The Surprising Meaning Behind Those Famous Modesty Verses
One of you recently asked, “How do you live 1 Peter 3:3–4? I have an idea, but I’m not sure.”
You’ve probably heard these verses before, but here’s a refresher:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
How do you live these verses?
Not without 1 Peter 3:1–2 or 1 Peter 3:5–6. Context is critical to understanding what the Bible means. So let’s check out the surrounding verses. The chapter begins:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Ah! So Peter is writing to married women.
Sweet! So I don’t have to listen to and apply this passage yet because I’m not married, right?
But before we apply it to ourselves, let’s make sure we understand the original meaning of this text.
First Peter 3:3–4 is followed by these verses:
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Yowza. This passage is all about submission! Before you start sending me hate mail, let me point out some good news:
- In the context of marriage, we are only commanded to submit to one man, our own husband. You don’t have to submit to other women’s husbands (re-read the first part of verse 1 to see this for yourself), although part of being a Christian is respecting and considering the needs of all people.
- God isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done. Did you notice the way 1 Peter 3 started with the word “Likewise”? Peter is comparing our submission to someone else’s. But whose? Flip the page in your Bible to the end of chapter two for the answer.
We are all called to submit to the authorities over us. Not only to those who are “good and gentle,” but also to those who are “unjust.”
Why? Because Christ, our Lord, did so for you and me:
Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21–23).
Obviously there’s a whole lot more to get out of this text, but let me stop and try to answer this girl’s question about how to live out 1 Peter 3:3–4 as a single. I’d suggest starting with this:
- Submit to the authorities who are currently in your life while ultimately entrusting yourself to your heavenly Father. Make your dad and mom’s job easy. Seek to be easy to lead.
- Remember that your beautiful face will eventually go, but your character will remain. Don’t trust in your outer beauty to capture and keep a man.
- Ask God to help you not fear anything that’s frightening. Seek to grow your trust in Him so you don’t have to trust in yourself during frightening times, but can throw yourself on Him.
Now that you know a bit more of the context of 1 Peter 3:3–4, how else do you think you can begin to become this kind of reverent, fearless, God-trusting woman?
Written by Paula Hendricks
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