In verses 9 and 10 of 1 Timothy 2 Paul, speaking to the women, says,
“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Ti 2:9–10)
Now, before we go any further, you have to know that Paul never intended his letter to be a one size fits all guide for what women should wear in all places and at all times. He was dealing with a specific situation in the church at Ephesus.
The women in the church at Ephesus dressed in a way that not only drew attention to their beauty but also their social status. Their dress was causing problems in Ephesus.The men were having trouble paying attention. God wasn’t the main focus, their looks and beauty were. As well as those of a lower status felt inferior.
Connection to Today
In some sense, these things haven’t changed today. Women still dress too provocatively. And they still use fashion as a way to get attention and show off their social status. So while Paul never meant his letter to be a one size fits all fashion guide for women, the guidelines he provides are still applicable to Christian women today.
What does Paul tell these women?
He tells them that they need to operate under a different set of values from the culture. Instead of using clothing and jewelry to highlight their beauty and social status, they should dress modestly and allow their good works to make them beautiful. Doing that would not only help the men focus during worship, but it would also put the focus back on God. As well as it would keep other women in the church from feeling inferior.
While Paul’s ideas are definitely counter-cultural, it’s possible for Christian women to live them out because the gospel has freed them to glorify God and not self.
Question for Reflection
- Whose glory are you seeking – your glory or God’s?
Post adapted from my sermon: What Frees the Church to Operate as God has Called and Designed for Us to Operate?