Christian Modesty—Proof of Wisdom
“Through the undeserved kindness given to me I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has distributed to him a measure of faith.”—ROMANS 12:3.
1. What facts show that modesty is not appreciated today?
HOW few today appreciate modesty and manifest it! This is the age of bitter rivalry and extreme competition. Races, nations, tribes, corporations and individuals of the world all want to be the best, to be on top. No one wants to be modest. This spirit has even affected the family circle, as can be seen by the rebellion of youth and the women’s liberation movement.
2. Why must the attitude of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding modesty not be that of the world?
2 But the way of the world is not to be the way of genuine Christians. No, Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize their obligation to follow the greatest example of modesty that this world has ever seen—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Typical of Jesus’ modesty are his remarks: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative.” “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God.” (John 5:19; Luke 18:19) Yes, all who would closely follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps must manifest modesty. Moreover, all who do so will not suffer loss, but they will find that the course of Christian modesty is rewarding and truly is proof of wisdom.
3. The term modesty generally is used in what ways?
3 The term “modesty” may mean “limitation in size, amount, or extent.” Or it can refer to that which is chaste, marked by “freedom from coarseness, indelicacy, or indecency.” Then again, it may denote “an awareness of one’s limitations,” or “freedom from conceit or vanity.”* Under divine inspiration, the apostle Paul urged fellow believers to display modesty, for he wrote: “Through the undeserved kindness given to me I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has distributed to him a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3) Yes, it is necessary to think something of ourselves. But we must not think too much of ourselves, attaching too much importance to our natural abilities or acquired advantages.
Modesty and Humility Differ
4. (a) Where does the Hebrew word rendered “modest” occur in the Scriptures? (b) What must we conclude as to its meaning at Proverbs 11:2?
4 In many Bible translations, modesty is confused with humility. The Hebrew word rendered “modest” occurs only at Proverbs 11:2 and Micah 6:8. What does it mean? It can signify being modest, decent, chaste or having personal purity. However, it can also refer to being aware of one’s limitations. At Micah 6:8 this Hebrew word could have either meaning, for there we are simply urged to be ‘modest in walking with our God.’ But that is not true of Proverbs 11:2, which reads: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.” Here modesty is contrasted with presumptuousness. The opposite of presumptuousness is here shown to be modesty in the sense of not presuming too much, being aware of one’s limitations.
5, 6. How can the difference between humility and modesty be illustrated with regard to Jehovah God?
5 There is a difference between being humble and being modest. For example, concerning Jehovah God, the psalmist David said: “Your own humility will make me great.” (Psalm 18:35) Indeed, it was because Jehovah was willing to humble, or lower, himself to notice David and deal patiently with him that he became a great king in Israel. Thus we also read regarding Jehovah: “Who is like Jehovah our God, him who is making his dwelling on high? He is condescending to look on heaven and earth.” (Psalm 113:5, 6) There is no question about it—the Creator is so highly exalted that he has to condescend to take notice of things in the heavens and upon earth.
6 But can we speak of Jehovah as being modest in the sense of being aware of his limitations? Of course not! How could we speak of limitations as regards God, since he is infinite in wisdom and power, absolutely flawless and perfect in justice and the very personification of love? Absolutely no one can rightly be compared to him.—Isaiah 40:12-31.
7. (a) Why can it be said that a human may be humble but be lacking in modesty? (b) How can this be seen in the case of the apostle Peter?
7 On the other hand, it is possible for humans to be humble and yet be lacking in modesty. They may be humble, lowly in heart, and yet not use clear thinking ability so as to be aware of their own limitations. For example, the apostle Peter certainly was a humble man. When he saw Jesus perform a miracle that demonstrated ability to control even living creatures in the sea, Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying: “Depart from me, because I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8) And we read that both Jesus and the apostle Paul reproved Peter. But at no time do we detect that Peter took offense at such reproofs. (Matthew 16:21-23; Galatians 2:11-14; 2 Peter 3:15, 16) Undoubtedly, Peter was a humble, lowly-minded apostle. But was he really modest in the sense of being aware of his limitations? Not always. If he had been, he would not have insisted that even though all the other apostles deserted their Master he would not do so—only to fail so miserably, denying Jesus three times!—Mark 14:29, 30, 66-72.
