Selected Sunday Scripture- #5

The first passage from scripture today comes from the First Letter of St. Peter:

Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

This is a very popular passage around these parts, as it provides a valuable insight into the kind of character that a Christian woman should develop. However, that is not what interested me in my latest read-through of this part of the New Testament. Instead, I was intrigued by the notions of modesty that it presented. As I thought on it, I realized that there are really two different forms of modesty, one in harmony with chastity and the other in harmony with humility. To be somewhat clearer, one form of modesty is about dressing and acting in such a way so as to not call unnecessary sexual attention upon oneself. The second form of modesty is about not dressing and acting in such a way so as to flaunt one’s influence, wealth and station in life. Part of me recognized this already, although I never fully digested it. I think that it is not uncommon for many Christians to fail to appreciate the differences between the two, despite the fact that many dictionaries recognize the two modes of modesty. Certainly this confusion seemed to manifest itself in this thread over at Cane Caldo’s blog. Both types of modesty are similar, in that they both involve flaunting to some degree, but the nature of what is showcased, and how this is done, can and often does differ greatly.

The modesty that St. Peter is referring to in his letter is the second type of modesty, the type which centers on flaunting station and authority. He is advising Christian women to not be show-offs, because their focus on outward appearance through clothing, jewelry and makeup is inherently tied up with worldly concerns. I would venture that in most cases this showing off is not in any way connected to something holy, such as a wife providing a good face for her husband. Instead, it is about impressing others (especially other women), and so to be avoided. This concern about showing off one’s station appears many times in scripture, especially the New Testament. And a common theme seems to be protecting something holy from being tainted by worldly concerns. The Gospel of Matthew has another example of this kind of twisting of what is holy:

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Here it is Charity that is being twisted into something it was never meant to be. It was not meant as a means of demonstrating wealth or station, but of trying to helps us to show concern for our fellow man. And in the process hopefully teach us a valuable lesson about love. But instead the hypocrites (probably Sadducees here) perverted God’s purpose, thwarting what could have been something that would have helped them store rewards for heaven. Let Jesus’ message here serve as a warning, attention is a reward all right, but not one that is going to truly last.

The final reading today is from, you guessed it, the Book of Sirach:

A daughter is a secret anxiety to her father,
and worry over her robs him of sleep;
when she is young, for fear she may not marry,
or if married, for fear she may be disliked;
10 while a virgin, for fear she may be seduced
and become pregnant in her father’s house;
or having a husband, for fear she may go astray,
or, though married, for fear she may be barren.
11 Keep strict watch over a headstrong daughter,
or she may make you a laughingstock to your enemies,
a byword in the city and the assembly of[a] the people,
and put you to shame in public gatherings.[b]
See that there is no lattice in her room,
no spot that overlooks the approaches to the house.[c]
12 Do not let her parade her beauty before any man,
or spend her time among married women;[d]
13 for from garments comes the moth,
and from a woman comes woman’s wickedness.

Sadly, this is another part of Scripture that seems to be overlooked these days. Many fathers don’t appear to have the appropriate level of worry for their daughter’s well-being. Or any, really.  Rather than worry about their daughter’s not marrying, they push their daughters to get an education and then get the right career afterward, with no concern for how those paths might impact their daughter’s chance for a good marriage.  Since the “fear of being disliked” here probably references divorce, many Christian fathers do seem to fear this. They fear it so much they push their daughters towards paths that increase the chance of divorce. And of course, in many most cases it is the daughters, not the husbands, who file for divorce.

As for fear of seduction, father’s don’t seem to be concerned about that terribly much these days. After all, they have no problem sending their daughters off to college, far away from the kind of moral support and strong masculine presence they need resist “Alpha” males. Oddly enough, it seems like many fathers are more willing to support their daughters when they fornicate and became single mothers, than support them and their husbands as newlyweds. As for preventing daughters from parading their beauty in front of other men, do I really need to say anything? Have you see what many young women wear to church these days?

When it comes to spending time with married women, well… to be frank spending time with most nearly any woman who isn’t an immediate family member (and one of good character at that) is tantamount to child abuse, given the negative influences young women will likely pick up. I suppose I should also point out that Ben Sir knew about “The Herd” over two thousand years ago, so once again we see how the ancients understood so much we are now finding out. Ours is a mission of rediscovery, not of boldly going where no man has gone before. Perhaps if more Christians actually read the Bible, and spent less time singing “worship” music that resemble love songs about Jesus, we wouldn’t be taken for fools so often.

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23 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Courtship, God, Marriage, Selected Sunday Scriptures, The Church, Women

23 responses to “Selected Sunday Scripture- #5

  1. Excellent verses. Thank you Donal.

    “Perhaps if more Christians actually read the Bible, and spent less time singing “worship” music that resemble love songs about Jesus, we wouldn’t be taken for fools so often.”

