Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting to the Heart of Modesty

At the Well…In Pursuit of Titus 2, an online gathering place for Christian women, with articles written by around 20 ladies plus guests. They’ve just started a new series of questions and answers, and one of the questions was about modesty. Those of you who’ve gotten to know me will be able to imagine how my eyes lit up when I read that one. I wanted to share the question and my answer here. (And I encourage you all to check out the full post to read the other ladies thought-provoking responses as well.)

Here’s the question:

I was wondering how you view the Bible’s take on modesty? I was raised very conservative and still dress alot differently than the world, but it seems like so many Christian women don’t think that’s important anymore. Alot of people I know say it’s just a difference of opinion or a personal standard, but that doesn’t make much sense to me really. And I also struggle with knowing that it makes it more difficult for my husband when women in the church are dressed indecently. It’s bad enough that there’s so much temptation out there anyway but it seems like the men should get a break from that when they’re around fellow Christians. And unfortunately it’s not just the younger ones either, but alot of the older women that dress badly…ones that could be setting a better example. I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts on different topics and would love to hear someone else’s thoughts on this subject, according to what you think is right by the Bible and what the Lord would be pleased with us doing. I want to be someone who not only sets an example by my actions in this area, but also someone whose able to give a reason for why it’s the right thing to do when questioned.

And here’s my take on it:

Modesty is one of those Jell-O concepts. You try to pick it up, and it squishes fiendishly out between your fingers. 1 Timothy 2:9 commands women to dress modestly, but what does that actually mean when we’re getting dressed in the morning? How many inches long do our skirts really have to be? Some people have a hunch that there’s a cultural element in there somewhere. After all, in the Victorian era it was scandalous to let your ankles show, which makes the average Amish woman scandalous by Victorian standards. And then there’s our “freedom in Christ.” Modesty rules so often smack of legalism that a lot of people would like to throw them out completely. But then there’s that pesky 1 Timothy 2:9 again, commanding us to dress modestly.

What to do? What to do?

I believe the answer is: Be loving.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. –Galatians 5:13-14

Women’s bodies were designed to excite and delight men. It’s pretty simple biology: woman shows her body off, man notices it’s getting a little warm in here. But here’s the thing we all need to remember: God made women that way to bless our marriages, not to give men a constant buffet of lust-provoking eye candy.

Now for the love part. If the way I’m dressing is causing a man to take his eyes and mind off of his wife and put them on me, then I’m not being loving. Actually, I’m being selfish. I’m putting my own desire to be stylish, or to get attention, or to show off my cute figure above my brother’s purity or my sister’s marriage.

And it’s true that exactly where the line is will vary by culture, but since I’m a part of my culture, I really don’t have an excuse. I know what’s sexy in my sphere, and if I’m going to be loving, I had better save it for my husband alone and not flaunt it on the streets, or in the pew, or at my neighbor’s open house.

So when I’m getting dressed in the morning, I need to check my modesty level with my mirror, not my tape measure. It’s not really important how many inches my skirt is. What matters is whether my total package is “shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Timothy 2:9) or “steamy little sex toy”. Guidelines may change, but our motivation should not. In our dress as well as in everything else, as Christian women, we should be ruled by love.


  1. Wonderful post! I came by way of Generation Cedar and am delighted. Was needing breakthrough in this topic as I believe exactly what you wrote, but couldn't find the 'right' words. Thank you!

  2. Wonderfully stated. Thank you.

  3. thank you! I came by way of Gen. Cedar too. I am a youth pastor's wife and look forward to sharing this with the girls! thank you.

  4. You put it wonderfully! Framing it in love, not legalism. Well said!

  5. Great post! I really appreciate the spirit of your words. I wrote about this several months ago on my own blog. God bless you!

  6. Thank you so much. I'm a missionary in a culture where the women dress in such a way that an American man would have a difficult time dealing with it. But the men of the country seem totally nonplussed. In my search to figure out God's answer to this dilemma, your article provided a refreshing answer.

  7. Excellent article - I was also directed here by gen cedar. Thank you for your thoughtful blog. I needed to hear this. Spending my days talking about these important concepts to two very worldly 12 year old pre-teens of mine. I appreciate having sensible words they can understand, not legalistic info that just goes in one ear and out the other. Much appreciated.