Woes Caused by Lack of Modesty
8. Why can it be said that all the trouble in the universe originated with a lack of modesty?
8 Not only did a lack of modesty bring woe to the apostle Peter but it might also be said that all the woe in the world—yes, in the universe—had its origin in a lack of modesty. How so? It was because of a lack of modesty that a certain angelic creature became Satan the Devil. He failed to recognize his limitations as a created individual. Not content with the position that Jehovah had assigned to him, he wanted to be equal to God. Later, this prideful attitude was shown when the Devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world for just one act of worship. But as Jesus reminded that Tempter, worship belongs to Jehovah God only. Satan’s lack of modesty, which was and is a course of presumptuousness, has resulted in dishonor to him and eventually will mean his destruction.—Matthew 4:8-10; Hebrews 2:14.
9. In what respects did Eve display a lack of modesty?
9 Lack of modesty likewise proved to be the undoing of Eve, “the mother of everyone living.” (Genesis 3:20) The idea of being like God, of knowing good and bad for herself, appealed to her. Why? Because she failed to exercise modesty. Had she kept modest, she could, in effect, have told the Tempter: ‘Why should I want to be like God? I am perfectly content with God’s arrangement, for me to be helper to perfect Adam. Besides, I had better ask Adam about this, since he told me about the command not to eat of this fruit.’ But no. Eve broke away from modesty, in relation to her Maker and her husband. And lack of modesty cost Eve her life and influenced her husband to take a suicidal course. So is modesty important? Yes, it is that important!—Genesis 3:1-19.
10. Why do all of us find it difficult to be truly modest?
10 All of us seem to have inherited from our first parents some tendency to manifest a lack of modesty. As God said following the Flood, “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Genesis 8:21) Hence, when King David was overtaken by grievous sins, he could plead with God: “Look! With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) And that is why Jehovah God could say by his prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?”—Jeremiah 17:9.
11. What conditions worldwide can be laid to a lack of modesty?
11 So much trouble in the world is due to a lack of modesty! It affects all races, nationalities, tribes and even family members. Neither the Eastern nor the Western bloc of nations is willing to recognize its own limitations. Each wants to be on top. People of one race feel superior to those of another. In fact, it is reported that strife between certain African tribes often results simply because each tribe sets out to prove its supposed superiority.
12. (a) What harm results from a lack of modesty on the part of some husbands? (b) What results from a lack of modesty on the part of many women?
12 What about the lack of modesty within the family circle? In many instances, both husbands and wives have caused discord by their lack of modesty. Due to their physical and economic advantages, husbands often tend to play a macho role or to act as a boss, to the great unhappiness of the family. No doubt this partially accounts for the women’s liberation movement, with its charge of male chauvinism. But what about womenfolk, and wives in particular? Those lacking modesty have often reaped much unhappiness, including broken homes. (Galatians 6:7, 8) Such women have ignored the basic Scriptural requirement that they “be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:21-23, 33; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-10) Among women of the world, there is also a glaring and widespread lack of modesty as regards chasteness. Flaunting their physical charms by the way they speak, dress and conduct themselves, these women must share the blame for the prevalence of promiscuousness, marital infidelity and broken homes.
13. What fruitage has a lack of modesty produced among youths today?
13 While there are fine examples of modesty among modern youth, others show a shocking lack of it. Because of failing to display this quality, many youths are impatient with their elders or are critical of the mistakes made by those of the older generation. But, then, what wisdom do some of these youths manifest with regard to drug addiction, drunkenness, reckless driving or getting involved in an immoral life-style? If such youths were modest, they would listen to their elders and benefit from the good counsel such experienced ones can give.
Christian Modesty—Truly Wise!
