Disrupting the Quiet Life – 1 Timothy 2:8-10

Having described the “quiet life” as a Christian virtue, Paul now discusses two potential disruptions of that quiet life.

First, men are command to pray without anger or quarreling (v. 8). It seems odd that people would pray in the church “in anger,” perhaps continuing arguments they were having in the act of prayer. The noun Paul chooses here (διαλογισμός) does in fact focus on differences of opinion which can develop into an argument. In Luke 9:46 it is used for the disciples arguing among themselves over who was the greatest, in Phil 2:14 Paul uses it in conjunction with grumbling.

It is possible some people were using public prayers to condemn their opponents, continuing their dispute in prayer, when the opponent cannot respond immediately. Something like “Lord, open the eyes of my rather dull brother in Christ so that the Holy Spirit will teach him that clearly I am right and that he is wrong, may he repent soon of the sin of his stupidity in disagreeing with me over this minor point of theology.” It is possible some men in the church thought a public prayer was an opportunity to be a Roman Orator. Imagine someone imitating Cicero or a sophist in their public prayers!

Second, women are warned to dress modestly (v. 9-10). While this might seem to be a different topic, Paul is still talking about things which potentially cause disorder and chaos in during prayer. Paul makes a contrast between external adornments (jewelry, clothing hair styles) and godly, good works.

Amish Girls on Roller Skates

Amish Girls on Roller Skates

Paul does not forbid people from looking good in public, nor is Paul commanding woman not fix their hair, use makeup or wear jewelry. What he is concerned about is an over-emphasis on external beauty. The hair style Paul mentions is preferred by the fashionable, wealthy women, even though it is the exact opposite of the hairstyles found in public statues of Imperial women. He describes the jewelry as “costly,” one of the stronger terms he could have used in this case. Paul is not saying that women should not wear any jewelry, but that it should not be overly expensive.

Bruce Winter points out that “jewelry epitomized sumptuousness” and was often associated with a shameful woman. He quotes Juvenal: “There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, when she encircles her neck with green emeralds and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears” (Satires, 6.458-59, cited by Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 208). These clothes are adorned with gold and pearl, two very valuable items in the ancient world. The great whore of Babylon is adorned with “gold and pearls” (Rev 17:4). Jesus used a “pearl of great price” as an analogy for the value of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 13:45).

If someone is wearing expensive clothing, real gold and pearls, they would be dressed like royalty! In Paul’s churches there are supposed to be no difference between rich and poor. A woman dressed like this is flaunting her wealth or her family’s wealth.

Remarkably, this advice does not vary much from that found in Plutarch, in his “Advice to a Bride and Groom.” Like Paul, Plutarch points out that external adornments are nothing compared to a virtuous woman:

For, as Crates used to say, ‘adornment is that which adorns,’ and that adorns or decorates a woman which makes her more decorous. It is not gold or precious stones or scarlet that makes her such, but whatever invests her with that something which betokens dignity (σεμνότης, 1 Tim 2:2), good behaviour (εὐταξία), and modesty (αἰδώς, 12 Tim 2:9). Plutarch, Praecepta Coniugialia 26 (Moralia II, 141e).

The real problem with this verse is defining “modest dress.” It is possible one person’s modesty will offend someone. The same thing is true for wearing expensive clothing: is this a question of Walmart vs. Kohls vs. Target vs. the trendy shops at the mall? I imagine Amish women get accused of immodesty for wearing the wrong color snood. Think about the difference between what a teenage girl wants to wear and what her father wants her to wear! What I personally think is too fancy and expensive is going to differ dramatically from another person’s view.

It is also important to read this text as applying to both men and women. If a man spends an inordinate amount of attention on his clothing, hair, and makeup, or if he is focusing on his external appearance and not putting on godly, good works, then he is just as much of a distraction as a woman. Men dressing immodestly is not the problem in Ephesus (men have other problems), but the application seems to be clear. Both men and women can dress in a way that distracts others and is not worthy of respect from outsiders.

Paul does not give all people permission to point out what they think is an immodest display, or a person wearing expensive clothing. He is urging people to think about the effect that their clothing might have on other people when they wear it in a worship service. There is no permission given here for you to be a jerk about what other people wear.

