christian living

Modesty Is A Christian Virtue

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“You are cheap” is a derogatory remark that one may attract if, in the opinion of an accuser, the person does not spend freely. You face the brunt of the ‘cheapness’ police if you buy clothes and accessories that are ‘too cheap’ or a car that is ‘too cheap’ or organize an event at a place that is ‘too cheap’ or buy food that is ‘too cheap’. In a world where how well a person has done is based on how well they have done for themselves, this may be acceptable. But that is not the Christian world.

I Timothy 2:9-10 says, "I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Peter 3:3 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”

Following are two definitions of modesty from the Oxford Dictionary. The first is “the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level”. The second is "Behavior, manner or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or decency”. It is clear that Paul means both when he urges women to dress modestly in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. It is interesting how some Christians conveniently ignore the first meaning while being vociferous advocates of the latter. Paul is not simply teaching the women to be decent but to be moderate as well.

Then in 1 Peter 3:3, Peter also teaches the women that their beauty should not come from elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. In a Christian world view, therefore, wearing expensive clothes and jewelry, in the very least, means nothing! In the world, it may add something to you but from a Christian view point, it adds nothing. If it adds nothing, then are our resources best spent dressing expensively?

It is good Christian behavior to spend less on oneself so you can help others. And this applies not just to clothing. Romans 15:1 says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Luke 3:11 says, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Although a Christian can afford to have two shirts, he may just keep one and give the other away. Of course, to the world, a man who wears only one shirt is cheap. However, from a Christian view point, he is just being Christian.

The world should not teach us or pressurize us to “not be cheap” as they put it. They don’t know better. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) We are called to reform the world not to be like it.