The “M” Word

(Please note that this article is written from a female perspective, but it may be good for guys as well as girls to read. I think in this day and age, modesty no longer applies just to females and that males have to be discerning in what they choose to wear too.)

A Hot Topic

Ever since I was about 14, and I got Facebook and Twitter and started reading blog posts, I noticed a trend in (usually Christian) articles for teenage girls: modesty. I am often interested in what these articles have to say. Some of them I have thought to be very good, biblically based articles, others I read and wasn’t particularly impressed with but wasn’t particularly unimpressed with either – they were simply average, and unfortunately, still others have made me almost cross with what they have to say. Until recently I have been avoiding writing my own opinion on the matter, but my dad and several of my friends have recently requested that I tackle this topic.

Someone I know, recently shared a quote on modesty that caused me to think very deeply:
(Please excuse my quoting without an author, I have been unable to find the source.)

“Modesty veils physical beauty in a world obsessed with it, in order to reveal the inner beauty that is often overlooked. It prevents lust, harmful comparisons, and insecurity and gives rise to confidence and a greater capacity to love yourself and others by recognizing your own worth without needing the affirmation of each person that sees you” (Unknown)

At first, it may look like there is nothing wrong with this quote, in fact, there may be some truth to it. I do believe that inner beauty is far more important than physical beauty, as Paul said, we must dress ourselves with “decency, good sense… and good works as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 paraphrased).

However, I had some slight issues with what was being shared here:

1. Stating that “modesty veils physical beauty”

I had a hard time with this statement because there is far more beauty to a woman than just what can be (traditionally) lusted over. We have so many physical attributes that are beautiful, such as: eyes, hair, facial expressions, etc., God created us and gave us these things, they are truly beautiful. I think we can show certain physically beautiful attributes of ourselves and still be modest.

2. Loving yourself 

I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but in all honesty, our worth comes from our Creator. We should not be spending so much time loving ourselves, rather we should be humbling ourselves before our Mighty God and loving Him and others as we are commanded to.

From what I see in Scripture, this quote is not what modesty is intended to be!

So What Is Modesty?

There is so much out there on modesty that it can all get a little bit confusing if you ask me. Some people try and tell us what modesty is in rule form: “If you wear a skirt that falls above your knees, you are being immodest”; others have told us it is an attitude: “Modesty is not about what you wear, it is how you conduct yourself in public” (which is true a certain extent, it is both), and some have gotten frustrated with the idea and thrown it out: “only legalistic people enforce modesty, we should all just stop worrying and wear whatever we like”.

I think the hardest thing about modesty is that it’s not cookie cutter. It is not a set of rules or commands. It is one of those Biblical principles that we have to figure out how it applies in the twenty-first century.

Modesty is pleasing to God. We know that because He has told us so in His Word. But it is hard to know what exactly that all entails. I am here to tell you that I can’t help much (sorry!). I can’t tell you if this skirt is modest and of that one isn’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

Here’s what I have come to realise. Modesty is about you and God. It isn’t about what guys tell you is modest, or what Christian books tell you is modest, or what I tell you is modest. I do believe that modesty varies depending on where you live and what you are doing and so discernment will come into that. But I think the biggest thing is this: if you get dressed every day thinking “who’s glory and benefit am I dressing for?” and the answer is “God” (not myself, my friends, the opposite gender, etc.), you are almost guaranteed to be dressing modestly.

It is important also to leave it between you and God. People are going to be convicted differently on what is modest and what is not, and most often it is not our place to inform someone that they what they are wearing is immodest.

But Why Should I Dress Modestly?

The older I get the more I discover how hard it is to dress modestly. Last summer, it was extremely popular to wear crop tops, I would see a top folded in the shops and think it was a nice colour or had a cute saying only to pick it up and realise it was designed to reveal my stomach. For me, revealing my stomach does not bring glory to God and so I had to put it back and keep digging. Sometimes we might land up wondering “is it worth it?”

The answer is yes.

