The topic of modesty has been raging across Christian culture this year. Christian influencers and authors are battling on the internet as they debate what is considered modest, whether men or women more responsible for sin surrounding modesty, and who even has the right to speak up about immodesty. When these debates echo throughout Christian culture, it is critical to turn to what the Word of God actually says on the topic.
This week’s post by guest author Halie Maser does a great job of turning our hearts and minds away from the echo chambers of social media and back towards God and His Word in a season where the topic of modesty has been twisted and redefined.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”1 Corinthians 10:31-33
When we hear the word modesty, what is the first thing that usually comes to our minds? Most of the time, it’s clothing. And while clothing does play a BIG part in modesty, is there more to being modest than our clothing choices?
Is modesty simply an outward expression/appearance or is it something deeper?
Does God really care whether we are modest or not?
Is it a sin to be immodest?
This is what I want to try to tackle. Modesty is much more than what we might think it is.
What Is Modesty?
The Oxford Dictionary defines modesty as:
- Not talking much about your own abilities or possessions
- Not very large, expensive, important, etc.
- Shy about showing much of the body; not intended to attract attention, especially in a sexual way
So, to be immodest is to be proud, haughty, and drawing attention to yourself, and is therefore to be in sin:
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate”.Proverbs 8:13
“There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood…”Proverbs 6:16-17
The modest woman, in contrast, is not proud.
When we are immodest, our hearts are indulging in the sins of pride and impurity- both of which are sins that dig deep into our hearts. David confessed to God in Psalm 51, after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, “against you and you alone have I sinned.” He exemplified that “God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), and it is before God that we must answer in any consideration of prideful and impure hearts. The discussion of modesty has often centered around inseam inches because that’s easy to control, manipulate and judge. But the Christian woman pursuing holiness and God’s glory will regularly root out pride and impurity from her heart before then purging her closet. We need to ask God to purify and create in us clean hearts (Psalm 51).
From looking at the definitions of modesty, there are at least three ways we can be modest or immodest: in the way we dress, speak, and our works. I would like to take the time to break them down in hopes that we can have a better understanding of modesty and how it relates to God and His glory.
Modesty In Our Clothing
“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”1 Timothy 2:9-10
I want to be cautious not to simply make a list of what to wear or what not to wear (remember, modesty begins in our hearts…not our closets!), but I do want to focus on a few things I think are important when considering modesty in how we dress. Christian women learn how to clothe themselves modestly by reading Scripture and focusing on our heart’s motives in the clothing we choose. In our intentions, it should be our heart’s desire to be thoughtful of our brothers and sisters, to not self-promote, and to bring glory to God with our clothing choices.
If we look at the promiscuous woman in Proverbs 7:10-23, we can see that she entices men to sin by being seductively dressed and sly of heart. While we might not actively be trying to seduce the men around us, we must be cautious of what we are wearing and how that might (intentionally or unintentionally) lead our brothers to sin with lust, or our sisters to sin with jealousy, bitterness, envy, etc. Notice in 1 Timothy, Paul wants women to adorn themselves, but he calls them to do so with proper clothing: modestly and discreetly. When it comes to our clothing, how we dress does matter to God. God desires for us to keep parts of our bodies confidential, so we need to be aware of what might be showing that should really be kept hidden. When we are not careful of what we are wearing or how we are wearing an item, we could be stealing something that only belongs to another woman’s husband or causing another man to steal what only belongs to your husband.
Another way a Christian woman can be immodest is by drawing attention to herself by wearing showy, expensive clothing. Am I saying that women who love God cannot wear nice clothing or can only go thrift shopping? No, but we should be cautious not to draw attention to ourselves or our wealth instead of giving attention to God and His goodness.
How can we as Christian women help our brothers and sisters, and honor God when choosing clothing? First, check our hearts and ask: Why am I wearing this? Is it to draw attention to myself? Second, consider if the clothing item might cause others to stumble: is it too tight, too low, too thin, or too revealing when you sit or bend over? What we wear speaks volumes. Both non-believers and believers will know what and who we stand for by our clothing choices. Will what we wear point to the worldly idea of self-promotion and self-love, or will it point to our love for others around us and the saving grace of our Heavenly Father?
Modesty In Our Speech
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Ephesians 4:29
Throughout Scripture, we see that words are VERY important to God. Words have the power to give life and the power to bring forth destruction. Matthew 12:36-37 mentions that we will give an account for every careless word we speak! By our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned…does that not already make you want to use your words more wisely?
Take a moment to think about how you have used your words in even the past week:
-Have you unnecessarily shared things about others?
-Have you been critical or quick to complain? When did you give encouragement this week? Did you give encouragement this week? I often find my moments of complaining to be more frequent than my moments spent encouraging someone.
-Have you gossiped this week? Do you often find yourselves engaging in gossip?
