What Modesty Actually Looks Like

ImageI’m sure many of you reading this have an idea of modesty that is not at all flattering.  Maybe the word ‘modesty’ brings to mind images of long skirts, turtlenecks, and just general frumpiness.   I’m writing this because I want you to know that the Bible mentions none of those things when speaking of modesty.  So the news is good!  You don’t have to dress like a grandma or wear a burka in order to please God!   But a question remains… How should I dress?

Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t contain any step-by-step instructions or commandments (like ‘thou shalt not wear thy skirts above the knee!’) when talking about how women should dress. But it is not silent on the topic, it’s very clear that God doesn’t want us focusing on what we wear, but on what is in our souls and how we relate to others.  1 Peter 3:3-5 says:

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.  For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”   1 Peter 3:3-5

I have always loved this passage, however I’m not totally sure I always understood its full meaning (not that I fully understand it now!).  It’s important to notice a few things.  First of all, Peter says, ‘Your adornment must not be merely external…’  Merely usually means something like ‘not only.’  So what Peter is saying is that our adornment must not be only external.  He means there are other things that need to be considered when thinking about beauty.  It’s also important to note that the specific external things he mentions are examples, and because we’ve already established that he’s not totally condemning all types of adornment, he is not saying we can’t braid our hair or wear gold jewelry or dresses.

Then we come to the heart of the matter.  Peter tells us to focus on the ‘hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.’  He is essentially challenging the way the world thinks of beauty and tells us to think the opposite way.  The world focuses on the external, and the external things will fail, they are perishable, everyone grows old.  But, the inner person can always be beautiful.  The more Christ-like we become the more beautiful we become in God’s sight.  Basically a gentle and quiet spirit is what we gain when we spend time learning God’s word and let it change us.

Having a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t mean that if we have loud personalities God won’t be happy.  As we learn more of God’s word and let it guide the way we think and act we will become more Christ-like.  This is what true modesty looks like.  Honestly, it doesn’t really matter how a person dresses as long as they are concentrated on God’s word and doing His will.

Here are some more links and resources that inspired and helped me write this post.

Rachel Held Evans Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think It Means; http://qideas.org/articles/modesty-i-dont-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means/

Jefferson Bethke: The Idolatry of Modesty; http://www.believe.com/articles/The-Idolatry-of-Modesty/

Do I Have A Gentle and Quiet Spirit? http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/index.php?id=541




Women of Faith Wednesday: Hannah

In honor of Mother’s Day which is coming up this weekend I want to focus on a Biblical woman who is remembered for the circumstances of her motherhood.  There are many examples of Biblical motherhood, but Hannah might be one of the least known as well as one of the most compelling. Hannah’s story can be found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2. Hannah had been childless for many years, but God fulfilled her greatest hopes when he blessed her with Samuel. Samuel later became one of the great prophets of the Old Testament.  He anointed David as king and guided him during his reign.  But, despite this beautiful ending, Hannah’s story begins with sadness.

Hannah was the first wife of a man named Elkanah.  Elkanah loved her deeply, but because she was unable to have children he married another woman named Peninnah.  Peninnah gave Elkanah a bunch of children, this made her feel that she was better than Hannah and therefore was horrible to her.  In this time period it was a shameful thing when a woman couldn’t have children, so Hannah probably had to endure scorn not only from Peninnah, but also the community in which she lived.

“Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” -1 Samuel 1:6

So it came time for Elkanah to take his family to worship and sacrifice in the temple.  While there Hannah went to the temple and prayed and wept.  She made a promise to the Lord that if He would grant her request for a son she would give him to the service of God for his whole life.

“O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” -1 Samuel 1:11

While Hannah was praying she was so visibly distressed that the high priest, Eli, came up to her and told her to leave and stop drinking wine.  She was so distraught he assumed she was drunk!  But she explains to him what her real problem is, that she had been praying to God for a son.  Her actual words are awesome, “I have poured out my soul before the Lord…”  Her prayer was fervent and sincere.  Eli’s answer to this is a blessing, that God would grant her petition.

After this Hannah goes home and within a short time she becomes pregnant with Samuel.  She fulfills her promise to God by giving Samuel to His service only after he was weaned.  This means she probably gave Samuel to the care to those in the temple when he was only two or three years old!

“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him.  So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.”   -1 Samuel 1:27-28

Hannah’s faith amazes me for two reasons; first she has faith that God will grant her request for a son, second she fulfills her promise by giving her son Samuel to God’s service for the rest of his life.  It must have been no easy task for Hannah to give Samuel up at such a young age, and after she had waited so long for a son in the first place!  She must have known that what the Lord had in store for Samuel would be much bigger and more eternally significant than her own desires and what she could give him.

This is also the reason why I find Hannah’s story to be really convicting.  Hannah gives to God her most prized possession, the thing she has been waiting and hoping for, her son.  It makes me think about how we tend to horde our possessions all for ourselves.  Really, it doesn’t have to be possessions that we keep to ourselves; it could be time or talents.  Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we should all go out and give all our money and possessions to the church or the poor; or that we should quit our jobs or school and spend all our time praying and fasting or something.  But it seems to me, that God gives us things partly so that we can share them with Him and with others; so we can use them to glorify Him and bring others to knowledge of His Son and His wonderful work on the cross. Hannah’s story makes me want to share the best of what I have and not keep it for myself.

“Honor the Lord from your wealth

And from the first of all your produce;

So your barns will be filled with plenty

And your vats will overflow with new wine.” –Proverbs 3:9