My three older kids are working through their second year of faith formation in our Catholic parish. Last week, they came home with a packet about physical, symbolic and internal boundaries. As I flipped through the worksheets, I saw the word MODESTY and my heart froze. I could feel those old purity culture ideas rearing their shame-y, blame-y heads. But then I read the definition. And I got all happy because here, read it for yourselves:
Modesty: The virtue that respects, honors and protects privacy: the quality of avoiding extremes of emotion, action, dress and language. Modesty respects my boundaries and the boundaries of others.
What a well-rounded, WHOLE-PERSON approach to understanding the virtue of modesty! This is a perfect example of why I love Catholicism--the theology isn't compartmentalized; meaning, modesty isn't exclusively about manner of dress but about the WHOLE WAY we live our lives.
The Catholic understanding of modesty is that it encompasses ALL we do.
In purity culture, modesty was exclusively about sexuality; more specifically, female sexuality.
But the true modesty goes far, far beyond that. It's about how we speak, how we act and it's about avoiding extremes. Modesty is about moderation, respect for my boundaries and the boundaries of others. It's about avoiding excess.
Couldn't we say, then, that all Christians are called to live modestly? I mean, if modesty is a virtue, it's not just for women. But how often do you ever hear Christians speaking about men being modest?
How often do we speak about modesty in regards to how we eat, how we spend our money, the kind of car we drive, the kind of house we live in?
Oooooh, Elizabeth. Oh, no no no.
Oh, yes. I'm going there. I'm asking the question:
As far as I can tell, Pastor Steven Furtick doesn't answer to any higher authority structure than...himself. This is often the case in independent mega-churches where the senior pastor is The Final Word on everything. But even if Furtick is building his mansion only using earnings from his bestselling books, the question remains: is it modest or is it excessive for a pastor to live in such an expensive home? After all, he is--first and foremost--a pastor.
And to be fair, my own church--The Catholic Church--has this problem, too. Despite the fact that priests are required to take a Vow of Poverty, a German bishop was suspended for overspending on his residence. Then again, that's my point. The Catholic bishop SHOULD have been suspended and he was! I'm curious to whom Pastor Furtick is accountable?
Furthermore, why don't we speak more often about the virtue of modesty as it pertains to finances? What do you think?