-Based on your words this week, do you think others would say you are someone who builds others up, or someone who tears others down?
Our speech should be modest and filled with humility. What does that mean? It means that our speech should be uplifting and encouraging to others, and should point to Christ and the cross. What it should not do is draw attention to ourselves by boasting, being critical, or just needing to have something to share. As Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, wrongdoing is unavoidable, but one who restrains his lips is wise”. We all (myself included!) need to learn how to hold our tongues and how to fight the sin of being verbally destructive. We need to consider what we say, how we say it, and whether or not it even needs to be said. We should refrain ourselves from talking simply to talk. God’s word is clear in how He desires us to use our words to bring Him glory. If we are not modest with our words, then we are not bringing glory to God. Of course, we are sinners and will continue to sin with our speech, but we need to seek and ask God to sanctify our hearts as out of the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Matthew 12:34). We also need to quickly repent when the Holy Spirit convicts of our careless words.
In measuring our words by God’s standards, we have to remember that His standard is not simply to say nice things and never hurt anyone. Let’s not confuse the peaceful fruit of kindness for softness towards the truth. Jesus often spoke hurtful words, because He spoke the truth. It is a kindness to our neighbors to, in love, speak the truth about the Gospel…which tells us we are sinners in need of a Savior.
Modesty In Our Actions
“But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?…… For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”James 2:18-20,26
In Scripture, we are told that we were created for good works and by our works our faith will be shown. Similar to our words, our actions must be done in humility, not seeking personal gain, but rather seeking the profit of others and Christ. One of my favorite things to do with my nine month old daughter is to sing and dance with her. One of our favorite songs is called, “In the Highways” sung by Anita Carter. A portion of the songs goes like this:
“If He calls me, I will answer,
If He calls me, I will answer,
If He calls me, I will answer,
I’ll be somewhere working for my Lord.”
I’ll be somewhere working,
I’ll be somewhere working,
I’ll be somewhere working for my Lord.”
These lyrics are a great reminder to me (and my daughter!) of Ephesians 2:10. We were created to be working for the Lord.
As Christian women, whether we are at work, raising our children, or just out and about, we should seek to always be working for the Lord and His kingdom at every moment. We must not be proud of our deeds, but should be doing good works in order to build others up in their faith and to bring glory to God. If we are immersed in doing good works for the Lord and keeping our focus on Christ, we will not waste our time on vanity.
How To Deal With Immodesty
It is clear that immodesty is an issue within all of society, but how are we supposed to address immodesty we see in a fellow sister in Christ?
Here are three things to consider that have helped me before addressing a sister:
1. Realize your own depravity and sin. We must kill our pride and not think highly of ourselves. In humility consider that you, too, are sinful and have fallen short of the glory of God.
2. Consider your motivation in speaking to her. Are you truly seeking to point her to glorify God, or is there selfish ambition in your motives?
3. Recognize that if she is truly a Christian, she has the Holy Spirit who will convict and help her fight sin in this area. Have you prayed for her? Have you asked God to convict her and help her fight her sin?
What if the sister is not trying to seduce, but simply does not realize that what she is wearing, how she is speaking, or how she is acting is immodest? Well, this is a hard situation, but I believe we must trust that God is working in her heart, we must be praying for her, and we must speak to her about her immodesty gently and with true compassion. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted”. Whenever we speak to a sister about sin we see in her life, we need to make sure we ourselves are in relationship with the Lord and confessing our own sin. We should never seek to attack or belittle a sister, but to restore her. And we should seek to be gentle- speak to her tenderly and address her in the way you would want to be addressed about your sin.
Since modesty is a matter of the heart and body, here are a few questions to ask yourself about modesty:
-Do I need to go through my wardrobe and throw away clothing items that might be inappropriate/immodest?
-Are there people I need to confess to and ask forgiveness from regarding immodest and careless speech?
-Are there people that have spoken or acted selfishly or careless towards me that I need to forgive?
-Who is someone that I could build up/encourage in the next week?
-Am I seeking to be modest by not drawing attention to myself with my clothing, speech, or actions?
-Am I growing in holiness/godliness daily by reading God’s Word, praying, and repenting of my sins?
We know what true modesty is and how to glorify God with our bodies, mind, and hearts if we are immersed in the Word of God. As Christians, it is important that we are in our Bibles daily because it is how we learn what is true.
As we consider how to live lives that are modest, we should remember that we are not in any way saved by our works. We cannot save ourselves, it is solely by the mercy and grace of God that we are saved. Yet it is helpful and good to be constantly be checking our heart’s motive when it comes to many things, especially with our clothing, speech, and works. We must seek to be humble and we can only do that with the strength of God and His Spirit! Praise God He has given us a helper to convict us of sin and to lead us in the path of righteousness!
May we seek to be women that are godly examples and teachers of modesty to our children, other sisters in Christ, and the world. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.