    It is true that we must read the Bible more.. but worship music is also great! I love worship music when I’m home doing the housework or cooking or w/e, it’s much better than a lot of the contemporary secular music. Very uplifting and keeping us focused on the Lord.
    There does however seem to be A LOT of confusion over Bible teachings, and the overall message of Christianity, I am understanding lately. I read a few Christian forums, most of them American based, and it sounds so mean but I can’t help wonder to myself, “What twisted brand of Christianity is it that you are practicing?!!!” when I read some of the comments. Recently I was reading a thread about Homosexuality and how us Christians shouldn’t be so judgmental and holier than thou type attitudes toward this. That’s what people were saying, and THEN a man writes A huge amount, sermon length.. and I really have to quote this part..
    He said –
    “The whole debate about homosexuality is really irrelevant. When you accept Jesus into your heart, you are changed. If God wants you to still be gay after that, then I guess He knows what He is doing.”

    He also goes on to say it is okay if somebody does anything as long as they know Jesus. There was no mention of “Go and sin no more”. This shocked me on a visceral level. I have never heard this kind of thing before. Note the if God WANTS you be homosexual. I feel like a little telltale writing it here, maybe the person didn’t mean it, maybe he articulated it wrong and his intent wasn’t bad, so it’s important we meet it with humility and compassion and the intention to gently correct, I suppose. But the point is – yes there seems to be a lot of confusion among Christians, so we really do need to spend more time reading the Bible to correct these false beliefs. I hope these people are led in the right way. Sorry to get off topic from the verses you provided Donal, I just thought it may be relevant somehow to us not reading Scripture enough and maybe Churches not teaching accurately.

  2. What happened to your blog EoF?

  3. Deep Strength I set it to private at the beginning of Advent, because I have been busy with Advent things and haven’t been posting my usual posts, I was away and just lately I’ve posted a few Christmas related posts. Didn’t I invite you to view it?? I will send the invite later. Merry Christmas!

  4. @ EOF

    I don’t mind worship music when it is good worship music. But most contemporary worship music over here in the States is awful stuff. It sounds just like most secular music, only with Jesus thrown in instead of the word boyfriend (or some variation thereof).

    Thanks for that story, don’t worry about it taking the post off-topic, it wasn’t. It was yet another example of how far afield we Christians have become as of late.

  5. Yes.. I can imagine, but Greek Orthodox chants are beautiful.
    I’ve recently been listening to an American singer named Alan Jackson and I love his music.

  6. If those chants are at all like the one you posted on your blog a few months back, then I will agree with their beauty.

  7. ballista74

    I read a few Christian forums, most of them American based, and it sounds so mean but I can’t help wonder to myself, “What twisted brand of Christianity is it that you are practicing?!!!” when I read some of the comments.

    This is Churchianity, as I (and others) speak of it, pure and simple. The Personal Jesus, the one you “know”, the one you “have a relationship with” and the like. A good number of Christian forums are garbage scows with the worst kind of wickedness in it – ones who presume they are with God as they sin rampantly and repeatedly to the point of utter seething hate.

    But the point is – yes there seems to be a lot of confusion among Christians, so we really do need to spend more time reading the Bible to correct these false beliefs.

    Churchians read Bibles and are champions at it. The problem is that people need to spend more time BELIEVING on the words. Case in point for what you posted, what’s going on with Phil Robertson right now. You got the older Christians supporting him for what he said (basically quoting 1 Cor 6:9 w/o saying he was), but the younger ones going against him.

    It sounds just like most secular music, only with Jesus thrown in instead of the word boyfriend (or some variation thereof).

    The Amy Grant Rule, as I’ve coined it, after the most famous so called “Christian artist” to do such a thing. Her pop career was literally singing the same songs she did as a “Christian artist”. Literally.

    I’ve recently been listening to an American singer named Alan Jackson and I love his music.

    He’s done lots of good songs. Some of the older country is wonderful in the respect that it’s pretty real. I haven’t been able to get any of his music that he did after 1995 or so, but it’s generally pretty worthwhile, as most of the other non-pop country artists.

  8. “This is Churchianity, as I (and others) speak of it, pure and simple.”

    Okay so I know what is meant by Churchianity. I’ve come across a lot of confusion on Christian teaching before.. but it was by non-Church going Christians, people who were believing-just not going to Church., because if you go to Church here, these confusions will soon be cleared up. The Orthodox Church are excellent in this regard.

    But what I don’t understand about the whole Churchian thing.. is if they do not believe, why would they go to Church? Why would they waste their time? Surely there must be some belief there… but just the teachings are wrong.. and then maybe they lack the understanding to see it is wrong? Some of these people preaching their Churchianity are extremely charismatic and convincing, I have seen it myself in the likes of many of the American television-evangelists. And I can see how many could be led astray by this. What is needed is more speakers of truth, and teaching what Scripture really says. Or we will just have more confused “Churchians”.

