This is the second part in an eight-part series on “the armor of God” in Ephesians 6. It starts here.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth . . . (Eph. 6:14)
“Girding your waist,” or putting on “the belt of truth” in most translations, does not refer to cinching up your pants, but a loose full-body garment we would know as a robe or a long tunic. They are usually of one piece, with openings only for the head and arms. It is misleading, in looking at Paul’s meaning, to think of a toga; a “tunic” that is longer than your waist and requires a belt is the best way to think of the intended figure. This was the basic everyday wear of men and women in the Roman Empire two millennia ago, and is still widespread in the Middle East today. English-speakers in the Middle East call them by their local Arabic names (thawb, dishdasha, or jellabiya), because they are difficult to describe in English.
In the Persian Gulf where I live, people walk notoriously slow, partially because of the limitations of the outfit; belts are also never worn with them, and sandals are also the norm for men; many Arab women wear ankle-length cloaks with high heels. Needless to say, running in most contexts is considered very improper. The point of Paul’s metaphor, “the belt of truth,” is that it allows us to run.
Elijah and John’s Claim to Fame
In both the Old and New Testaments, we have reason to believe that a belt is a distinctive piece of clothing. In 2 Kings 1, King Ahaziah could identify Elijah by description with only two items: hairy plus belt.
7 And he said unto them, “What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?”
8 And they answered him, “He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.”
And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Given that this belt was the single conclusive item in Elijah’s wardrobe, it’s notable that his New Testament antitype, John the Baptist, wore one as well (Matt. 3:4). The belt was evidently not in vogue or everyday use in Elijah’s day, or John the Baptist’s day, or today in most of the Middle East.
The Belt Means Eternity-Consciousness
When I see someone late for an appointment here, they may run if they are dressed in Western clothes; but you cannot really run in a long tunic and sandals! The garment restricts your knees, like a dress. The best you can do is a shuffle, if you hold on to the lower part of your tunic. For this reason, both Paul and Peter talk about being “girded”:
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:13)
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, . . . (Eph. 6:14)
The key practical element of the belt is that it allows you to run. Strictly speaking, it’s not a piece of “armor.” It doesn’t directly involve defense or attack. It does allow you to be more agile. Paul describes this characteristics as derived from “truth.” In many places, it can mean “reality.”
Understanding reality keeps us from wasting our time. The “truth” prepares us by making us see that we all have an appointment with eternity and with a judgement day. This consciousness was the most notable thing about Elijah and John the Baptist and the belt that they wore symbolized this vigor and diligence.
Lord, make us eternity-conscious so that we can run with vigor the race set before us.