The controlling idea is living a quiet, dignified life, whether women or men are in view. In both cases Paul wants his congregations to worship in peace, without distracting from the proper focus of worship, the One God who wants to draw all people to himself.

Like other elements of this chapter, it seems easy to draw application to contemporary practice (“dress modestly”), but that simple application is taken as a judgmental attack by snooty old people on whatever new and trendy fashion younger Christians are wearing to church. Is this simply talking about wearing skinny jeans or yoga pants to church? An additional problem is that what counts as modest is quite different in other cultures. How is this command to dress modestly part of living the quiet life? How can it earn the respect of outsiders?

16 thoughts on “Disrupting the Quiet Life – 1 Timothy 2:8-10

    • The Greek runs: Βούλομαι οὖν προσεύχεσθαι τοὺς ἄνδρας … and verse 9 begins with Ὡσαύτως [καὶ] γυναῖκας. That does not sound like a generic command, although I would think that women who were “praying angry” ought to cease as well. There are a handful of cases where ἀνήρ is equivalent to τὶς and therefore might be generic (Rom 4:8, quoting Ps 32:2), and in the plural it is occasionally better “people.”

      My preference is to say this is referring to men in contrast to women (v.9), although as I state in the post, modesty applies to both men and women. The problem Paul is talking about is specifically angry men and immodest women, but I think that principles ought to be drawn for all people in both cases.

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      • Thanks – I was curious whether the text was setting up a parallel between men and women.

        I appreciate your point that the principles ought to apply to all people in both cases. Because “men” is so often read generically as “people”, the commands to “women” tend to, conversely, be read narrowly as applying to women only, or of having some particularity due to women’s “nature”… and are therefore emphasized when the gender police are in the (literal or metaphorical) pulpit.

        I’ve certainly heard “women dress modestly” at least a hundred times more often than I’ve heard anyone instructed not to be quarrelsome in prayer; and I’d think the latter is a more serious concern for church unity than the former, especially in settings where a) intra-church differences over culture war issues are significant, and b) public prayer includes an opportunity for individuals to offer their own intentions in their own words.

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  1. You are right, women get the “modesty” speech more than the men. If we take “modesty” not just in terms of “cover up your nakedness” but also as a reference to “showy” display of cosmetics, rich or expensive clothing and jewelry, then the men need to be called into account as well. “Modern life” has certainly created the need for both men and women to think about modesty and appropriateness in dress.

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  2. It seems that Paul desires that nothing distract or take away from the gospel. Even in Corinthians Paul warns the congregation to stay away from making civil lawsuits against one another. Paul desires the Ephesians to live a quiet, modest life so that others may see and be drawn to the gospel of Jesus. In discussing angry prayers and women’s adornment in the church Paul wants to get the message across that the dualistic worldview of still acting in ways that may be socially acceptable are not anymore because the Church is set apart. Therefore, if anything someone does or wears takes away from unity and detracts from Christianity, Paul wants these behaviors to stop and he gives the church instructions on what it looks like to live the Christian life.

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  3. First and foremost, I agree wholeheartedly in the idea that it is important for both men and women to apply Paul’s message about dressing modestly to their lives. This is a topic that is typically always applied to women in society today, and it seems as if this notion was applied to women in Bible times as well. The quote from Juvenal that is cited in the blog post above is alarming from this perspective because it portrays this notion that women are the people who must dress modestly. I am not claiming that Juvenal was saying that the notion of dressing modestly does not apply to men, but his quote clearly specifies women. Additionally, society today seems to share those thoughts that if women dress a certain way, then they probably act a way that is reflected by their dress. If society is going to apply this to women, it should apply to men as well. Essentially, I am trying to make the point that men should not simply read over this passage and disregard it. There are plenty of aspects of a male’s outside appearance that they can and do obsess over. Whether it be their jewelry, their outfit, their haircut, their muscular definition, etc., men can find themselves caught up in their appearance too much as well. Therefore, Christian men should read this passage from the Apostle Paul and challenge themselves to dress modestly and not concern themselves with external appearance too much.

