Christ and his Scriptures set an example for us of very practical teaching. Once one has entered the world of theology, Bible college, or seminary it can be too easy for ministry to become quite cerebral. Subjects such as atonement, prophecy, and eternal decrees may keep a Bible student entranced for years. Thankfully, the Lord remembers that we are but flesh and that as much as he wants us to know him, he reminds us that the goodness of his grace is too deep for us to even find the bottom, even after all our study. At times like this it can be a refreshing break to learn some simple human stuff from the Lord.
Jesus on Food and Clothing
For example Jesus loves us intimately enough to address such issues as food and clothing.
24) "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can't serve both God and Mammon. 25) Therefore I tell you, don't be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26) See the birds of the sky, that they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you of much more value than they?27) "Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment‡ to his lifespan? 28) Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don't toil, neither do they spin, 29) yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30) But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won't he much more clothe you, you of little faith?31) "Therefore don't be anxious, saying, 'What will we eat?', 'What will we drink?' or, 'With what will we be clothed?' 32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33) But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. 34) Therefore don't be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own evil is sufficient.Matthew 6:24-34 (WEB)
Here Jesus exhorts us not to worry about food and clothing but to simply trust that he loves us and will provide for these needs.
Paul to Timothy on Food and Clothing
Paul picks up on the food and clothing theme in his exhortations to his key disciple Timothy. Paul’s passed the spiritual baton to Timothy with words of warning about greed and of encouragement to be content with food and clothing in this life.
6) But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7) For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can't carry anything out. 8) But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9) But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation, a snare, and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.11) But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12) Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 13) I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, 14) that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15) which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. 16) He alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen.1 Timothy 6:6-16 (WEB)
We can see that Paul was a disciple of Christ’s teaching and understood that fear of poverty or lust for more may propel us toward riches. Instead, however, we should put our faith in God and be content with what we have.
Paul to the Church on Prayer and Modesty
Paul also taught the church on prayer and modesty, concepts related to food and clothing.
1) I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks be made for all men: 2) for kings and all who are in high places, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4) who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. 5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6) who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony in its own times, 7) to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am telling the truth in Christ, not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.8) I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without anger and doubting. 9) In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety, not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing, 10) but with good works, which is appropriate for women professing godliness. 11) Let a woman learn in quietness with full submission. 12) But I don't permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13) For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14) Adam wasn't deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15) but she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.1 Timothy 2:1-15 (WEB)
How are prayer and modesty related to food and clothing? Men are often the bread winner and feel pressure to provide for needs such as food. Paul commands men to pray rather than use aggression to achieve our goals. Women are made by God to be beautiful to men and often feel pressure to wear clothing enticing to men. Paul commands women to dress modestly rather than use immodesty to entice.
Standards and Cultural Influence
You will notice the absence of prayer schedules and hem lengths in the New Testament. Why? Under the Old Covenant God spelled out many specifics for the conduct of his people. However, the deceitfulness of the human heart caused man to follow the letter of the law while at the same time looking for loopholes. Under the New Covenant God provided a new higher law to end the search for loopholes. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are commanded to pray without ceasing. Men, let me know when you attain that! In 1 Timothy 2:10 we are commanded to adorn ourselves with good works. Women, let me know when you are done with that!
The absence of an attainable standard for prayer and modesty is designed to offend those looking for loopholes and encourage those whose righteousness is in Christ to keep pursuing Christ-likeness. The absence of a specific standard also reminds us to think with the mind of Christ in the midst of our culture and sub-culture. Men, do godly men of your church family pray together once a month? Then pray with them once a month. Women, do godly women of your church avoid particular immodest fashions? Then avoid those fashions also. More could be said about this because culture is not our standard, but Christ. Yet cultural norms must be considered because Christ is building a common fellowship of Christians world-wide. Therefore we should be careful to adopt prayer schedules and fashions acceptable to Christians from all cultures and far from worldly norms.
