Women In Church: Adornments Of A Godly Woman
We live in an age where society is simply caught up with accessorizing. Accessorizing is about adorning with accessories, ideally with matching colours, styles and price tags. Not just women, but men as well. The movie “Confessions of the shopaholic” in 2009 with Isla Fisher, captures this addiction humorously. Her obsession to buy just the right green scarf to suit her outfit she is wearing almost caused her to miss her job interview!
Apostle Paul had some wise words for the women of those times which would be equally relevant for women today. And perhaps some men as well.
1 Timothy 2:9–10 (NIV) 9 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, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
What can we learn from it?
THE MATTER OF EXTERNAL ADORNMENTS
What should be our perspective about external adornments? What is the message for us?
The deception of accessories
In those days, there was a Roman version of the feminist movement. One aspect involved showing off one’s wealth with expensive clothing, jewellery, elaborate braided hairstyles, even hair pieces and wigs, etc. Actually, it still sounds very much like today, doesn’t it? People want to look good, with trendy clothes, hairstyles, accessories. Once upon a time, we used to wear watches to tell us time. Now watches are to tell us time in style! With huge watch faces so everyone can see how trendy they are!
All the marketing, the advertising creates this perception that we are not “in” if we do not have the latest, the trendiest. There is a great sense that you are missing out if you do not have “it”. Shopping is even the panacea or cure to the economic gloom. Indooroopilly Shopping Town in Brisbane has huge banners that “Indulge in a little retail therapy”. No money? Feeling depressed? Go shopping! Give your heart a little jingle. At least until the bill arrives!
We have to ask ourselves why are we accessorizing? Apostle Paul was challenging their perspectives. And we should be challenged as well.
Are we accessorizing into disrepute? We should think beyond ourselves, for we are no longer our own, but belong to Christ.
Some women in the Ephesian church were accessorising without realising that it brought disrepute into the church. For the type of liberated clothing they flouted brought comparisons with prostitutes. Before you put rings in your nose, your tongue or belly button. Before wearing Gothic makeup and Mohican haircuts – you should ask yourself if it will help the witness of the church. I am not saying you cannot. But we should ask ourselves, will it cause misunderstandings to ourselves and to the church? Are we accessorizing into disrepute? We should think beyond ourselves, for we are no longer our own, but belong to Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:12(NIV) “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
Perhaps we are not accessorizing in a controversial way. Yet why are we accessorizing? Are we updating our clothing, our equipment, our stuff – simply because others are? Are we accessorizing unnecessarily? Does it make us feel good? Does it make us feel more accepted? Why? Perhaps our focus is more on worldly possessions and worldly acceptance rather than our innate worth in God?
Do we care more about more we appear externally than how we appear before God?
I am not saying we cannot be trendy, nor own beautiful things. We should not be totally out-of-date nor lack appreciation for beauty. After all, God created us to appreciate beauty. Heaven will be beautiful. The issue is our priorities. Do we care more about more we appear externally than how we appear before God? That is why if we are to accessorise, we should aim for:
The accessories that matter
1 Timothy 2:10 (NIV) … but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
True faith is reflected by appropriate deeds.
The Apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians that the accessories of the godly woman should be her good works. It is not what we possess externally but what good we do externally that is of greater worth in God’s eyes. For true faith is reflected by appropriate deeds. James 2:14-17 (NIV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
When we go to heaven, God will not ask us how trendy we have been, but what good have we done. Perhaps the amount of time and finances we spend accessorizing could be better spent helping others.
THE MATTER OF INTERNAL ADORNMENTS
1 Timothy 2:11–15 (NIV) 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
There are 2 matters of concern here regarding a godly woman that Paul raised. The first, most obvious one is the role of women in God’s church. I addressed the controversial topic in my blog “Women In Church: Can They Lead And Teach?” and argued that they can. The second issue, I would like to suggest, is that it is also continuation of the instruction related to the type of adornment that a godly woman should have.
As part of Paul’s correction to the wrong perspective of the liberated women, he brought their focus back onto the inner qualities of a godly woman. For it is not the external beauty, but what truly matters is:
Hesychia in v11 can properly mean quietness, as the NIV (1984) translates. However, the NIV translates this as silent in verse 12. A better translation is to be consistent and use “in quietness” which was used in the updated NIV. Silence implies not making a sound but quietness conveys the meaning of attitude and demeanour – which is sweet restraint. A reflection of inner beauty.
This principle is highlighted more clearly in 1 Peter 3:3-5 (NIV) 3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands,
Inner beauty is pleasing to God and to others who appreciate it. Indeed, in time, it is the more lasting characteristic.
Part of the inner beauty is the attitude of submission to their husbands. The same point that Paul is making in v11-12. While the prohibition to teach and assuming authority over men, I have argued is contextual to the issues, the principle is nevertheless to have an attitude of submission. For rebellion is ugly. Inner beauty is pleasing to God and to others who appreciate it. Indeed, in time, it is the more lasting characteristic. Proverbs 31:30 (NIV) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Choose inner beauty, because our external beauty has little to do with our heart while our inner beauty has everything to do with it.
Choose inner beauty, because our external beauty has little to do with our heart while our inner beauty has everything to do with it. Some spend hours every week to look good. Why not spend hours beautifying our hearts each week? Getting rid of unforgiveness, bitterness. Learning to grow in gentleness, kindness, love, etc.
In v13-14, Paul referred to the creation account to point out the susceptibility of the woman to deception, as compared to a man. Not because he was trying to prove that women must be silent, but to support his point that women should be in submission to men. Such oversight, he argues, will provide protection for the woman.
While I had argued previously that women can take on all kinds of roles, yet that is not to mean that they are best suited to every role. There are some roles that most men are better at and some roles which most women at generally better at. And there are areas of overlap where the reverse of the general observation can be true. Nevertheless, it seems to me that, in general, women should ultimately function in submission to a man. In general, men have certain strengths that can compensate for certain weaknesses in women. The reverse in also true in other contexts.
It is also likely that Paul referred to the creation account because there were likely prevailing heretical teachings which probably distorted some elements to elevate the role of women above that of men.
In v15, he then concludes that women will be saved by their choices. In the Ephesian situation, he advocated them focussing on their motherly role and effectively contrasting with the heretical view of that day which encouraged throwing away marriage, motherhood and even probably having abortions to maintain their freedom.
Paul was stating that their choices were crucial. If they continue in faith, holiness and in doing right before God, they will be saved. This included behaving with propriety or decency and in accepting the role God has given them. What it means to us is that our choices are crucial, just as it was then. Let us choose to continue to faith, holiness and right doing before God. It means that personally, each woman (and each man) should discern what God’s specific role for them ought to be.
Whatever the role that God has given unto us, let us accept it with faith and to carry it out with dignity.
Whatever the role that God has given unto us, let us accept it with faith and to carry it out with dignity. Proverbs speak about the godly woman, Proverbs 31:25 (NIV) She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Do we want to be beautiful outside or beautiful inside? Accessories may be beautiful to behold, beautiful to own. But may we never take our eyes away from more important accessories, our good deeds before God! The godly will focus more on inner beauty and inner heart choices that honour God!
Copyright©️2023 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.