    Additionally, I completely agree with the idea that it will be very difficult to define the action of dressing modestly across all regions and areas of the globe. Therefore, we probably should simply plan on not being able to define it. Cultures clearly disagree on how men and women are expected to dress, and that is okay, but it means that we probably will not be able to come to a conclusion for all people to follow in order to dress modestly. However, I believe an underlying theme can be applied. Christians should simply dress in a way that is not distracting or drawing attention to themselves. I do not think this means that Christians can not dress fashionably or in a nice way. It does not mean that Christians cannot where clothes that make them feel good or feel confident. Rather, Christians should strive to honor God through their dress decisions, and they should not dress a certain way in able to glorify themselves and gain attention and approval from others. This theme allows people to follow their cultures without trying to get all cultures to agree on a modest dress code.

    I believe this concept will earn the respect of outsiders and others because they will hear a Christian speaking about their faith, and their quiet lifestyle and modest dress code will reflect their beliefs because all aspects of their life will be focused on glorifying and raising up God, not themselves. If this were not the case, then outsiders could look at people failing to dress modestly as hypocritical about their faith. Though Paul’s gospel is centered around faith, not works, (Longenecker, 2016) there are still important ways to act and honor God in this manner, and dressing modestly is one of these actions in the eyes and theology of Paul.

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  4. Praying without anger in our hearts is a topic that is often overlooked by churches of today. If we are praying to God and either asking Him about something, seeking guidance, making known a need we or someone else has, it is useless if we are harboring anger and or unforgiveness inside our hearts towards another. Matthew 5:22: “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire”. It is important to note that this passage from Matthew includes the stipulation “without cause”. What does this mean exactly? Firstly, we know from God’s word that being angry in certain situations is not bad. Jesus Himself was angry for a just reason, for the money changers had made the temple, a holy place, into a mockery as well as a den of thieves. We also know from the bible that we can be angry while not sinning, but to “not let the sun go down on our anger”. For example, perhaps a brother or sister has stolen from a fellow believer, and then lies about it and refuses to return what was taken, even though there was proof he or she did this. Being angry at this, as long as one does not sin, would be okay. On the other hand however, if the believer who had something stolen then stole from the thief, or committed an act of violence in retaliation, this would not be right, as well as being sin. Christians should be free to express normal, healthy human emotions, but let us not do us in an evil or sinful way, which would allow the enemy to have a foothold in our lives.

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  5. While reading this post and seeing the statement, “Lord, open the eyes of my rather dull brother in Christ so that the Holy Spirit will teach him that clearly I am right and that he is wrong, may he repent soon of the sin of his stupidity in disagreeing with me over this minor point of theology” made me laugh incredibly hard. This brought me back to listening to a sermon by a fellow student this last week. He told us about how his sister used to bully him as a child. One day he said he hated his sister and his mom showed him the verse about praying for those who persecute you. He then proceeded to pray that she would be bullied by someone so she would know how it feels. Oh dear, the childish prayers we pray. Paul addressed this probably because snobby Jews and new Gentile converts were praying this way. The Jews could have thought that they were still better then their Gentile brothers and sisters, not taking to heart what Paul had said about all of the church being equal (Galatians 3:28). It also could have been that the Gentile converts were still praying in a way that they would have at pagan temples, praying defeat for their dumb enemies, having a hardened heart towards them. All of this is toxic for a church, which should be one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-17). Longenecker discusses this subject by bringing up the fact that Christians are to pray for all people (p. 276). This ties back into how Jesus is calling for men to love their enemies, have compassion on them and pray for them. This is because God desires ALL people to be saved (Longenecker, p. 276) whether we like them or not. All people are made in the image of God, all people are loved by God and God wants all people to be saved. This then calls for the church to pray for them sincerely, have compassion on them and being willing to freely forgive.

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  6. It is so important for us to respect the viewpoints of other people and of other cultures, and this definitely applies to living a quite life. Put in bigger terms, this pretty much just means to live a life that doesn’t offend others. In our culture, people don’t understand this. Our culture is full of people who think that they should be able to do, say, and wear whatever they want, regardless of what this could cause others to think of them. However, it is this very thing that often turns people away from Christianity. Living a quiet life means to be aware of what other people think or how they feel, and being willing to alter our own lifestyles in order to avoid conflict with them. It is this act that shows them love, and shows them that they might belong in Christianity. Often, clothing is the biggest problem that we face. There are many people around the world who have a specific way of dressing, and they may have a different view on modesty than we in America. In order to live a quiet life, we need to adhere to those standards of modesty, and with a good attitude, even if we think that they are wrong. This is how we can show love to others and hopefully show them that they do have a place in Christianity. I also think that this doesn’t necessarily apply only to modesty, but also to how much time and effort we take to put into our appearance. Often, we will spend a lot of time trying to make ourselves look as good as we possibly can, and it is usually in order to draw attention to ourselves. However, this is the exact opposite of living a quiet life. While I do not believe that there is anything wrong with caring about our appearance, the problem lies when that becomes the way that we give ourselves value and we try and draw attention to ourselves based off of our appearance.

