1 Corinthians 11:4-6 lists three “shames” and verse 7 lists two glories. Two of these shames and glories relate directly back to the “head” and one shame relates to the person themselves. Let’s find out about the contrasting “shames” and “glories” because they are vital to understanding this difficult passage.
1 Corinthians 11:4 says:
“Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.”
“Every man” refers back to verse 3 where Paul said that Christ is the head of “every man”. Since Christ is the one who is the head of “every man”, Christ is the one who is shamed when men wear a head covering during the time that they are praying or prophesying. Notice that it isn’t just anytime that a man wears a head covering that Christ is shamed. It is only during the time that he is praying or prophesying.
Why would Christ be shamed if a man prays and prophesies with a head covering on his head? The reason is found in both the historical meaning of the head covering and also in Paul’s reference to honor in verse 7. John Lightfoot a Hebrew Scholar (1602-1675 AD) explains the historical reason for the head covering during worship and prayer. For the Jews, the covering symbolized their unworthiness to look upon God because it symbolized the shame of their sin. Are we unworthy to look upon God and are we to wear something that symbolizes the shame of our sin? Paul says no way. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul says:
“For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God…”
The reason is simple – we are to reflect the glory of God not the shame of our sin. Jesus died in our place to cleanse us and to reconcile us to God. If men continue to wear the sign of the shame of their sin, they are disregarding Christ who died to take away that shame. Keeping a sign of the shame of our sin during worship shames Christ because it puts the emphasis on our sinful condition instead of our restored position in Christ. A man who wears a symbol of the shame of his sin shames Christ by holding onto a symbol of what was done away with in Christ when he should be bringing honor to Christ by reflecting the glory of his and head which is Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Our purpose is to reflect the glory of the Lord, not hold onto the shame that has been removed in Christ. Reflecting the glory of the Lord brings Jesus honor and “every man” is to bring honor to their “head”.
In the next post we will see how Paul contrasts the honor that is due to the man’s “head” with the woman’s position with her “head”.
Links to Shaming the head articles: