Braided Hair
John Telgren

I still remember someone telling a teenage girl that her braided hair was wrong. He cited the scripture in 1 Tim 2:9. I remember going home to look at that passage to see if that is what it really says. Sure enough, here is what it says.

"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness" (1 Tim 2:9-10)."

After looking at the history of braiding, I have since then come to understand this passage better. In ancient times, only the wealthiest braided their hair. Braids were not the pigtails see today. The braids were often very, very extravagant and might take a whole day to complete. Of course, the treatment came with many servants waiting on her throughout the day. It's purpose was to flaunt wealth and status, much like rare and expensive jewelry.

So, the issue is not braided hair, but what it represented at the time. The problem was alignment with and adoption of the world's values. The issue is modesty.

A very simple definition of modesty is humility expressed in appearance. Immodesty is pride and arrogance expressed in appearance. This means that modesty is a reflection of our hearts, something that scripture bears out:

"Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Pet 3:3-4).

Fashion designers do not value modesty or a "gentle and quiet spirit." In fact, they value just the opposite. Christians need to be acutely aware of this when they go shopping at the mall. The braided hair of ancient times has given way to other forms of pride reflected in appearance. Sometimes it is wardrobe to show social status. Often times it is something that is too little or too tight, such as the short skirt or the buff guy who wears a shirt two sizes too small. Whatever it is, the root of immodesty comes from the heart. It is an expression of pride.

Don't misunderstand. This is not a prohibition against enhancing your appearance. The passages speak of "adorning" yourself, but in a proper and godly way. "Adornment" means to decorate, enhance, or make attractive. The Proverbs 31 woman had fine clothing, Esther went through beauty treatments, and the woman of Song of Solomon wore jewelry.

So, what does godly adornment consist of? According to these passages, it boils down to these things. 1) Proper clothing. This means it reflects the grace and beauty of womanhood, or the honor and dignity of manhood. 2) Good works. 3) A humble heart. Rather than just a modesty check, do a heart check. Ask yourself the following questions: What is my motivation for wearing this? What statement does my appearance make? Whose and what kinds of attention do I crave? Is God a part of my decision in my appearance?