Okay. Modesty and a meek and quiet spirit. Perhaps these crowning qualities of godly Christian womanhood are best summed up by Proverbs 31:30:
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (NKJV)
Let’s dive right in and see what God’s specific standards are for professing women. Read 1 Peter 3:1-6, 1 Timothy 2:9-10; and Titus 2:3-5. We can pull out the following godly characteristics:
• 1 Peter 3:1-6 – submissive, chaste, inward adorning, meek and quiet spirit;
• 1 Timothy 2:9-10 – modest and humble attire, sober, adorned with good works;
• Titus 2:3-5 – holy, sober, discreet, chaste, submissive.
DEFINING AND UNDERSTANDING OUR TERMS
“Meek” means mild, humble, gentle, amiable, soft, or moderate as opposed to harsh, stern, violent, or inordinately passionate or expressive. “Quiet” can mean calm. The term “meek and quiet” was used in the sense of a wild beast that had been tamed. It is not weakness but, in a sense, freedom from discontent.
“Modest” is defined as quiet, humble or moderate in appearance including speech, behavior and dress. Its underlying implication is to not draw undue or improper attention to one’s self. Synonyms for “modest” are chaste, discreet, and decent.
The context for the terms “modest” and “meek and quiet spirit” in these three passages of Scripture teach us that these crowning qualities of godly Christian womanhood have more to do with a woman’s inner man – her mind, heart and spirit – than with her outward appearance. The former affects the latter; the latter is a reflection of the former. What we wear does not make us modest or immodest. Rather, a woman with a meek and quiet spirit will not purposely stand out in a crowd by drawing attention to herself by the way she acts or doesn’t act or by what she wears or doesn’t wear.
PUTTING MODESTY IN PROPER BIBLICAL BALANCE
Our adorning should show others our faith and love for our Heavenly Father to the extent that we acknowledge Him and seek to please Him even in how we appear and behave and what we spend our time on – serving our looks or serving through good works. These New Testament writers are not forbidding the styling of our hair or the wearing of jewelry or clothing. They are emphasizing that we shouldn’t give more attention to our outward appearance than we do to “the hidden man of the heart.” We should desire to be beautiful from the inside out, adorning ourselves with God’s graces of good works, a meek and quiet spirit, and modesty. It has been said, “Nothing manifests the beauty and sufficiency of Christ more fully than a godly woman who has a sweet and gentle spirit.” A woman who spends more time and energy beautifying her spirit than her body, is more pleasing to God…and to the opposite sex.
I’m reminded of the movie – yes, secular – “Shallow Hal.” Hal starts out thinking that women are only as good and useful as they look on the outside. Then an event causes people to appear to him on the outside according to how attractive or ugly they really are on the inside. So, his new obese girlfriend who is beautiful on the inside is literally in his eyes a svelte runway fashion model. A disfigured little girl in a hospital’s burn center appears to him like an adorable, cherub-faced child. The most interesting outside-reflects-what’s-really-on-the-inside interpretation is with this really bitter, mean-spirited inwardly ugly woman who is just as hideous on the outside as she is on the inside. It’s not until the end of the movie, when Hal learns the moral of the story, that we – and he – see this woman as she really looks on the outside. She’s absolutely gorgeous, perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, perfect body. But from the moment she first appears in the movie until the moment of truth at the end, her physical appearance is absolutely repulsive--a direct reflection of her hideous inner disposition.
Hmmm. We may look like we “got it goin’ on” on the outside…but how do we really look in God’s eyes?
Not as important but still worth asking, what would most godly Christian men prefer in the long-term? A woman that’s fine to look at but hard to live with? Or a woman whose beauty emanates from the adornment she takes care to establish and nurture on the inside? A woman who puts a lot of effort into adorning her body to please men at the expense of adorning her spirit to please God, is hardly looked upon as beautiful by the truly God-fearing Christian man.
This is not to say we should not pay any attention at all to our outward appearance with respect to pleasing our husbands or attracting a potential male companion. Men are more sight-oriented than we are. However, as we’ll see more later, there must be balance. Not balance in the sense that we should give the same amount of time to our looks that we do to our mind and heart. Rather, biblical balance in the sense of conforming to what the Lord says is important. As these scriptures in 1 Peter, 1 Timothy and Titus show, most of our time and effort should be spent on beautifying our character and disposition without neglecting what God has given us on the outside. A man who is truly God-fearing himself (as we’ll learn in a subsequent bible study) will allow himself to be more attracted to your meek and quiet spirit than to your flesh.
The other point these scriptures make is that the ornaments of the body are temporary, subject to fading and decay. In contrast, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit and the adorning of good works don’t fade but, as Matthew Henry commented, “the longer we wear it, the brighter and better it is – easy temper of mind, void of undue passion, pride and immoderate anger, discovering itself in a quiet, obliging behavior towards others; …a composed, calm and quiet spirit renders a woman truly beautiful and lovely.”
Here’s one more point someone has made about meekness: Jesus blesses the meek person in Matthew 5:5 and never once blessed the proud people who purposely drew attention to themselves by trying to appear godly. On the contrary, Jesus called them hypocrites. In Matthew 23 He describes this type of person as a dish that is beautiful and clean on the outside, but on the inside it’s still very dirty. The person never took the time or cared to wash the inside. If we will take the time to mold and shape our hearts, we are considered blessed by Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12). However, if we appear modest in dress, behavior and speech but it’s only for show, then we are that hypocrite spoken of very harshly. It’s not mere outward display but a truly meek and quiet spirit that is the ornament of great value to God.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF MODESTY
Now that we’ve established the fact that true, biblical modesty in a godly Christian woman will be based on her having a meek and quiet spirit, let’s look more closely at how to apply modesty to our outward beings.
