Likewise, the women, when they pray, should be dressed modestly and sensibly in respectable attire, not with elaborate hairstyles and gold jewelry, or pearls, or expensive clothes." -1 Timothy 2:9
What kind of modesty does this verse refer to?
The common understanding is that Shaul meant women should cover their bodies. A bikini is obviously not an appropriate choice for a congregational setting. That makes sense. I'm not arguing that women shouldn't be appropriately dressed. But if that's his point why doesn't the verse go more like this:
"Women should dress modestly and sensibly in respectable clothes, not with low-cut tops, short skirts, or spandex outfits."
Am I alone in thinking that would be a better fit for the first part of the verse?
"Not with elaborate hairstyles and gold jewelry, or pearls, or expensive clothes."
What if what Shaul meant was financial modesty?
Expensive means the clothes cost a lot of money. As do gold jewelry, and real pearls. An elaborate hairstyle implies you are wealthy to pay someone to do your hair--whether a hired stylist or a servant--or at least that you are wealthy enough to have plenty of free time to do it yourself.
Think of a time you felt obviously under dressed. What was that like? Stressful? Humiliating? My husband and I were once riding an elevator in a fancy Chicago hotel to a restaurant on the fifth floor. Aware of the ambiance of the hotel we had dressed up--at least we thought so. The elevator made a stop before our destination and we were joined by several couples who were in ball gowns and tuxedos. I had never felt so out of place or embarrassed.
Once we discovered the other couples were headed to a formal ball a few stories up, we were able to laugh it off (really, it was a very audible sigh of relief). But I remember the panic that gripped me of being awkwardly out of place, like I didn't belong.
And I was going to dinner. Imagine if that happened to someone seeking the presence of YHWH.
Is Shaul instructing us not to dress like we have lots of money?
You know how it is, ladies. Fashion is a contest. We notice how other people dress and worry about what they'll think of our outfit. How many times have you stood at your closet in the morning and thought, I wore that Tuesday so I can't wear it again? For the majority of women our wardrobes are determined by what we imagine others will think, as much as they are by our own opinions.
We see trendy clothes and wonder how they have time to shop so much. We go shopping with friends and are pressured into making a purchase we don't love or that costs too much. We try and style an outfit differently so that no one notices it's the same top we wore last week.
"But my clothes aren't expensive." You may have gotten great deals on your outfits, but do you need 35 of them? In a world of fast fashion that is dirt cheap, variety is the new expense. This is wear dressing sensibly comes in. Is fast fashion and it's offenses to rights of workers and the environment a sensible thing to be involved in? Some stores release new items every week with the intention of making you feel out of style and in need of wardrobe update. Those who follow along and keep up with all the trends can inadvertently send this message to those that don't: You're out of style. You're not enough. You don't belong.
What if Shaul was trying to promote an environment that was free from this kind of distraction? I am all for looking nice. But what if when we prepare for congregation our focus is towards making sure our hearts are in the right place than our hair and make up? What if we work to empower women in our congregations and churches to worship YHWH free from those plaguing thoughts of comparison? Just as we make sure to dress modestly to not distract men as they worship and learn the word of YHWH, we can dress financially modest to not distract women as they do the same.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen fashion becoming a contest at your congregation or workplace? Does this seem a bit much? How do you think this could affect our houses of prayer?