14. Why is modesty so fitting in our relationship with Jehovah God?
14 The displaying of Christian modesty truly is the course of wisdom. First of all, it results in good relations with Jehovah. In fact, God requires that we be modest in walking with him. (Micah 6:8) Moreover, modesty is most becoming on our part when we think of the great gap between us and our all-powerful and eternal Maker. Why, to him the nations are like the film of dust on the scales and like a mere drop falling from a bucket! (Isaiah 40:15) Modesty will cause us to fear to displease Jehovah God, and that surely is “the beginning of wisdom.”—Psalm 111:10.
15. What help can modesty be to a Christian brother?
15 Modesty also promotes good relations with our fellow witnesses of Jehovah. It will keep a Christian brother from pushing himself forward as regards privileges of service. Modesty will keep him aware of his limitations, his lack of knowledge and experience in certain respects as compared with others. It will also make him concerned about improving his spiritual qualifications rather than with having the office of ministerial servant or elder. If he continues to make full use of every opportunity to increase in knowledge and to be of help to his fellow believers, it may well come as a surprise to him when he is recommended and appointed to a position of responsibility in the congregation. That has actually been the case in more than one instance.
16. Why is displaying modesty the course of wisdom on the part of Christian women?
16 Modesty is also the course of wisdom for the sisters in the congregation. This is true in more than the matter of chasteness, important as that is. (1 Timothy 2:9, 10; Titus 2:3-5) Being aware of her limitations and the role assigned to her in the congregation, the Christian woman who is wise will modestly control her speech. She will keep from being overly talkative and from expressing criticism of the way the appointed elders are handling matters.—Compare Jude 8, 9, 16.
17, 18. (a) Why should youths display modesty toward their parents? (b) What Scriptural example is here given to show that it is wise to heed the counsel of older people?
17 Similarly, modesty on the part of youths is proof of wisdom. Youths endear themselves to others when they conduct themselves modestly. God’s Word rightly commands that they honor their father and mother and obey them in “everything.” (Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1-3) It takes modesty to do that and not to think that youths are wiser than their parents. And do you not owe your parents a debt of gratitude? They brought you into the world. From that time until the present, your parents have provided you with food, clothing, shelter, education, recreation and spiritual instruction. Therefore, would not respect itself move you to manifest modesty toward them?
18 Modestly taking your parents into your confidence and accepting their counsel is the course of wisdom. By reason of their experience, they surely have more wisdom than you do. The world is filled with turmoil, not because of a lack of knowledge but due to a lack of sound wisdom. “They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9) Even in such a personal matter as picking your partner for life, you will be wise if you modestly give due regard to your parents’ judgment, since they love you and have your best interest at heart. They can give you far better advice than can your peers. True, it may not be as flattering, but it will be better for you. The Bible reveals that King Rehoboam of ancient Israel lost most of his kingdom because of his lack of modesty. He rejected the counsel of the older men who had been his father’s counselors and chose to follow the flattering counsel of his peers, the young men that had grown up with him. They were as inexperienced and shortsighted as he himself was.—1 Kings 12:1-24.
19. How can modesty serve us well in our witnessing activity?
19 Christian modesty will also serve us well when we are witnessing about Jehovah God’s name and Kingdom, whether formally or informally. If we were to speak with great self-assurance, we might impress some listeners but repel many others. At all times, we should call attention to Jehovah God and his Word, not to ourselves. Very much to the point here is this advice: “Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Modesty will make it easier to display a mild temper and to show deep respect.
20. (a) So far, what have we learned about modesty and the lack of it? (b) What question remains?
20 Clearly, from the foregoing we can see what great harm has come to mankind due to a lack of modesty. We have also seen that modesty unquestionably is the course of wisdom. These points should help us to cultivate modesty. But what further aid can we find in cultivating Christian modesty?
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
Can You Recall?
□ Why must Jehovah’s Witnesses not have the world’s attitude toward modesty?
□ How might a person be humble but not modest?
□ Why do all of us find it difficult to be truly modest?
□ Why is it so appropriate that we be modest in our relationship with Jehovah?
□ How can modesty help us in our witnessing work?
[Picture on page 13]
Jesus modestly did what his heavenly Father directed
[Picture on page 15]
Christian modesty results in good relations with God and our fellow witnesses of Jehovah