    And I think the Alan Jackson songs I listen to are also old ones… I particularly like “Are you washed in the blood” and “Standing on the promise”, his version of “Old rugged cross” is also beautiful, one of my favorites.

  9. ballista74

    But what I don’t understand about the whole Churchian thing.. is if they do not believe, why would they go to Church? Why would they waste their time?

    They do believe, but they believe in the wrong thing. They would swear up and down that they “believe in Jesus” and are fully Biblical, but go off the rails. As do all denominations in one way or the other.

    Surely there must be some belief there… but just the teachings are wrong.. and then maybe they lack the understanding to see it is wrong?

    People accept what they are first presented with as the full truth, and then become blind to anything else. This is the power of tradition. It takes much more effort to unlearn something than it takes to learn something. They believe in Jesus, true, but they believe in the wrong Jesus.

  10. “If God wants me to be gay…” is the same nonsense I’ve heard from a wife “What if God’s the one pushing us to get a divorce?”

    Utter, complete heresy in religious-sounding words.

  11. humility and compassion and the intention to gently correct, I suppose

    Nice in theory. Doesn’t work in practice.

    If offered, gentle correction is taken as a kindly suggestion and duly ignored as self righteous judgementalism, because everyone has their own personal blessing to pursue sin. Just like Amy grant did, a deity’s name is invoked as authority to do [insert preferred deviancy here].

  12. “11 Keep strict watch over a headstrong daughter,
    or she may make you a laughingstock to your enemies,
    a byword in the city and the assembly of[a] the people,
    and put you to shame in public gatherings.[b]
    See that there is no lattice in her room,
    no spot that overlooks the approaches to the house.”

    And how many men who are beta that allow their daughters to become this become laughingstocks around the sphere?

    My dad only had sons…sounds like he might have got off easy.

  13. mdavid444444

    ballista74, People accept what they are first presented with as the full truth, and then become blind to anything else. This is the power of tradition.

    The bible itself is an example of such a tradition; it has no table of contents, which is tradition. And amusingly, Christians split on this very simple first tradition (~50% of Christians use 72 books, ~30% use 66 books, ~20% use 76 books – then we have smaller traditions like JW & LDS who use more). And besides that, nobody thinks much about what older manuscripts to use for each book (which makes a considerable difference for specific passages) but rather use their own tradition.

    So yes, we all cling to our traditions, regardless if we acknowledge it (or even know it). We are even ordered to do so as per Paul in 2 Thess who says: …[H]old to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

    ballista74, They do believe, but they believe in the wrong thing. They would swear up and down that they “believe in Jesus” and are fully Biblical, but go off the rails.

    Couldn’t they say the same thing about you or I? Why are they “off the rails” and you or I somehow magically on them? I’m not being argumentative to be argumentative; my point: logic demands we can only find correct teaching by looking to tradition and unity. In fact, the concept of each man waving his bible around and knowing to have interpreted it right (a modern tradition indeed!) is a very recent, illogical non-biblical concept, which speaks of teaching authorities such as apostles and bishops and records councils being used to decide correct doctrine (see Titus or Acts, for example).

    Logically, one can know Christ and His teachings only by looking to tradition: that is, the beliefs of unified followers of Christ over all times and in all places. On the flip side, regarding the church of “Me”…well, since there are millions of other “Me’s” out there…

  14. @ Ballista.. thank you for the explanation, it is appreciated.

    @ an observer, what you said makes sense.. but what can we do if not offer gentle correction? Even if the person gets prideful in being corrected.. if they truly are Christian they will check what they said vs the correction.. and compare it, in Scripture to see if they are correct or not. We should WANT to know if we are wrong or not, if we really want to serve Him. It’s a delicate subject, to have to correct somebody, I really don’t like to and I’ve always felt it’s not my place, but aren’t we actually doing each other a service by offering our input?

    Anyway.. the man who posted what I originally quoted said he didn’t mean it. I asked him about it, I left a message saying I disagree with it and why, and could he see why? He then said that “if God wants him to be gay” was said in “sarcasm” and reminded me also that “Once saved always saved” and told me I was getting “legalistic”. I had to agree to disagree as I started getting a bit irritated. We can just hope we, and others will be guided and will have understanding, so we can be on right path.

    Merry Christmas Eve everyone.

  15. mdavid444444

    EOF, But what I don’t understand about the whole Churchian thing.. is if they do not believe, why would they go to Church? Why would they waste their time? Surely there must be some belief there… but just the teachings are wrong..

