The sixth of seven excerpts from C.J.’s chapter on modesty in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008).
Notice in 1 Timothy 2 that Paul goes beyond addressing a woman’s apparel. He says he desires “that women should adorn themselves … with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (2:9–10).
He’s very clear about what makes a godly woman attractive. “Good works” are to be what’s most noticeable about a woman who professes godliness. Not her wardrobe, but her good works—an observable lifestyle of serving others. That’s the appropriate adornment for women who profess to be Christians. And it is an evidence of the transforming effect of the gospel.
This may mean less time applying makeup, styling hair and choosing clothes. It may mean more time sacrificing on behalf of your family and your local church.
Adorning yourself with good works means less time shopping and more time serving.
So, which are you more preoccupied with — shopping or good works?
Now, this is not a categorical criticism of shopping. The four women in my life think shopping is a gift from God. It’s probably no surprise that I don’t view shopping as favorably as they do. I would argue that shopping is actually a product of the fall. But that’s because I’m a man. And as a man, I don’t shop. If I go to the mall, it’s to enter one store and buy one specific item. I’m not really “going to the mall”; I’m not walking in and out of various stores depending on what catches my eye. No. I’m on a mission to get a single item and get out of there as quickly as I can.
But for women, as I understand it, shopping can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, a gift from God. But that gift, like any gift, can become an idol.
John Piper writes about coming across a review of the book The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg. This book looks extensively at a century’s worth of changes in how girls view themselves. In the introduction, the author contrasts the diary of an adolescent in 1892 with that of a teenage girl in the 1990s. The girl in 1892 wrote this:
Resolved, not to talk about myself or feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self restrained in conversation and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others.
The 1990s teenager wrote this:
I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can with the help of my budget and baby-sitting money. I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories.
The book’s back cover summarizes what was true a century ago:
The ideal of the day . . . was inner beauty: a focus on good deeds and a pure heart. In contrast, the environment for girls today is “a new world” of sexual freedom and consumerism—a world in which the body is their primary project.*
This cultural shift — from good works to good looks — parallels the departure from godliness to worldliness. Women who are professing Christians must be discerning enough to resist and reject that shift.
So, what are you consumed with—your clothing or your character? What are you known for—your good looks or your good works? If you’re a mother, what is your daughter learning from you in this regard? She’s surely studying you; as she does so, what is she learning— the latest fashions or good deeds?
Once again, let me remind you that the Bible doesn’t forbid a woman from enhancing her appearance. But here in 1 Timothy 2, Paul isn’t just advocating modesty in dress; he’s insisting that more time and energy be devoted to spiritual adornment in the form of good works. And he’s warning about excessive attention devoted to appearance to the neglect of good works.
Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, © 2008. The book will be available from Crossway in September. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.org; published on Sovereign Grace Ministries, 2008