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    • I like how you bring up how we act can offend other people. We as a church are suppose to be the people who are inviting and humble ourselves for other people. A church service can easily look like a place where people are going to show off wealth, or looks, and this is not something that is going to invite new people, or if they do come they will be getting the wrong idea of what church is about. Part of being a light for the world, is being an example of what Christianity is suppose to look like, and living a quiet life is part of it. I think that this can easily be confused with being a push over, or not standing our ground as Christians, as the sound of a quiet life sounds like not living boldly for Christ. This is not the case. 2 Corinthians 7:4 says, “Great is my confidence in you,; great is my boasting on your behalf I am filled with comfort”. This verse tells us that it is okay to boast, but it clearly states that it is on His behalf, not our own. Living a quiet life is to show people that we are not following Christ for our own glory and fame, but because of who Jesus really is in our lives.

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  7. As Dr. Long mentions, the definition of modesty changes depending on who is using it. I believe that making it equal responsibility for a man and a woman is the best way to view it. The most common response I get is that women are enticing men and causing them to sin with their choice of clothing (Rom 14:13). It used to be that if clothing were “too tight” or “too short”, this was considered immodest. The problem I have is that this view makes it seem like men are these delicate beings that are fully controlled by how a woman’s appearance. This takes away the moral responsibility that men have when they are faced with temptation. If we are only telling our girls to “dress modestly”, we are setting our boys up for failure and leaving them vulnerable for when these kinds of things happen. In Matthew 5:27-29, Matthew talks about how adultery has already happened if a man looks at a woman lustfully. Then, the author proceeds to tell men to take out the right eye if it causes you to sin. Here, the responsibility is not on the woman who dressed “immodestly”. I interpret this as the men taking back the control of their desires and preventing it through admitting its occurrence and taking steps to avoid it. The men are not playing the blaming game in this scenario. The next issue that arises is that a woman can be covered head to toe and have baggy everything and still cause a man to “sin”. What is within a man will come out no matter what the outside circumstances are (Matt 15:19). Cultural differences concerning modesty are a very relevant topic. For some cultures, women that show their hair are immodest. In others, women that wear pants to church are immodest. Some denominations ban makeup and jewelry because someone maybe “flaunting” their wealth. Concerning flaunting, thrift shops, gifts, garage sales, and even some online shopping has made it so that it is difficult to know the actual amount someone spent on what they are wearing. Many times, in the US, those who are rich dress more neutrally and those who are not overcompensate.
    In my culture, people save their best clothes for Sunday so what they wear on that day is not a good representation of what they wear throughout the week. There are also set days of the year where people get new clothing, so visiting on those days may also affect people’s perspectives. When people go from one culture to another, the word modesty changes its meaning, and those who are being “modest” for the sake of their fellow believers often do not have an issue adapting this new definition. To me, being modest has become a cultural thing rather than a spiritual one. God worries more about our hearts, and what we do or wear on the outside is a direct representation of how one feels on the inside with God. For this reason, it is not right for one person to judge another person’s “modest” dressing especially if they have not built a relationship with that person. I have been asked to wear a skirt to church before due to modesty issues. I have also been told that a dress of the same length is immodest on me but not on another person, and short shorts were acceptable while yoga pants were not. I have yet to see institutions set guidelines on shirts needing to cover the butts of men or the tightness or bagginess requirements for men’s pants. This is not to shame men or to say that life is unfair. I believe that men and women need to be prepared for the temptations outside. Men are not the only ones tempted, but if we keep temptations of women hidden away, bigger issues may arise in the future for our grandchildren and their kids. Ezekiel 23:16 talks about a woman who lusted after men. The story of Joseph also reveals that Potiphar’s wife was enticed by Joseph’s appearance, but nobody talks about whether or not Joseph was dressed modestly (Gen 39:7). Thus, both men and women are responsible for moral issues caused by other people’s appearances.

