Christianity, Modesty & Wealth

I’ve been reading a really brilliant book called ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by Rachel Held-Evans where she explores what it really means to be a ‘Godly’ woman – a term that has so brutally been misused among evangelical circles to undermine, shame, oppress and dictate to females in the Church about what they should or should not do and be.  YIKES.  I’m getting ranty already and it’s just the first paragraph.

She writes with honesty, humour and a great deal of well-researched wisdom and the concept of the book sees her exploring some of the ‘instructions’ for women in the bible that have often been held up as the ultimate goal for femininity.  She often takes quite a literal approach to some of these perceived notions (like covering her head, learning new skills etc) to see if she can shed some light on the ever-controversial debate of gender roles within the Christian Church.

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Now, I am fully aware that where I’m going with this is a highly sensitive subject amongst many, so I imagine this could get tricky as we go on, but I want to share my thoughts on this stuff honestly and if people want to enter into dialog about those thoughts, I really want to listen.

So, last night as the wind and rain blew a gale outside, I tucked myself up in bed with the book and started to read the chapter on modesty.  In this chapter Rachel explores different aspects of what the bible says about women wearing modest clothing such as head coverings, no elaborate jewellery etc and she looks at different cultures where different forms of outward modesty is observed like the Amish, Judaism etc.  (p.s. she paints this picture of her encounter with the amish lifestyle that makes me want to sell all my crap and hitch up a buggy & cart)

As the chapter went on and as the biblical texts were explored in context and in the fullness of the rest of the stories going on around them, it was becoming clear that the real underlying message in the scriptures was that:

…most of the Bible’s instructions regarding modesty find their context in warnings about materialism, not sexuality . . . a pattern that has gone largely unnoticed by the red-faced preacher population. I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring that my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitive trade practices.

So naturally, this started me really thinking hard about what that means in terms of Christians, wealth and materialism.  Should it ever be ok for Christian women to buy designer handbags that cost £500+?  Should we all have so many i-products? Where is the line to be drawn in terms of simple-living, having overdrafts, buying petrol-guzzling vehicles and everything in between?

Is it too judge-y to ask these questions?  

Is apathy towards ethical buying acceptable for those who really believe in the teachings of Jesus?  

Should I butt out?

Are the ‘rules’ on this topic different for everyone?  Is simple-living relative to what you earn?  Is it more to do with your attitude towards possessions than what you actually own?

Is that last question just a cop out to actually living more simply?  

Has Christianity completely blocked out the notion of what true modesty requires, passing it off as staying relevant?

I’m struggling to know what’s right.   

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Christianity, Modesty & Wealth

  1. I have just started reading this too, haven’t got to modesty yet. I think part of it is questioning why we want these things and what motivates our longing for the must have accessory or even more the perfect home. But also there is the freedom of not having these things, as long as we don’t feel the need to broadcast that as well, smugness is never a good look! would love to know what others think too.

    • Ha – smugness is ugly eh? I think asking deep questions about motives is important, yes – but does there ever come a time where your actions need to just speak something different? I say this because I know that I can easily talk myself into ‘needing’ or ‘benefiting’ from things but that can be a cop out. What do you think?

  2. I’m so challenged about this too Mel. In fact just got rid of my iphone as part of my journey. I do think there is work to be done in all of us to challenge materialism and consumerism. But I also believe that a big issue is also how tightly you hold on to what you have, how willing you are to give it up or away.

    • Wowee, good on ya Becca. I want to have more balls about this kind of stuff but sometimes it can be overwhelming. Like you do nothing because if you do something it doesnt feel like enough or you feel like a hypocrite for not following through on more.

  3. Great post Mel. I’m regularly challenged by this biblical inspiration to live more simply and not be influenced by materialism as a Christian woman. Buying ethically and living within your means is important, also not holding onto ‘stuff’ tightly. Instead, appreciating the simple things in life and being generous x

    • Thanks for this Rebecca – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about generosity too. Often this discussion can lead us to talking about what you should or shouldnt have but really giving and serving should focus more. Buying ethically is only difficult because the temptations of fashion, easy access and lower costs are so alluring – it’s funny how we can see other things are undisciplined or sinful (over-drinking, lust etc) but the discipline of buying things fairly and ethically is less down the priority list of disciplines. Why do you think this is?

      • Is it because it’s not as personally destructive as it’s all about gaining than losing? It could be that we’re maybe a little de-sensitised by materialism. Some of us!

  4. So not normally one for reading blogs (sorry beautiful Mel!) but your title caught my eye as its very much in our mindset. One of the other issues is that simply by having these discussions shows that we are in an economic situation where we have a choice to live simply or not and yey many of us don’t realise this mainly by choice because once we do it then leads us to probably having to change our ways!

    I have been greatly challenged by living simply but I also note that this as a choice is hard to do without others in close proximity who are trying to do thd same, partly for encouragement and partly for accountability. I haven’t come across this book but am intrigued so think I may purchase…or borrow if I can find someone locally!!!!!!

    Thanks Mel for prompting more questions and more thinking…meant sincerely not sarcastically!! Xx

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