8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Tim. 2.8-10 NIV)
Now, this is an interesting issue. What you find a lot in the Bible is it is penned by people who understand something that has been forgotten in our “smart” modern age – that men and women are different. In Ephesians 4, talking about the home life, Paul tells men to love their wives and women to submit to their husbands. But elsewhere he tells us all to love each other and all of us to submit to – to honour and reverence – each other. So, why tell the men to love and the women to honour? Because men generally live in a culture of honour and relate to one another with honour, and need to be reminded to cherish their wives. And women tend to live in a culture of love and relate to each other with love, and need to be reminded to honour their husbands. Doing this will bring both husband and wife together in the middle of the road and bring unity to a home.
In church, we have the same problem. Some churches in the UK are ridiculously feminized, they are not hospitable environments for men to walk into, unless those men are feminized. Paul here is teaching us how to behave in church and again his plan is to move us both to the middle.
He first of all tells the men to pray. Prayer is a lot more natural to a woman than a man, on average. At the end of the day, prayer is communing and communicating with God, and we all instinctively realize women are generally better than men at communicating. So, Paul says “hey men, I know it’s not your strength, but you should be at the prayer meeting, you should be praying to God, you should be praying for the nation to change. Paul also reminds the men not to get angry or get involved iwth disputes. Men would often rather argue a point of doctrine, and have long discussions over a drink, then lift up their hands and commune with God and believe for a better nation.
We need to be taken by the hand by Paul here and be led into the prayer closet. Men, listen to me, when you go to church, you are there to encounter God, to commune with Him in the worship, to hear Him speak to you during the preaching. If someone comes to me at the end of a service to discuss a minor point, and miss all the major points we agree on, nine times out of ten it is a male! Why? That’s our tendency. We break things down into component parts. So, the solution – go to church to pray, to encounter God, don’t worry about the spelling error on the notice sheet, don’t worry about when the preacher misquotes the Bible verse number, don’t worry about disagreeing on one point in the sermon, but rejoice in the 99 points you agree on and love those points and let those points drive you further into communion with God.
Women do not generally need to be reminded of that. So Paul has different instructions with them. He starts off by mentioning dress – he says dress modestly. Now, this has often been taken to refer to not dressing in a salacious or sultry way, and that’s important in church that you shouldn’t look like you are going clubbing, but it’s more than that. It’s about a problem that happens when your culture is relational, you start to compare. You start to look at each other’s clothes. When a woman dresses in a certain way, most men do not notice or comment. It’s women that get upset if a woman wears the same dress every week in a row, it’s women that get upset if two of them wear the same dress to the same event! Paul is saying church should not be like that – it should never be like that. There is nothing wrong with dressing up and looking nice, Paul is not saying that. He is not saying you cannot do your hair up and put some make up and jewellry on, Paul is saying – that is not your adornment. That should not be your purpose in growing to church – to show off the dress.
If you have to show off, then show off your good works. And this is the cruz of the matter for the women – you love God, you relate to God, you pray more than your men, so do something! Sometimes you need to get your head out of the prayer closet and help someone and care for someone and do something. Stuff will always need doing, and sometimes it is hard to do because you have to learn how to do it, it’s boring, you prefer the relationships. Don’t leave all the work to the men! And especially do not leave all the work of the ministry to the men either!
If the men make sure they are interested in prayer, and if the women make sure they are adorning themselves with good works and getting stuff done then the church will come together. If not, then the women will think they are more spiritual than the women, the men will think the women are not doing anything, and the church will divide on those lines. It sounds foolish, but I have seen it happen.
The truth is men and women are different, but we both need the insights and wisdom of each other. If we can all humble ourselves, learn from each other and come towards the middle of the road, the whole church will function better.