Lust for Power / Fear of Weakness
In 1 Timothy 2:1-15 above it is interesting that Paul instructs men and women in parallel, men to pray and women to be modest. One reason for this parallel construct is that Paul is addressing the same vice in both sexes. This vice can manifest itself as prayerlessness in men and immodesty in women, that is the lust for power or fear of inadequacy and weakness. Men can be tempted to gain power and accomplish their will by force, anger, and arguing. Women can also be tempted to gain power or acceptance by enticing, sexual dress, and allure. Rarely does a woman use force or shows of power to gain power over men or other women. Think about it. This is not even accepted in the world of unbelievers. But what is accepted is a woman using her sexuality to gain power over men. Likewise a man typically does not use immodesty to gain power. Why this would be comical! Instead what is admired in the world is a man who knows how to use power and argument. Can you see the same vice is driving both the immodest woman and the aggressive man? The fear of weakness and desire for acceptance or the lust for power leaves prayer and modesty forgotten.
Why not join Paul in turning to grace to cure these vices?
9) He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.10) Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, and in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (WEB)
The Marlboro Man and the Virginia Slims Woman
Imagine a movie from the culture of our time; the Marlboro Man meets and marries the Virginia Slims woman. This would be the saddest marital union in the history of the world. The Marlboro Man typifies the rugged individualist who has survived enemies and the elements thanks to his strength and cigarettes. The Virginia Slims woman likewise has risen above the mundane duties of washing floors to “have come a long way baby!” thanks to her sexuality and cigarettes. This would be no Christian marriage defined by self-sacrifice and humble service of one another, but a cool cold war as to who is controlling who from the workplace to the kitchen to the bedroom.
Little Johnny and Little Suzy
Perhaps you will agree with me that the Marlboro Man and the Virginia Slims woman have a deadly world view. Will you believe that little Johnny and little Suzy in your own household have the same lust for power and fear of weakness straight from the womb? The only way to see it is if we admit that we all have struggled with these vices from day one. The Bible teaches in Ephesians 2:3 that we all blindly followed these vices by our birth nature. Little Johnny and little Suzy are in dire need of the gospel lest their very nature blossoms into yet another Marlboro and Virginia.
A Time for Prayer Recess, Boasting, and Nakedness
Christian men, pray. Christian women, dress modestly. These counsels will result in a beautiful future. Yet is there any time to lay down the humility of prayer for boasting or nakedness?
23) Yahweh says, "Don't let the wise man glory in his wisdom. Don't let the mighty man glory in his might. Don't let the rich man glory in his riches. 24) But let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Yahweh who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth; for I delight in these things," says Yahweh.Jeremiah 9:23-24 (WEB)
Men, we are invited to lay down our wisdom, strength, and riches to glory and boast about our knowledge of God.
2) But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3) Let the husband give his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife her husband. 4) The wife doesn't have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn't have authority over his own body, but the wife. 5) Don't deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn't tempt you because of your lack of self-control.1 Corinthians 7:2-5 (WEB)
Women, you and your husbands need to know that sexual union is not immodest, but encouraged by the Lord. Now Paul...that is some good theology!
I hope this study has proved an encouragement to you. The Lord God knows all about our human fears, needs, and desires even down to the simple things such as food and clothing. God knows because he designed and created us and the world, we are made in his image, and most significantly he became a man and walked among us. God does truly know every inch of our existence and now wants us to know him. Specifically we of all his creations are invited to the distinct honor of knowing God’s heart of grace, his infinite love for sinners, and that is what we are. Why it is enough to set your life on fire to believe that God loves us just exactly as much as he says he does.
Men, even if your only prayers to God have been curses and you have risen to the top by pure aggression running circles around the Marlboro Man himself, Christ died for such as you.
Women, even if you have played men on your string like Minnows and defeated all the competition with your displays causing even Virginia Slim to blush, Christ died for such as you. I know because Christ died for me despite my own lust for power and fear of weakness.
Come to Jesus Christ and know a mighty savior. Come to Jesus Christ and know a God who has forgiven blackened rebels, no longer good for anything but to be tossed into the fire. Come to Jesus Christ and join a fellowship of men and women saved from the pit, breathless that God would begin to call us his sons and daughters, that is if you receive him as Lord. Come to Jesus Christ and dine on truly rich food and wear truly lush clothing!