Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
1 Timothy 2:9,10
I think I know what some of you readers are thinking right now. “Another article on modesty. Yippee skippee.” Nope. It isn’t. I promise. Ok. The first part is on modesty. But not most of it. Bear with me for a bit. Let’s dive in.
The basic sentence in this scripture is “I want women to adorn themselves.” “Adorn” has the sense of put in order, but also beautify. We see this word used in Matthew 12:44 where the house has been swept and “put in order.” We also see the word in Revelation 21:2 referring to a bride adorned for her husband. We see the idea of care taken and consideration given. From there, Paul goes on to specify how he wants women to adorn themselves. He says it should be proper, that is, self-controlled and well-mannered. Again, we see the idea of care and consideration, not just for oneself, but for the society & company around. He says her adornment should be modest, or with “a respect for convention,” and discreet (Arndt 24). Discreet, like proper, carries the idea of self-controlled. It is to exercise “care and intelligence appropriate to circumstances” (Arndt 987). Paul then specifies items that would not fall into the category of proper, modest and discreet, namely gold, pearls, and costly garments. Other practices described in the New Testament let us know that these specific examples of immodesty are not universal, but cultural.
Usually, this is pretty much where our discussion stops, but when we stop here, we miss the main adornment! At this point, he’s given general instructions, said what he doesn’t want, and now he goes on to address what is most important: our spiritual adornment. He says, in short, that what beautifies a woman should be her actions, her good works. This, Paul tells us, is what is fitting, seemly, proper for women who make a claim to godliness. “Making a claim” speaks of someone who is professing, even promising. A woman who is a Christian essentially makes a promise that she is pursuing godliness. Godliness is having a “reverence for God or set of beliefs and practices relating to interest in God, piety” (Arndt 452). To sum it up, the best, most fitting beauty trick for a woman who is claiming to revere God is not her clothes or her accessories, but her good works.
A woman who is a Christian essentially makes a promise that she is pursuing godliness….To sum it up, the best, most fitting beauty trick for a woman who is claiming to revere God is not her clothes or her accessories, but her good works. @ErynnLeighan
As I was thinking on this passage one day, I wondered… what ARE my good works? Am I sufficiently dressed, or am I wandering about in threadbare spiritual rags? I had to admit that I wasn’t confident in my spiritual adornment. If I looked in my literal closet and discovered that I was lacking in physical adornment, I would go shopping, and fix the problem. So I decided to try to do the same thing spiritually.
First, I have to figure out what I’m actually looking for. In my closet, I might decide that I have plenty of tops, but I could use some more skirts and pants. Here, we need to figure out just what “good works” are. In the New Testament, we find good works referred to over 67 times.
- Matthew 5:16— In the first occurrence, Jesus commands, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” So we learn that the purpose of good works is to glorify God. If I am doing a work, but I’m seeking glory and recognition for myself, it is not a good work by scripture’s reckoning.
- John 10:32— Jesus defends Himself, saying that He did many good works, and goes on to say that if He does not do the works of God, they should not believe Him. Jesus went about teaching, and helping others with genuine compassion. If we are picking outfits for our spiritual wardrobe, we could do no better good works than those Jesus Himself did.
- Acts 9:36— Here we meet Tabitha. She “was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.” She had been one who made garments and tunics for the widows.
- Romans 2:7— Paul tells us that by persevering in doing good, we seek for glory, honor, immortality, and even eternal life.
- 2 Corinthians 9:8— Paul speaks of giving, referring to it as a good deed.
- Ephesians 2:10— This key verse shows that the very purpose of our re-creation in Christ was good works, which God planned for us to.
- Colossians 1:10— Paul includes bearing fruit in good works as part of pleasing God.
- 1 Timothy 5:10— A widow who is eligible to be honored with financial support must have a reputation for good works. She is to be one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet (been a servant to the brethren), assisted those in distress, and has been devoted to good works. “Devoted” is a word that means “follow after.” She has applied herself to good works with eager dedication. This is really our goal. Have you ever known someone who always looks put together, elegant, never seems to have a hair out of place? The widow described here is that woman, spiritually speaking. She’s the one to model ourselves after and whatever she has in her spiritual closet, we need in ours.
- 2 Timothy 3:16, 17— We love to talk about this verse, and rightly so. Sometimes we miss the point though. Here we learn that all scripture is inspired and profitable. Profitable to what end? So that we will be equipped for every good work. The very purpose of scripture is to give us everything we need in order to carry out good works.
- Titus 2:14— like Ephesians 2:10, we see here also that good works are part of the reason we were redeemed. Christ gave Himself to save us from lawless deeds, cleanse us of the results of those deeds, and devote us to good deeds.
- Titus 3:8— Paul speaks of our redemption, justification, and status as heirs as trustworthy, and adjures Titus to speak of these things so that those of us who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds, specifically deeds that are good and profitable for mankind. “Be careful” here means to concentrate on, to take care, to consider. While we should be ready for every opportunity to do good, our good deeds should not be left to random chance.
- Titus 3:14— Before closing his letter, Paul again instructs Titus that the people of God “must learn to engage in good deeds and meet pressing needs.” It’s encouraging to me that he says “learn to engage.” It tells me that I don’t have to be naturally good at this; I can learn. Paul says that doing so will prevent the church from being unfruitful. Of course, the reverse is also true. If we do not learn to engage in good deeds, we will be unfruitful (barren, useless).
This isn’t a comprehensive summary of what God’s word has to say on good works, but it gives us a lot to chew on. I think perhaps the best summary of good works is in 1 Timothy 5:25. Paul is discussing sin and confronting leaders about sin. He assures Paul that nothing is hidden from God, good or bad. Though it isn’t the point of the passage, we can see a sort of definition of good deeds: they’re evident. We know good deeds when we see them. With my closet, I may not be able to define my style (I haven’t seen “hot mess with a splash of whimsy” in any fashion discussion), but I know it when I see it in the stores. It’s good for me to branch out from time to time though, and the same is true of our good deeds wardrobe. I need to be willing to “try on” a new good work. Other times, It’s just plain time to go. I have to throw on whatever clothes are closest and get moving. Spiritually speaking, sometimes I need to do whatever good deed is in front of me, even if I don’t really want to. Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:9 not to grow weary in doing good, remembering that we will reap the rewards if we resist that temptation to give out and give in. He wouldn’t have to say it if good deeds were always easy, pleasant, enjoyable experiences.
So maybe you’ve looked in your spiritual closet and discovered that your adornment isn’t what it ought to be. If so, then it’s time to do some shopping. If you’re struggling, grab a spiritual beautification expert and ask for some help. Find one of those widows described in 1 Timothy 5, and ask her for help. Pray for God to strengthen you in good deeds (2 Thessalonians 2:17). Watch for opportunities and dive in, even if it looks like maybe it isn’t quite your style. You can do this, and if you’re one of God’s people, you must.
Arndt, William et al. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : 24, 452, 987. Print.