In 1 Timothy 2:8–10 the Apostle Paul gives his instructions regarding the dress of women in the public gathering of local assemblies. He writes, “I will therefore … that women adorn themselves in modest apparel … not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. …” Does this mean that women should not wear jewelry of any kind?
I don’t believe it does. I do believe that the apostle is exhorting women against drawing attention to themselves, whether by immodest dress, or by an extravagant style of clothing. So, if a woman today does not wear any jewelry and no makeup whatsoever, she is actually violating this Scripture. She is standing out. She’s drawing attention to herself. And that’s what the Bible is warning against.
The apostle speaks about “broided hair … gold … pearls” and “costly array.” Wasn’t the Greco-Roman style of dress marked by great extravagance?
It sure was. They spent lots of time and money on external adornment. Women today, as well as in the ancient world, put great effort into their external adorning. Some are preoccupied with an outward display of jewelry. The apostle is saying that this is the wrong focus. It’s the inner person that needs to be cultivated. First Peter 3:3–4 is a good commentary: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
There is to be an inner adorning, a careful cultivation of spiritual values that God esteems highly. Peter develops this thought by giving the example of women in older times. In 1 Peter 3:5–6 we read: “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
This is an interesting passage. Peter is speaking about a woman’s adornment, but it’s obvious he is not really speaking about anything external. The holy women of old times were “in subjection unto their own husbands.” And then he speaks about Sarah obeying Abraham and calling him Lord.
The real adornment—the adornment that we should really be concerned about—is a spiritual adornment. Instead of being preoccupied with “powdering our noses” we should spend time with “powdering our souls,” if I may coin a phrase.
I remember a very wise lady in one of the churches I pastored many years ago saying that it is impossible to make an unhappy woman attractive. This dear old saint pointed out that if a woman is grumpy, complaining, and hateful in spirit it doesn’t matter what she puts on and wears. She is still an ugly woman.