This is a sensitive topic. There are few subjects that seem to get as strong
a negative reaction as this one. People resent being told how to dress, and
they resent being told how to dress their children. But regardless of how the
world goes, and regardless of the reaction of worldly brethren, modesty never
goes out of style for the child of God. Immodesty is always wrong, and modesty
is always right in the eyes of our maker.
Let us notice three passages that teach about modesty and warn about immodesty.
1 Timothy 2:9-10, “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; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
This passage contains three words which help us with this issue.
Modest. This word identifies that which is orderly, seemly, appropriate. It deals with more than just what is modest and what is not. It urges Christian women (and by extension men also) to refrain from shocking fads in dress and appearance. It condemns ostentation and dressing to attract attention. But let us not forget that dress which is orderly, seemly, and appropriate, would also have to be dress that is modest. We can attract attention by wearing outlandish clothing, but we can also attract attention by what we do not cover/conceal. The word modest demands that we do not wear that which is too short, too low, too thin or too tight. How much is ‘too’ much in these things? That which says ‘look at me’, ‘notice my body.’ It does not matter whether we are trying to draw attention to ourselves or not, if we wear that which draws attention, causes others to look and gaze, then we are immodest.
Shamefacedness. This word refers to shame which is rooted fast in one’s character (see Vines). The natural question is, of what are we supposed to be ashamed? At the end of Genesis chapter 2, Adam and his new bride were both naked, but not ashamed. In chapter 3, the woman and the man sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. Suddenly they were aware of their nakedness and were ashamed. They tried to cover and hide themselves (vs.7- 10). God did not say to them, “Don’t worry. I created you naked. Nakedness is natural. Covering yourselves would be unnatural.” God even made them coats (garments) of skins so they would be clothed. The word for “coats” is kethoneth. It is defined as a tunic, under garment, robe, a long shirt-like garment usually of linen, generally with sleeves, coming down to the knees.
This truth is evident: in a world with sin, nakedness is not appropriate. Where sin exists, men and women should be ashamed of displaying themselves. It is a sad state of affairs that we let boys and girls grow up with no sense of shame in this matter.
Sobriety. This word refers to sober-mindedness and self-control. In Titus 2:2 it is translated temperate, and in Titus 2:5 it is translated discreet.
With these words in mind, and given the over-sexualized nature of our society, these questions seem natural:
Does it represent temperance to wear clothing several inches above the knee?
Is it appropriate to wear low-cut clothing that attracts attention and invites the eyes?
Is it modest to wear clothing so thin your underwear can be seen through it?
Where is the sense of shame? Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” This passage speaks plainly to these matters. Immodest dress is uncleanness. It is lascivious which has to do with indecency, wantonness, suggestive. How can it be classed as anything else?
The power of this passage is also that it does not allow for ‘loopholes’ based on technicalities. Even if someone is able to convince themselves that tight, revealing clothing is not precisely found in the definition of words like uncleanness or lasciviousness (which is ridiculous), surely we must admit that such shamelessness is in the category of ‘such like’ as stated in verse 21. Paul didn’t have to specifically mention clothing that was revealing and immodest. The Holy Spirit saw to it that ‘such like’ was also condemned.
Matthew 5:28 says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
It is wrong to watch women (and men for that matter). It is wrong to cast our gaze and lust. Jesus said our eyes are the light of the body (Matt. 6:22). We must keep our hearts (mind) pure (Matt. 5:8).
Since lustful looks are wrong (sinful), then that which promotes those looks is also wrong (sinful). Many women have intentionally dressed to cause a man to stumble (fall, sin) through his eyes. How many women and girls who think of themselves as Christians have unintentionally set the same stumbling block before others? It may be done without intention and without thought, but it is not done without sin.
Consider these reasoning problems:
Some say that culture is the only factor in deciding what is modest. The account of Adam and Eve and their shame proves this is not so. Moreover, society does not teach us that the revealing modern clothing trends are pure and without sexual overtones. Just the opposite. Advertisers sell the clothing as sexual. They promote it for the purpose of grabbing attention. Short shorts/skirts, see-through and/or low-cut attire, are not ok because that is the fashion. Such worldly fashion is sinful. We are to be as different from the world as light is from darkness (Matt. 5:14-16). Certainly culture has something to do with how we dress. We want to become all things to all men to save some (1 Cor. 9:27) and we don’t want to cause any to stumble (1 Cor. 10:32). If we find ourselves in a culture that requires women to cover their ankles or their faces, Christians should comply with that, but fashions and fads and culture cannot make it ok for us to exchange that which is orderly, self- controlled and discreet, for that which is lustful, unclean, and lascivious.
Some dress modestly in most settings, but then lose all shame when it comes to certain situations. Warm weather does not make it ok to reveal or expose ourselves. Sporting activities do not make skin-tight, thigh-exposing volleyball shorts or any other sports wear suddenly become less lustful and lascivious. Fill in other activities or situations as you will: swimming, public workout places and spas where others can see when we expose ourselves. Situations do not make a wrong thing right.
Would you wear, or want your daughters (and sons) to wear revealing clothing when a sexual pervert is near? Would you feel comfortable in doing so? Would you claim it’s your own business what you wear? Logic and reason and decency dictate that you would ‘cover up’ and in ‘no way’ expose yourself to longing and craving eyes. You know this is true. Why then would you wear such in public for the whole world to see?
What a shame that the god of this world has blinded the minds of many in this matter.
What a shame that Christian minds and hearts have been influenced and at times even overrun by worldly trends.
What a shame when we are without shame and cannot blush (Jer. 6:15).
What a shame when parents teach their children it is more important to be fashionable with the world than to be acceptable to God.
By Rusty Stark
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