Why?

In a world that is obsessed with showing as much as possible of themselves, it does make a difference when you dress in a modest way. God has told us that this is what He desires from us, and so part of being a light in the darkness is dressing slightly differently to everyone else.

It is also worth it because it is pleasing to God. Just putting it out there, but don’t you think that the One who made you knows what’s best for you? He has said this is best for you, I would trust Him.

A Note For The Guys

One thing I have become aware of is that sometimes the fact that girls dress immodestly is used to excuse the fact that guys struggle with lustful thoughts. This cannot be used as an excuse. Both genders are equally responsible. Women, we need to be dressing modestly in order to bring glory to God (and to help our brothers in Christ). Guys, you are responsible for every thought that goes through your head, when you control your thoughts this too brings glory to God.

A Closing Thought

There is so much more that I could say on this issue, but I have hopefully already given you a lot to consider. Just remember that you are loved by an awesome God, and you are His. Let Him be the One for whom you make your decisions in this matter.

“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” – Romans 14:8 (HCSB)

 

3 Comment

  1. Hi AJ, some great thoughts here. Your first quote is from The Chastity Project blog written by Kaylin Koslosky (http://chastityproject.com/2015/07/i-never-knew-a-bikini-could-hide-so-much/).
    I think you have touched on some important principles in what you wrote so let me add a couple of ideas to the mix: 1) In present-day Western Christianity we have a very individualistic idea of what it is to follow and glorify God. How would taking a ‘community’ view of this topic add to your thinking? 2) Many scholars think that it is unlikely in NT times that women would dress ‘immodestly’ (i.e. provocatively) given the general role and status of women in those times. However, it is likely that within faith communities there would be big differences between rich and poor (e.g. Corinth) and that Paul’s instruction was more about rich women dressing ‘modestly’ (i.e. plainly) so as not to shame or embarrass their sisters who could not afford fine materials and jewelry. ! Tim 2:9 pretty much supports this view. What do you think? Keep on blogging! Regards, Ken

    1. AJ says: Reply

      Hi Ken,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post, the link and for your comment.

      To answer your questions:
      On your first point, I have not much looked at modesty from anything other than an individualistic perspective. I am wary of it becoming legalistic and so this may have caused me to avoid looking at modesty as something through which we can bring glory to God as a community. I will have to look into that further, thank you for bringing this to my attention.
      On your second point, I definitely agree that modesty had much to do with the difference between poor and rich as you brought up. As I mentioned, 1 Timothy 2:9 speaks a lot about how we should focus on inner beauty, this is a very important aspect of modesty. From what I understand, clothing is a moral issue as we only began wearing clothes after the fall. I believe it falls under “avoid sexual immorality” as dressing immodestly is used to be sexually provocative. Again, I see this as a biblical principle that we have to figure out in the twenty first century. In NT times they may not have struggled with such things and so we have to draw our conclusions based on the character of the God we serve (as with dating, music and other current issues).

      I believe there is so much more I could have said on this topic but I tried to keep my post as minimalist as possible. Please let me know if my answer has been satisfactory. Please feel free to use the Contact Me page or to comment again if you would like to ask anything else.

      God bless,

      AJ
      (author of deniedself.com)

      1. Your ‘answer’ is fine – this is a conversation, not an exam! I wan’t suggesting an ‘either/or’ approach, rather a ‘both/and’ approach to the questions you raise and I the way women (and men) dress from a ‘sexy’ point of view is really important; I think you are focusing on the right principles there but I also think that Paul was always concerned about the church and how it worked for both insiders and outsiders. The expensive clothing/jewelry vs plain can be fast-forwarded to designer/fancy brand clothes, latest iPhones, the cars we drive, the guitars we rock and so forth. Do we care about how our brothers and sisters feels included or excluded by what we have or don’t have? It’s an extension of ‘modesty’ but we talk about someone with ‘modest’ means (he’s not rich) or has a ‘modest’ appetite (she’s not a guts). Blog away!

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