Modest Dressing

1 Timothy 2:9

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.”

The apostle Paul has just finished writing about the conduct of men in the church. He asked the men to be holy and prayerful. Then Paul turns his attention to the appearance and behaviour of women. He told the women that they must conduct themselves “in like manner also”, that is, like the men with holiness.

Christian women must “adorn themselves in modest apparel”. The word “adorn” is the translation of the Greek word kosmeō, from which is derived the English word “cosmetic”. It means “to arrange”, “to put in order”. Women should dress in “modest apparel”, unlike the short and revealing clothes worn by many modern women. Their dresses should cover them completely and decently.

They are also advised not to flaunt their beauty or wealth – “not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”. The apostle’s point here is not that women should be indifferent to sprucing up their hair. Neither is Paul prohibiting women from wearing jewellery. In fact, in Jeremiah 2:32, the Jews were asked, “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?” The Bible does speak acceptably of women wearing ornaments at appropriate times (cf. Genesis 24:53; Song of Solomon 1:10-11; 4:9; Isaiah 61:10), such as a bride at her wedding.

Rather, the apostle is here taking issue with extravagant, ostentatious hairdos and ornaments that call attention to themselves and their beauty or wealth. Christian women in their appearance and conduct must be meek, gentle, humble and holy. They must not behave in such a way as to be a temptation to men. Neither should they be a cause for envy and covetousness to the poor and needy in the church. Christian women must be ashamed of appearing carnal and materialistic. Hence, Paul advised them to be “with shamefacedness and sobriety”. The Christian woman’s focus must always be the glorifying of God through her appearance and conduct.

Prabhudas Koshy