Ornamentation and beauty 4

“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.” I Peter 3:3-4

“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.” I Timothy 2:9-10

This final issue on the topic of ornamentation and beauty will touch on the topic of:

3. Clothing, jewellery, and hairstyles

This topic is one that is very difficult for me to broach simply because I know that there is a lot of controversy over it.  Yet, it is also a topic about which we hear very little because few are willing to make a stand on it.  I am aware that no matter what I say, someone will disagree with me and most likely feel that I am condemning a lot of people.  I will, therefore, attempt not to give my personal opinion, but to relate that which I believe to be in accordance with the Word of God.

There are two common approaches to the issue of clothing.  One is to focus on it because externals are easy to change.  The other is to throw off such focus because, after all, what really matters is not the outside, but the inside.  Both of these approaches are dangerous.  The former leads to hypocrisy, while the latter denies that our clothing portrays any message and that God has something to say about it.  I wish to touch briefly on both of these approaches and then wrap it all up by returning to what these Scripture texts do and do not say.

The Greek word for “apparel” in I Timothy 2:9 literally means “a garment let down.”  This could be interpreted in many different ways, but one thing is plain: the garments women ought to be wearing are designed to cover up, and not just barely.  This is what is befitting for women who say they are Christians (Christ-like).  Yet, in our Christian world, this concept is hardly embraced.  We follow the trends of the world and seek the attention that such ways afford.  But in doing so we are treading on ground that does not belong to us.  As Christians, we are called to edify, that is to build up, our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Yes, our brothers in Christ too.  Young men striving toward godliness often complain that the young women are making it hard for them.  Immodest dress draws attention to ourselves rather than to pointing to the beauty of Christ.  It tempts men with desire they should have only for the one they marry.  This should make us stop and think.  We cannot possibly be the right one for all the men we meet, so in essence, by our dressing scantily, we are tempting them with something that is not rightfully ours to give.  Some will say, “But they should be guarding their eyes, their thoughts, their hearts.”  Yes, that is true, but are we, as their sisters in Christ, fulfilling our responsibility toward them?  Are we building them up by our manner of dress, or are we causing them to have to work hard at overcoming the temptations we are forcing upon them?

The other approach to this issue is a focus on externals without a desire for a changed heart.  This is very alluring, particularly for those who have been taught that there is a “right” and “wrong” way to dress and who often associate with those who think the same way.  We have a desire to look “good” before others, while inside we are hiding our real desire to be noticed by men.

In conclusion, it is very interesting to note that, although both Peter and Paul give a few specifics about where the emphasis in dress should not be, rather than focusing on the particulars of what women should wear, they dwell on the attitude of the heart that should be reflected in our dress.  Modesty is not so much what we wear or even how we wear what we wear.  It is an attitude of the heart.  If in our heart we are truly seeking to be modest  and discrete, God will enable us to discern what it is He desires we wear or do not wear.  May we approach this difficult issue with a heart that is sincere in its desire to know God’s will and willing to make whatever changes He requires!

So, what is true beauty?  What kind of beauty is most important and how can we develop that beauty in our lives?  May the Lord bless you with His wisdom and discernment as you come before Him in sincerity with these questions, seeking to understand and to obey.