“Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 HCSB).
We will complete our review of this passage with a look at an important principle that can help us interpret and apply God’s Word in a changing world. We can begin by noting that there are certain Biblical standards that are immutable (or unchanging). However, the way we apply those standards can vary from age to age or culture to culture.
This leads us to an oft-referenced quote from the following scholar…
“…there is a difference between command and culture. The commands of Scripture are absolute—culture is relative. For example, few believe that Jesus’ command to His disciples not to have an extra pair of sandals with them while on an evangelistic tour applies today. And most Christians do not literally ‘Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss’ anymore (1 Thes. 5:26). Nor do they believe that ‘lifting up holy hands in prayer’ is essential to public prayer (1 Tim. 2:8).
There is a principle behind all these commands that is absolute, but the practice is not. What Christians must do is absolute, but how they do it is culturally relative. For example, Christians must greet one another (the what), but how they greet each other will be relative to their respective cultures. In some cultures, as in the NT, it will be with a kiss, in others with a hug, and in still others with a handshake.” (1)
We can identify one such standard here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10: a Godly attitude should govern our personal appearance. This idea was just as true for those who lived in the Biblical era as it is for us today. With this in mind, we can draw several practical applications from this passage…
- Wherever possible, we should seek to dress in an appropriate manner that reflects well upon our relationship with God.
- We should avoid dressing in a way that intentionally seeks to draw the attention of others. Instead, our inner need for approval, acceptance, and attention should derive from our relationship with Christ.
- If God has blessed us financially or materially, we should guard against the tendency to flaunt such things in our appearance.
- We should make ourselves “…attractive by doing good, which is appropriate for women who claim to honor God” (CEB).
Finally, we should remember Jesus’ message from Matthew 6:31-33…
“So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (HCSB).
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 459–460). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.