Lesson Four: Purity in the Obscure
August 5, 2010 § 1 Comment
“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.”
– Lord Chesterfield
“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.”
– Proverbs 24:30-31
Lesson Four: Purity in the Obscure
(Meandering, Modesty, and Meekness)
To be obscure is not being readily seen. There are many areas of a purity that can fall into this category. This week we focus on meandering, modesty and meekness. Pursuing purity in these areas brings clarity of thought to areas often overlooked.
Not many women consider meandering as a stumbling block. If God does not waste time, thought, or actions, should we, as His followers, wander about aimlessly setting ourselves up for the temptations of such as idleness and tale bearing?
Modesty and meekness do not seem appealing subjects either. Modesty is not what we find when look at the most popular women’s magazines. What we find in these magazines, as well as on television or in department stores, is blatant wantonness. When it comes to meekness, what we find in the scripture is the opposite of what we see in the feminist agendas.
But God has much to say about all three of these categories. These three areas of a women’s life are obscure or not readily seen or quickly examined. Many feel these are lesser areas and find no time to pursue purity in these areas. To follow after purity is to look at all things that separate us from our Creator.
Mulling over Meandering
In our fast paced lives today, many women daydream of a time when they can meander or wander about aimlessly without a set course or direction. It is a pleasant idea, no? We see ourselves walking through nature at your own pace with no concept of time. Ah, the freedom to stop and smell the roses. In that place, there are no demands made on us from our husbands, our children, or our jobs.
The trouble with meandering is that many women want so desperately to escape their lives. They spend hours thinking of what it would be like to meander about with no responsibility, nothing constraining them, and no purpose. This type of thinking leads to disaster.
Our minds are battlefields for the images and ideas we are exposed to in our daily life. Though we can change our physical environment for a time, a change of scenery may prompt new restful thoughts for us but we cannot stop our minds from daydreaming.
If our purpose is to be free of responsibility, we will continue to mull those ideas in our heads even if we have changed our scenery.
The problem with this is that we are focusing our mind on what we want, what satisfies our carnal flesh, what benefits our bodies. Tarry long here and we entertain pride thinking that we deserve more and more and more times of pampering. We become slothful, lazy, and our desire for personal pampering becomes greater than our desire to know God.
Does this mean that vacations or times of resting are not appropriate? No. It means that our lives are not to be centered on these things. Rest and waiting, as described in the bible are very short times of rejuvenating both our bodies and our minds. If we linger in a state of meandering, we lose purpose and indulge in selfishness. Where there is no purpose, abuse is inevitable.
Meandering means to “be all over the map, dawdle, gallivant, ramble, roam, and traipse about.” Words opposite in meaning are ‘stay’ or ‘straighten.’ Pursuing purity means pursuing wisdom. It is an endless pursuit of what knowledge cannot give us, but God’s instruction can.
Many of us take walks to clear our minds from the onslaught of issues that arise in our daily lives. Walks are very beneficial both physically and emotionally. If we are seeking God’s wisdom, He often shows Himself in the most ordinary of things. In the passage below, we see a person who takes instruction from a vacant lot.
“I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
– Proverbs 24:30-34
Here a person is on a walk, still God invades his mind as he walks by a field and whispers instruction and he receives it. If we meander, if we mill about busying ourselves with pampering, we are focusing on ourselves and not on God. Short walks are beneficial and when we find our rest, God recharges us to press on what He has planned for us.
A Lifestyle of Modesty
Taking a look at modesty we find that to be modest is “to be free from vanity or boastfulness.” Words with opposite meanings are disgrace, dishonor, and immorality. Again we find the word freedom in the definition. Again we find that pursuing purity makes us free from such things.
Modesty is not limited to what we wear but is a behavioral characteristic. If we dress or behave with modesty in mind, we are free from vanity, free from drawing attention to ourselves. Modesty removes the look-at-me, compliment-me, flatter-me mindset and moves us to dress and behave in ways that glorify God.
The two most common areas where we pursue purity in modesty are in our clothing and in our behavior. We need to understand and attribute all of what we have did not originate within ourselves. The body we have, the talents we are given, the family we were born into, the job we work, the husband and children we were given are all gifts of God. Pursuing purity means to walk in the awareness of this fact. Our only contribution to the blessings given to us is how we use and manage them.
“You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, and the great charm of all power is modesty.”
