Modesty: Part III
What does the Bible teach about modesty? So what does Christ teach us about how we are to dress?
We can answer this question by looking at what Paul and Peter say about the topic. Remember, Paul and Peter are appointed apostles of Jesus Christ, so when they wrote, they were writing on behalf of Christ. Paul’s word is Christ’s word. Peter’s word is Christ’s word.
We looked at Paul’s word last in part 2. What does Peter have to say?
In 1 Peter 3 Peter is writing to Christians who are suffering for Christ’s sake. One way Christians suffer for Christ’s sake is when they submit and obey men God has put over them. So in this case, Peter first addresses citizens who obey the governing authorities, then slaves who obey masters, then wives who obey husbands who are not believers. In each case, the Christian is put in a situation where the one who has authority is not a believer and may be oppressive in his leadership. Peter is especially interested in pointing the Christian to look to Christ, “who when he was reviled did not revile in return, when he suffered he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:23).
So wives, especially before unbelieving husbands (but this does not exclude women in general), are to be careful about how they dress. Again, just like with Paul in 1 Timothy 2, we should notice that Peter is not arbitrarily discussing modesty as a stand-alone topic. But he is addressing it in context of the church, especially in the context of a woman’s relationship to her husband, and in this case, more especially in context of a woman who is suffering under a man who does not obey Christ in how he treats his wife. Modesty is a very important means God has chosen to help cope with difficult domestic relationships!
What does Peter teach?
A woman’s adorning should not be external. This agrees with Paul. A woman should be spending her time thinking about beauty. But it is not the beauty of the externals, but the beauty of the internals. Peter calls it “the hidden person of the heart”. A woman best loves her husband when he can find her not obsessing in front of the mirror or in the closet, but when he can find her obsessing in front of her Lord about the most beautiful ways she can show others (especially her brutish husband) gentleness and a quiet spirit.
As Peter has already stated, a woman does this without reviling and without threatening, but by completely trusting God who will judge her husband. In God’s sight, a woman who takes time beautifying her character – seeking ways to be gentle and quiet – is very precious. God esteems it very highly and considers it be beautiful. He appreciates it and he values it above all of the beauty of braids or gold or designer jeans or lovely purses or nice shoes.
Peter adds to this verses 5 and 6
“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
Modesty means submission to one’s husband, so long as it is trusting submission. Sarah did not simply call Abraham Lord, she trusted God to care for her, even though Abraham had put her in some very scary situations. Yet she did not fear Abraham or his bad decisions (and they were very bad) but trusted God.
For a woman who is not married, these lessons still apply. The wardrobe is to be respectable, but not audacious. More important than the wardrobe is the process you enter into as you choose what to wear. Is it self-controlled? Is it thoughtful, i.e, time spent thinking about how to “put on” good works rather than external clothing? Is it an expression of faith or an expression of self-love?
The lesson is this. A woman serves her husband, and her church, by spending time adorning herself. Her attention should be on beauty. But not the beauty of clothing and hairstyle and makeup, rather the beauty of good works. If she does this, God will find her very lovely, very valuable, and very precious. This will lead to rewards in the life to come as she commits herself to he who judges justly. Therefore, she will not be like the women of the world – who begin to worry and fret and become bitter as they age because they cannot hold onto their youthful good looks. But she will be like the daughters of Christ – who only grow more and more beautiful with each passing week until at last they stand perfectly lovely in the sight of God, shining brightly with many crowns before all his great congregation!
Men, learn to appreciate what God has made!