precious items in a world gone mad with lust. Immodest women neither respect themselves nor are they truly respected by others.

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Author: jfm

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