Summary: While modesty is not mentioned directly that often in Scripture, it is core to Biblical spirituality. In this sermon we explore why.
Series: Vanishing Virtues
June 3, 2007
A virtue is a moral standard which a society holds as something worthy to aspire towards. As such a society will bring subtle and not so subtle influence and pressure to see that virtues are adhered to. As a virtue becomes embraced and absorbed within society it becomes stronger and is taken for granted as though it is normative, that everyone should see the logic and reasonableness of the virtue. But virtues do change with time. Old virtues are questioned, new virtues are introduced. We are presently in the midst of a huge cultural shift which is calling into question all kinds of virtues and introducing new ones.
Take tolerance for example. Tolerance within Canadian society has become a huge virtue. It is taught in public schools and urged by politicians. To be called intolerant is an insult of the highest order. Yet, tolerance has not always been a virtue, or at least not of the magnitude it now is. It has emerged over the last few decades and now if someone were to question tolerance as a virtue, they would be looked upon with disdain. “How can you even question tolerance?” It has become part of the social norm.
Virtues are shaped and informed by ones beliefs. Where beliefs change so do the virtues that that society esteems. Historically, Canada by and large was shaped by Judeo/Christian beliefs. But these beliefs no longer inform much of the Canadian social landscape. And as beliefs are changing so too are the virtues that society upholds. Those moral standards that were once praised and valued are now questioned, or ridiculed or disdained.
In a 1948 song called Baby It’s Cold Outside, a man is trying to entice a woman to stay over night. The song is a conversation between the man and the woman. The song starts by the woman saying, “I really can’t stay.” And the man counters “Baby its cold outside.” Back and forth the conversation goes with the woman offering reasons why she can’t stay and the man trying to get her to change her mind. Among the list of reasons why she says she can’t stay: my mother will start to worry, my father will be pacing the floor, the neighbours might think something, my sister will be suspicious, my brother will be there at the door, there will be plenty of talk tomorrow and plenty implied. There were norms enforced by society regarding moral virtues. Do I really need to compare this song with some of the lyrics to songs today?
While we may be blind to the shift that is taking place in society other cultures who observe us are not. In the Middle East they have coined a word “Westoxification” to express all that they fear and abhor about western culture which they characterize as naked women on the streets, rampant individualism, and entertainment on the lines of “Bay Watch” This change which is taking place in Canadian society, that is devaluing certain virtues creates an opportunity for the church to display the beauty and wisdom of those values which are the fruit of our beliefs.
You see, we belong to a new society; the Bible calls it the Kingdom of God. And as a society we have virtues that we hold as ethically attractive. When Canadian society was influence by the Christian belief system there were many virtues that were shared. But as Canadian society shifts and questions those values shaped by Christian belief, we will find our virtues increasingly becoming maligned by others and since they are despised in this way we will find ourselves the objects of pressure to abandon them. Of course this is something we cannot do.
So over the next few weeks we want to look at some of these vanishing virtues. Of course there are many that could have been chosen but we have only chosen four to look at. So by way of introduction have a look at this (Show modesty video from BluefishTV.com http://www.bluefishtv.com/ProductDetails.aspx?cid=1005&id=1516&f=s1m&cc=&csc=&ldr=&s=modesty)
Interestingly the word “modesty” does not appear that often in Scripture but when it does appear it can be the translation of one two main Greek words. One has to do with the attitude and the other has to do with dress. We find both uses in a passage in 1 Timothy 2:9 for those wishing to follow along in their Bibles, I will read it its context starting in verse 8 and going to verse 10, 1 Timothy 2:8 – 10. (READ TEXT)
In the NIV it translates these words as modesty and decency, in the NASB it translates them as proper dress and modesty, in the Jerusalem Bible it says women should be dressed quietly and modestly. I think most of us can appreciate the subtlety of the differences between these two words. We may speak of someone who is proficient at something, who downplays compliments as just being modest. That is the attitude of modesty that is referred to. But we may also describe someone who is wearing clothes that are not glitzy and showy and we’ll say they are dressed modestly.