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  8. I believe that this idea of dressing modestly and living the quiet life has less to do with the clothes you are actually wearing and more about whats in your heart when you are choosing what to wear and what is in your heart when you are going about your everyday life. If your intentions when dressing is all about what others think of you, like wearing designer brands to show you have money, or wearing revealing clothes to attract the opposite sex you aren’t living the quiet life that is being talked about in the bible. You are ultimately living a loud life so you can gain attention from others, instead of being satisfied with the attention God is giving you. If you have an eye for fashion and like to wear matching clothes it doesn’t make you a sinner, what makes you a sinner is when those clothes you put on become something else than just clothes for you. Living a quiet life is about having the right intentions with everything you do, and that goes for both male and female, men can seek personal gain and value from what they wear just as much as women do.

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  9. First of all, the fact that Paul had to address the conflict and arguing of men during prayer is super sad but also hilarious. Alan will often do this very thing as a joke, and I never realized that this was something that actually happened not in a jokingly way. Secondly, when Paul is addressing modesty, I think is important to look at the keywords here. I see adorn yourself with respect, modesty, self-control, and good works. This is also specific for women who profess godliness. I agree with your statement that these verses are not saying that Paul is against, doing hair, or wearing jewelry, but when women do these things it does draw more attention to themselves, and that is why we do it! We like to be noticed and get compliments (well at least most of us). However, if we are living a life of godliness, we should be more concerned with living a life that puts the focus on Jesus Christ. Paul uses the word adorn which means to make more beautiful or attractive, and when a woman or man focuses on good works, being respectful, and less focused on their outward appearance, they will become beautiful in the fact that their lives are a reflection of Christ. This is what God finds beautiful and that is what is of utmost importance 1 Pt 3:3-4;1 Sam. 16:7).
    Both of these actions are to be avoided when living the quiet life, because as Longenecker points out verses 2:3-4 state that God wants all to be saved (276). Arguing in prayer and being immodest and disrespectful in dress are things that turn outsiders away from Christianity. They see that we are no different from themselves, and then many Christians accuse outsiders of the same type of actions. Living quiet lives assure that we are not doing anything to bring attention to ourselves or to tear others down.

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  10. This passage is a topic that I can see becoming an argument rather quickly. Like Dr. Long mentions in the post, not everyone’s view of expensive, or modest is going to be the same. I think those who try to make these quick arguments are not listening to what message Paul is truly trying to get across. This is suppose to be a message about focusing on oneself and correcting your own way you dress. Paul is not telling us to start judging others and calling them out on the way they dress, but for us to truly take a look at ourselves and the way we act and dress. I personally have always dressed up a little when going to church, mainly probably because its the way I was taught, but also because in my head it brings out the importance of God. “Worship the LORD in holy array” (Psalm 29:2). This tells us that there is a respect that goes into going to church and worshiping. This worship is not meant to be a display for others to see, but between us and the Father. A quiet life is not about actually being quiet, but more about what is going on within ourselves. There are those who dress flashy and are looking to draw attention to themselves, and those who dress in a more “blended in” way. This is also not a issue that is just for women, because men have their own ways of stepping outside the quiet life. This topic can be easily swayed to just point fingers at women because of the talk of jewelry, but there are also men who find easy ways to stand out, and neither is what Paul is telling us to do when dressing modestly.

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  11. When going through a passage like this, it is important to not simply take it for the face value of “dress modestly” as Dr. Long stated. Especially in the culture of today where showing love to all people is increasingly important to Christians and non-Christians alike, looking down upon others for what they choose to wear is not going to win anyone over. However, this does not mean that we should dress in any way that we please regardless of what others may think or how they react. As Longenecker discusses, women are not to dress immodestly, but should be dressing themselves in “good deeds” and should be dressing as would be appropriate for someone who claims to be a Christian (Longenecker & Still, 2014). In the same way, the passage states, “…women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…” (1 Tim 2:9, ESV). This passage is not calling women of today to completely disband all things that are costly and beautiful, or saying that they should not be wearing makeup for pearls; it is simply saying that we should be focused on what is of greater value – our character. While we, as Christians, do need to be aware of what we wear and what messages it sends, we should also be mindful of the actions that we adorn ourselves with; for what truly matters in the end is how have behaved in this life.

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