This post is part of a series to answer questions that I often receive from pastors, youth pastors, and youth workers when I speak at Christian camps. I am not able to go into all the detail that is perhaps needed at times but will primarily attempt to give an overview and a starting point. As in dealing with any issue that involves the lives of those around us, it is important that we research topics to increase our understanding and that we remember what I call “the time factor.” Helping people means a huge investment of our time. Applying truth and seeing genuine change take place requires time as well.
So here is the next question:
Is modesty important?
Few topics can get more negative feedback than the topic of modesty. So answering questions about modesty can get you into some hot water really fast. Still, the question deserves an answer.
Opinions certainly abound! Here are some I have heard more than once:
“People who preach on modesty all the time are just legalists and need to get over it.”
“Modesty is only a heart issue.”
“Can you believe she doesn’t wear pants? She probably thinks I am a heathen because I do.”
“I was raised in that strict stuff and am so thankful God helped me to get away from all that.”
“No one should ever tell anybody else what they can and cannot wear.”
“These girls today are just wicked in how they dress.”
And on and on I could go!
So, is modesty important?
Consider these thoughts from Paul.
1 Timothy 2:9 addresses women and talks about their apparel. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” Here are some lessons we can learn from this passage:
Modesty is connected to the gospel. In the context of 1 Timothy Paul is challenging us to pray for those who need to be saved. He reminds us to pray “for all men” because God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (verses 1-4). He reminds us that the gospel is the focus of his ministry in verse 7 and then challenges men to pray with holy hands, to lift them up, and to do it without wrath and doubting. Men (the word here is men as opposed to women) are not to allow anger in their lives to hinder the gospel but instead are to have boldness that God hears and answers prayer. It matters to the gospel whether a man prays publicly and in doing so demonstrates a life and a faith that points people to the God who desires to save the world. He then turns his attention to the women in the church and reminds them that their apparel should also be something that points others to the gospel and in no way hinders the gospel. When she is dressing appropriately, she will be covered in such away that she would cause no shame to herself or to the church or to the cause of the Gospel. She is even challenged here to dress in moderation and not to wear clothing that draws attention to her hair and jewelry and expensive clothing. The point of all of this is that all of us should be aware of advancing the gospel through a holy lifestyle, great faith, and modest clothing.
Modesty is connected to apparel. It is not the best to simply say that “modesty is a heart issue.” It certainly is part of it! However, a heart may be pure and a person still be wrong. For instance, a new Christian I know bought a dress so she could be like the ladies at her church that primarily “dressed-up” for church. Her heart was in the right place but she bought a very skimpy mini-skirt and wore it to church. Even though her heart was right (and without a doubt I believe it was), she was still wrong in her dress. One could argue that a man has a big heart, but still drinks heavily. He cusses like a sailor, but would give you the shirt off his back. He may have a generous heart, but is still wrong in his cussing and his heavy drinking. The point of the passage is about apparel. A lady should dress orderly (the word is modest); should dress in a way that would bring no shame to her or to the gospel (the word is shamefaced); and should think carefully about how she dresses (the word is sobriety).
Modesty is connected to good works. Paul writes that she should not focus on her hair, jewelry, or expensive clothing. She should instead focus on having a life of good works. combined with a submissive spirit. Her apparel and her good works should be a proper illustration of her Christianity as should her submissive spirit. She is, because of the sin-cursed world we live in, limited in the church in some ways. Her spirit about that, combined with the way she embraces modesty (verse 9), good works (verse 10); and motherhood (verse 15), not only is becoming to her but also is becoming to the gospel.
Is modesty important? Of course it is. So let’s keep teaching it. Let’s keep modeling it. Let’s keep embracing it. Let’s dress in favor of pleasing Christ and obeying His word rather than pleasing self and embracing a culture that is in no way obedient to God’s Word.
How would my wife and daughter apply these verses? First, they would want to be more covered than our culture would deem necessary. That means we look for clothing that is higher in the neckline; that covers in the mid-section; and that is long and full enough to never draw attention to the body in an inappropriate way. We would also want the clothing to be loose enough so that it isn’t form fitting nor sexy in any way. Sexy is reserved for the privacy of our marriage and is even appropriate there. We would also want to be appropriate at all times. We obviously would wear things around the house that we wouldn’t wear to church. We would also want to be beautiful and even stylish. We have always done as much as possible to not only honor God in the way we dress but also to enjoy the blessings that God has given us. We sometimes have to shop diligently to buy dresses that are long enough and sometimes even have to pay more to dress appropriately. However, it is money well spent if the result is that we honor God and promote the gospel as we do so.
So, promote the gospel and reach the world by embracing modesty! Teach it clearly and model it carefully and wisely.
Thanks for reading,
Your sincere friend,
P.S. So how do you apply these verses in your lives and homes? I would love to hear from you in the comments.