Summary: While modesty is not mentioned directly that often in Scripture, it is core to Biblical spirituality. In this sermon we explore why.

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Series: Vanishing Virtues

Sermon: Modesty

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.

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