    Most believe as firmly as you or I. It’s easy to mock the less clever ones waving their bibles around, but as modern people, we’ve all got the disease to some degree or another. It’s one of the roots of modernity, and a bedrock of democracy and feminism: that everyone has the right to decide on what the truth is, and nobody is more right than another, and nobody is an authority.

    An amusing thing: watch somebody quoting the bible with a mixture of other quotes that sound like the bible but are not, and seeing who can spot the fake quotes. Few can, especially when mixing translations. It’s a big, complex book. In truth, most of us Christians merely use the bible to reenforce their own beliefs and traditions, not to learn new ones, and even then it is read in the context of our prior beliefs, with little knowledge of the culture and beliefs at the time it was written. I catch myself doing this constantly. It’s human nature. In fact, I’d say 99.99% of Christians don’t know the bible well enough to say much about it one way or the other (I’m certainly one of the 99.99% myself). In fact, I’d guess at least 50% of people don’t even have the brains to know much about the bible. Which is ok. That’s why we rely on experts and tradition to guide the experts, be it the dentist, the plumber, or mechanic. Or priest.

  16. David admittedly I don’t know the Bible even nearly well as much as I should. I’ve often thought the same about not being intelligent enough to understand so much of the Bible.. but God can give understanding to anybody who seeks it, we can have a genius with little Biblical wisdom and a less intelligent person with much.

    Everybody has a right to decide for themselves, it’s true. But what I don’t like is a person wanting to be a Christian, or claiming to be a Christian, with beliefs that blatantly contradict Scripture. In that case, maybe they have learnt it from a Priest, or maybe they’ve picked it up themselves, but if they are genuine, it’s good to help each other understand where we may have misunderstanding. It’s not about us, it’s about our Lord, and anybody who wants to serve Him should have that help to understand..we should readily be open to being corrected on something, and if we are not sure about the correction ask somebody wiser, ask a Priest, pray about it etc. We’re all wrong and misunderstand things sometimes.
    It’s just frightening, when people are very easily led. And we have a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing, a lot of very cleverly manipulative people leading the masses astray. It’s different when somebody is CHOOSING to believe what they want, and disagree with us, that’s their choice.

    I can’t say I’ve heard somebody mixing their own quotes with the Bible.. that really is manipulative.

  17. ballista74

    @mdavid444444
    Matthew 15 is the correct watch here, not anything that you posted. Specifically verses 6-9:

    And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

    The church of tradition is the church of men.

  18. Thanks for your comments everyone.

    @ Ballista

    The “personal Jesus” is one of those things that really irks me. And you are right about people reading the Bible but not believing it. Many of my friends are Churchians. They go to church, claim to be Christians, but ignore those parts of the Bible which are inconvenient to them. Of course, I’m not sure if I can really call them friends anymore, I haven’t spoken to many of them in years.

    @ EOF

    Many “Churchians” go to Church because they seek comfort. They want the “good” parts of Christianity: the message of Salvation and hope. But they want nothing to do with the self-sacrifice required to actually enjoy the fruits of God’s love. They are modern day Pharisees. For many, it isn’t so much that they have been instructed poorly, it is that they don’t want to do what is required to be a Christian.

    @ Earl

    He might well at that. I’ve heard it said before that sons are trouble when they are young children, but daughters, while easy to handle while young children, are trouble for the rest of your life.

    @ mdavid

    You are right that much of the problem arises from a lack of Authority over scripture. When anyone can interpret scripture as he or she pleases, then chaos is in the inevitable result.

  19. @ ballista

    The church of tradition is the church of men.

    And yet it was men who gave us scripture in the first place And yet it was men that God chose to use to give us scripture in the first place. Men who selected which books to include, and not include. You cannot escape Tradition as a Christian, however much you might want to. The key is to separate human tradition from that which is inspired by God. Which is what Jesus was talking about in that passage from Matthew.

  20. And yet it was men who gave us scripture in the first place.

    A small edit here –

    And yet it was men that God chose to use to give us scripture in the first place.
    [Ed: Good catch. Will fix my comment.]

  21. Eof,

    but what can we do if not offer gentle correction?

    If they profess faith and are in error, we are instructed to talk privately with them at first. If they resist correction, we are meant to seek two or three witnesses.

    If they still resist, and the church refuses to do anything, we are to have nothing to do with evil. Sometimes this means losing friends, leaving churches, and being accused of all manner of evil.

    The older people are, the more investmemt they will have in specific choices. The economic term is sunk costs. If sin and error is long standing, most will be very reluctant to admit error and repent. Who would want to admit to being wrong, making poor choices and being part of mass delusion?

    I think truth is pervasive, and a lot of compensatory behaviours are a natural outcome of truth being unavoodable, but inconvenient. Hence desperate resistance to maintain a pre existing world view.

    Conundrums galore.

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