Shamefacedness

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, 1st Timothy 2:9.


In using the word "shamefacedness", our bible makes a statement about a woman's proper demeanor. It is one of those words which is only used once and can be defined and defended from within the text, but especially when a wider understanding of God's heart for women is reviewed. I doubt that there are many people who don't get the gist of the meaning by just simply reading it in the context of this one verse.

Nevertheless, the most popular new versions bypass the word entirely. Whereas your King James Bible says "shamefacedness and sobriety", the ESV says, "modesty and self-control". Let it be said, I do hope that women adorn themselves with modesty and self control but, "shamefacedness and sobriety" is a more powerful combination of words to guide a woman in her personal deportment in public places.

To understand shamefacedness, let us review something that Jesus Christ said about the eye itself. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light, Matthew 6:22. It has been observed by men older and wiser than me that eighty percent of a man's attraction to a woman is what he sees. Eighty percent of a woman's attraction to a man is by what she hears. How a woman guards her eyes will often determine how she is perceived.

When the King of Gerar returned Sarah to Abraham after finding out that he had been deceived into putting her into his harem, and having almost lain with her, he said this" behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other, Genesis 20:16. Sarah had been a victim here of a cowardly husband and had pushed the concept of subjection pretty well to the limits. In returning her to Abraham, he acknowledged that her husband was a vail to her and a place where her eyes could safely alight.

A woman can say many things with her eyes. What husband has not felt his wife's eyes bore straight through him when his answers to her fell short of a reasonable mark? A child can see approval or disapproval in his mother's eyes. I have been interviewed by steely eyed business women who took no guff nor foolishness while conducting business. I have also had troubled women use their eyes to let me know that marriage was not sacred to them and that they were available.

A woman is a great gift to a man. Their intellects can be as finely honed as any man's and their wisdom can equal or excel any man's wisdom. God has placed those excellent personalities and intellects with accompanying wisdom in bodies that millennia of poets, painters and authors have come short of praising and adequately describing. To their sorrow, women have learned that all too often, men scan their faces for clues as to the availability of those bodies.

A wise woman learns to control her face. If she has a husband with whom she has a good relationship, he can function as a covering for her eyes, especially if she comes into a new surrounding wherein she will inevitably be checked out. As a team can they can make it clear that they are a contented couple without having to do anything overt. Regardless of any dignity or wisdom with which a woman holds herself, almost every church has a man with wandering eyes. It is herein that shamefacedness is such a good defense.

The word of God is not telling her to be ashamed of herself. It is telling her that a proud or arrogant look is wrong. It is telling her that her face is doorway and clue to discern her intentions. Whether she is chatting with friends, conducting business, or merely minding her own business, when there is a danger of someone scanning her face to see if she is available, her face needs to reflect that she would be ashamed to have anyone so view her.

In reflecting on the new versions saying "modesty and self control", I can think of women who with perfect self control, and with modest dress made their availability known. It is impossible to be shamefaced and sober and do that same thing. Let's stick with our bible.

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