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Clothes and Character (1 Timothy 2:9,10)

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. (1 Timothy 2;9,10)

Question. Have you ever bought an item of clothing simply because it bore a "label"? If so, you probably spent a lot more than you would've had you bought a similar item of clothing that did not carry the label.

Why did you do it then? Probably because labels carry status and prestige. They convey a positive message about the wearer.

The ancient Greeks during the times in which Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, had a saying: "A man is his clothing". In the 15th century this thought found its way into an English proverb that states "clothes maketh the man". Today we might say, "You are what you wear!"

Regardless of how you word it, these all say essentially the same thing. What we wear sends a message about who we are. It may not of course always be an accurate message but it is a message nonetheless.

In these verses Paul is giving Timothy instruction in women's fashion. It is to be modest, decent and appropriate.

So,is the Bible teaching that young women in 21st-century Western countries like ours should dress exactly like they did in Paul and Timothy's day? Certainly not. If that were the case these verses would describe exactly what should be worn.

In order to understand what a Bible verse means for us today, we must first determine what it meant to the original readers. For women in those times to dress without modesty and with great show was seen to have sexual overtones (not unlike today perhaps), and if that woman was married it meant that she made herself to appear unfaithful to her husband (see v.11).

So Paul is calling on Timothy to caution the women in his church to dress in such a way as to detract from their witness as a follower of Christ by dressing in a manner that sends an un-Christlike impression.

Does that mean that's it's wrong to wear makeup and wrong to wear nice clothes? How revealing is too revealing? Where is the line?

We love to have specifics but it's not always that easy to define exactly. Girls, maybe ask your parents what they think of what you're wearing. That will often give you a good guide! If you're still not clear, ask an older person in your church whose opinion you respect - and then go for the more conservative standard of the two!

Remember that guys have a struggle with their thought life. If you're serious about God using you as a leader do you really want to wear clothing that makes it more difficult than ever for guys to keep their thoughts pure?

And talking of guys, I hope you haven't switched off by now! What do your clothes and hair say about you? Are you trying to use them to impress girls? If so, what might Paul say to you?

It's easy to read these verses and get caught up on specifics, but the real heart of these verses is this: those "who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do."

How much effort do you put into looking attractive as compared to being attractive? Show me someone who is obsessed with outward appearance and uses it for their own ends and I'll show you someone who is probably not particularly concerned with character.

Reflection

What are these verses saying to you? Are you using your appearance to send a message that's not helpful to others or glorifying to God?  Have you become more focussed on outward appearance than you have on Christian character? What is God calling you to do in order to change?