– Louisa May Alcott
In the area of our attire, many women do not understand that the most popular fashions of the day find no honor with God. Consider this, after selecting an outfit and trying it on, what is your first thought? Is it ‘how sexy do I look in this outfit?’ or ‘does this outfit draw too much attention to me?’ If we clothe ourselves in outfits that draw attention to ourselves, then that is what the world will see. If we clothe ourselves in attractive, but not wanton clothes, we are telling the world we ascribe to honor God and not ourselves.
“Our goal in life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen”
How can we know if our clothing honors God? There is one sure way. Ask your husband, ask your father, ask someone who cares enough about you to tell you what honors God. Remember that sexual sin is a sin against one’s own body. Wearing clothes that draw desiring looks from men in no way glorifies God.
Any discussion on the subject of modesty should include this warning. Jesus took us up to a very high standard when He said
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
– Matthew 5:28
As women, we cannot prevent a man’s lustful thoughts. Many men look on women with lust in their hearts whether the women is dressed in a God honoring way or not. What we can do, is dress in such a way that we are not contributing and thereby participating in the adultery in another’s heart. We can be certain that we are not pursing purity when we go for the sexy-look because that indeed is what we will get and we will be guilty of causing another to sin.
“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.”
– Luke 17:1-2
Secondly, in our behavior, modesty is often overlooked. The behavior of the woman in Proverbs 7 and the women in Proverbs 31 shows many vast differences. The woman in Proverbs 7 is described as loud and described as a wanderer (her feet don’t reside in her own home). The woman in Proverbs 31 is described as virtuous and list many characteristics but for this discussion, the key description is found in verses 11-12.
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
– Proverbs 31:11-12
These two verses do not mention attire or behavior specifically but list the pure motive in her heart. Her desire is for her husband to trust her and that she does good to him. A good rule in determining if your clothing or behavior is pleasing to God is to give this confidence to your husband or your future husband.
The Hidden Man of Meekness
Meekness is power under control. It is not weakness. It is not insecurity, far from it. It is having the power and ability to do a thing, but withholding extravagant displays of this power. Meekness is a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked. Words with similar meaning are forbearing, unassuming, and gentle.
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
– I Peter 3:3-4
Many women buckle when they read this passage thinking it restricts their behavior. The truth is that this passage gives women the key to the heart of God. The message in this verse is revealed in the last few words ‘which is in the sight of God of great price.’
For many years I struggled with this verse. My battle was not with the outward adorning, but with the meek and quiet spirit. All those years, I was missing the point. My focus was on trying to achieve a meek and quiet spirit in my own power. It cannot be done.
Here we are not told to act or do, which a behavior we control within ourselves. No, we are instructed in this verse to let, which means to allow something – to basically ‘make way’ for something to proceed. What we need to let proceed in our lives is the ‘hidden man of the heart’ and that is none other than Jesus Christ.
We are told in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It is Christ who we need to allow to proceed from our hearts. Christ has the meek and quiet spirit that we can never achieve in our own power.
Secondly, I began to focus on the last few words ‘in the sight of God of great price.’ In my reading of the Scriptures, there are very few things that God notes are of ‘great price’ to Him. A repentant heart will desire to please God. A willing and obedient servant will pay attention to those things that God says are of great price to Him.
When this became clear to me, I viewed this verse in a new light. God wants us to allow Jesus to shine in our lives, to show forth a meek and quiet spirit, to announce to the world what we read in Matthew 5:16
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good work and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:16
Pursuing the Word:
When we meander or wander aimlessly with attention to responsibility, we set ourselves up for several different temptations. Read the verses below and list the result.
- Proverbs 19:15
- Ecclesiastes 10:18
- Matthew 12:36
- Proverbs 20:19
- Proverbs 26:22
- 1 Peter 4:15
Modesty is the opposite of harlotry. Read the verses below and list the characteristics you find for harlotry.
- Proverbs 7:10-12
- Proverbs 29:3
- Ezekiel 16:15
Meekness, we’ve learned is not weakness. Read the verses below and list the descriptions.
- Matthew 5:5
- Isaiah 66:2
Pursuing the Walk:
We’ve learned that meandering is a snare to us. What are your thoughts aimless wandering, busybodies, and tale bearing?
Modesty is not just applied to one’s clothing. Take some time this week and notice modesty in yourself and others. List your results below.
Pursuing purity means will make us free from vanity. List your thoughts below on meekness.
Write out how your concept of meandering, modesty and meekness has changed while preparing and participating in this lesson.