Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: modesty

What on earth does shamefacedness mean?

English is a mongrel language, developed by indiscriminate interbreeding of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Old Norse and French, with lesser contributions from Celtic, Arabic, Greek and other languages. This has created a language with a huge number of words, more than any other language.The grammatical structure puts it in the Low German language group, along with Dutch, Flemish, Frisian, Afrikaans, Plautdietsch and Braid Scots (which has no relationship to Gaelic). But 40% of English words are of French or Latin origin.

The great multitude of words makes it more difficult to write and speak clearly and eloquently in English. Often there are are two or three or five words that mean exactly the same thing. Which one should you choose?

Then there are words that are just plain weird, like shamefacedness. The only place one is apt to run across that word is in 1 Timothy 2:5 where the apostle Paul exhorts Christian women to shamefacedness and sobriety.

No, that word does not mean that Christian women should always be blushing in embrarrassment. The word actually has nothing to do with one’s face. Shamefaced started out in life as shamefast and over time was mispronounced and misspelled until the mistake became the standard. The fast part of the word came from the idea of being held fast, thus the original meaning was to be held back by shame. Makes a little more sense, doesn’t it?

The word used in French translations makes even more sense. In that language the apostle exhorts Christian women to pudeur et modestie. Modestie needs no introduction, it is the source of our English word modesty. Pudeur is the sense of embarrassment that a person experiences in hearing about or witnessing nudity or things of a sexual nature. Or, to put it another way, embarrassment before that which is forbidden by her sense of dignity.

What Paul is really trying to say is that Christian women should have a sense of decency and modesty.

How old are you?

What does it mean to be grown up? When we were little we thought it meant that we would be able to do anything we wanted to do and no one would stop us. Most of us eventually figured out that life doesn’t work that way. A few people don’t appear to ever quite get it and are often heard airing their grievances. Like the firemen in Montréal who trashed city hall and can’t figure out why they were fired for it.

Or like King Saul in the Old Testament who told Samuel “I have sinned, but honour me before the people.” David, on the other hand, was never too big to own up to his sins and accept the consequences. Being willing to acknowledge our mistakes and our sins is perhaps the ultimate evidence of maturity.

The New Testament describes maturity in several ways: “speaking the truth in love,” (the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:15); having “the senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14); growing “in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:18); and being child-like in malice but adults in understanding (the apostle Paul again in 1 Corinthians 14:20).

The thought that I glean from those verses, and others throughout the Bible, is that maturity consists of being responsible for our own actions. It won’t do to say “but he pushed me first!” or “nobody told me it was wrong.” The Bible does seem to make some allowance for ignorance, but that does not make ignorance a virtue and we should never use it as an excuse.

The Bible teaches that girls and women should be modest in clothing and appearance. Beauty does not lie in the things that one puts on, but in the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Maturity in a woman is to give much more attention to this inner beauty than to outward beauty.

Nevertheless, even if a woman is dressed provocatively, or even indecently, a man is accountable for how he reacts. A man is responsible for what he does, or he is not a man at all. Job said “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1). If we find it impossible to do the same, we are not really grown up.

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