Bible study · discussion guides

redefining modesty: group discussion guide

As promised in my my essay “Redefining Modesty,” I’ve prepared a series of discussion questions for families and church groups. You can download a pdf copy of this guide here. If you use this guide, please take a moment to complete this short feedback form, here.

Reflection

Before discussing the following questions, spend some time on your own reading and meditating on 1 Timothy 2.

  1. Why does Paul urge prayer “for all people”? What kind of life ought to grow out of these prayers? Why does this kind of life please God?
  2. In your own life, what are the main obstacles to prayer? What interferes with prayer in your own congregation or community?
  3. In 2:8-10, Paul outlines some of the reasons the prayers of the early church were being disrupted. What were these causes? Do Christians still struggle in these ways?
  4. Paul begins his instructions to women in 2:9 with the word “likewise” (ὡσαύτως), indicating that he is giving the same kind of warning to both men and women. What does this “likewise” tell us about how we should discuss modesty in our churches and families?
  5. Besides αἰδώς (discussed in the essay), one of the words Paul uses to describe women’s clothing in 2:9 is κόσμιος (kosimos). Translated as “modest” in some translations (KJV, NIV), and “respectable” or “proper” in others (NASB, ESV), κόσμιος comes from the same root as κόσμος (kosmos), i.e. “the world, universe.” Both words essentially mean “something well-ordered,” with κόσμιος carrying the additional nuance of “self-disciplined.” Just as God created a world of purpose, order, and beauty, women here are called to wear clothing that reflects a well-ordered life. Does this simply mean that their clothing should be neat and tidy? What would it mean to dress in such a way that it reflects God’s creative order, just as the stars in the heavens or the flowers of the field?
  6. After Paul calls women to κόσμιος in 2:9, he uses the same Greek word to describe qualifications for bishops just a few verses later, in 3:2. Most translations, however, translate κόσμιος in 3:2 not as “modest,” but as “respectable.” Why do you think translators make this choice? What does this repetition of κόσμιος tell us about how to bring both men and women into conversations about modesty?

Action

  1. Take some time to journal about your prayer life. Are you fulfilling Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:1-6? If not, what spiritual obstacles are in your way?
  2. Consider taking on a “clothing fast” for a week. Choose a simple, comfortable outfit–something that draws no attention to itself or its wearer– and commit to wearing it to work or school each day for a week. Be attentive to your feelings and the reactions of those around you. Dedicate this fast to God, and ask him to use whatever you feel–whether discomfort or freedom, curiosity or embarrassment–to draw your heart and mind to prayer. Even better, commit to this fast with a close friend or small group, and meet afterward to share your experiences.

Benediction

Holy God, free us from the pride that leads to quarreling or vain display. Put love in our hearts, truth in our minds, and wisdom in our hands, that we might clothe ourselves in Christ your Son. In love, He took on the form of a servant, that we might hunger for no good thing. Amen.

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