Someone rightly said it takes a lot of faith to be modest. It’s worth repeating: It takes a lot of faith to be modest. Modesty in attitude and appearance goes totally against popular opinion – i.e., the world – which says that you need money and sex appeal to give your life any real meaning. Popularity is priority, and what’s priority is to look stylish, wealthy and sexy. How hard it is to go against the grain of society when “obey your thirst” and exposed belly buttons and thonged back-sides set the ever-changing standard everywhere we turn! Are these qualities that a professing Christian woman should strive for? Or are we Christians just old, old-fashioned, out of date, and out of touch with the “real world”? Yes indeed, sisters, it takes a whole lot of faith to be modest, discreet, moderate and decent for the sake of Christ at the risk of being alienated, put down and discarded by everyone in the world around us. But isn’t Christ worth it?
I'm reminded of the words to a track, "Good News In Bad Times" by the Hip Hop group I.D.O.L. King, (www.idolking.org) about how a lot of Christian artists are compromising ministry for the sake of industry:
"Yielded to the pressure of the industry
Men and women are now forced to look sexy
But girl, I can’t concentrate on your song
‘Cause your pants are cut so low, I can see your thong
I know you wanna relate, become all things to all men
But you about to make me stumble, got me thinkin’ about sin
Remember us when you lookin’ through your closet
And stop compromisin’ to advance economics"
An interesting side point has been made: When Adam and Eve discovered their nakedness, they just covered up their most private parts, but it was God who gave them clothes. God wants us clothed, not just covered. He sets our standard, not Jennifer Lopez or the oh-so-young Brittany Spears or Beyounce and their modern-day equivalents of Eve’s fig leaves.
Sometimes learning how to apply God’s standards can be a trial and error thing. But keep in mind that the bottom line of modesty is that it flows from a meek and quiet spirit. Therefore, again, that spirit does not draw undue, improper or immoderate attention to itself. General rules of thumb for displaying modesty in your attire are as follows:
• Endeavor to avoid clothes that draw eyes immediately to the curves of your body particularly at the chest, the bottom and the crotch. Some of us are built where we cannot help if certain curves get attention. But clothing that will draw inappropriate, undue attention is probably too tight, too low-cut (as with a cleavage-showing shirt, or hip-hugger jeans) or too high cut (e.g., a cropped shirt, a short skirt or short shorts, a front slit that reveals your crotch when you sit down, or a back or side slit that goes all the way up to your upper thigh, etc.).
• Endeavor to dress appropriately for every occasion. Attempt to fit in, not to stand out. Don’t dress in a manner that the majority of people around you would consider outlandish or peculiar.
• Don’t dress to try to allure any man other than your own husband (who will appreciate your desire to be pleasing to him on the outside but will be most flattered by your modesty before other men). Don’t dress to tempt any man.
• Don’t “dress to impress”. That is, don’t adorn yourself out of pride, being puffed up, to show off, or to out-do anyone else.
• Don’t automatically allow the latest styles found in fashion magazines, on television or at work or school set the standard for what’s acceptable for you. If you need guidance, seek the wisdom and genuine concern of other godly Christian women who have themselves adorned themselves with a meek and quiet spirit and the modesty to match.
• There’s nothing wrong with being stylish. Just ask yourself why you like the style(s) of clothing, shoes, hair, etc. that you like. Make sure your personal preferences are based on genuine appeal to you and not based on what’s popular or what’s going to get you the most attention. Don’t fall into idol worship of fickle celebrity trends or of the attention you can attract.
• Treat your body as the special creation of God that it is. You are His prized possession. Treat yourself as such by being stingy with how much of it you’ll show and how much of it you’ll hide away and save for your husband’s eyes only. The cheaper you sell yourself (so to speak), the cheaper you’ll be treated.
• Remember you are a daughter of your Father in heaven. That is a great honor and privilege. God is worthy of your child-like attitude of reverence, obedience and devotion. Dress accordingly, in a way that will make Him smile upon you.
• Ask yourself, does my appearance (including dress, behavior and speech) allow the light of Christ to shine through me, or does it dim it? Is my appearance consistent with my profession of Christ?
CLOSING FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON MODESTY
Our apparel says a lot about us – our attitude about ourselves, the opposite sex, and our relationship with our Lord and Savior. Our outward adornment sends out a message, a message that will generate a corresponding response from its audience. Our outward appearance – including our speech and behavior as well as our dress – is often a direct function of our inward attitude and character.
She who goes beyond God’s boundaries in her dress will be perceived to be one who will also go beyond God’s boundaries in her walk with Christ. Is that, oh professing Christian woman, the message you want to send? Who’s attention matters to you? Other women, with whom you’re in competition? Men? Why? What type of man do you want to attract: one who yearns to get closer to your heart, or closer to your body? How can you expect to draw a man to your heart when it’s your body you’re using to get his attention?
She who endeavors to learn God’s boundaries in her dress and apply them, will be given His grace to receive the truest desires of her heart. That’s because she has put Him first, acknowledging Him even in how she adorns herself on the inside and out so that He will direct her paths. You want to please your husband or attract a worthwhile mate? Those are certainly acceptable, even noble desires. Do it God’s way! Adorn yourself with the precious jewels of a meek and quiet spirit and with good works, and always dress, behave or talk in a way that glorifies Jesus Christ. Then see what grace He’ll bestow upon you in your relationship!