Modesty means a lot of different things to different people. Most people think of clothing when we talk about modesty and the culture in which you were raised will have a great influence on your definition of “modest clothing.” For example, a friend of mine was raised in Argentina. The cultural standard of modesty is MUCH different than even the mainstream US culture so her definition of “modest” was a lot different than mine. But, when I talk about modesty, I’m not talking about clothes, at least not just clothes. The Biblical standard for modesty starts with the heart.
“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God….Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. “
1 Peter 2:15-16, 3:1-4
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in viewof God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
“Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way…Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”
Romans 14:13 &19
These are just a few of the scripture passages which have influenced me in my commitment to purity and modesty. As a follower of Jesus Christ, someone who professes to have experienced a life changing salvation, I desire to follow God’s will in any and every way possible. As an imperfect human, I often fail in this endevor. However, one of the ways in which I try to live a life set apart for God is by closing guarding my body. I believe that my body is not my own, but a gift from God which I should use to bring him praise in whatever way possible. The Bible tells me my body is a temple to God. It also admonishes me to avoid putting a stumbling block in front of a brother (or sister). So, for me, modesty is all about why I do something and not so much what I do.
For example, when I am getting dressed and am tempted to where make up or jewelry, I stop and ask myself, why do I want to do this? Is it because I am self-conscious or embarrassed by the way I look? Or is it in an effort to impress someone? Or is it to honor God? If I am tempted to wear makeup to cover acne, that is vainity and basically I am saying that I don’t like the way God made my body, which is to imply that He somehow made a mistake (impossible!). If I am dressing to impress anyone other than my husband, I am motivated by pride and selfishness, both of which are sins. If I am dressing to impress my husband, great, but I do not feel that I am honoring God or my husband if I come before him dressed and painted to resemble someone or something that I am not. The intimacy shared by husband and wife is a wonderful thing; I should have no qualms about appearing before my husband in my natural and yes, naked, state. A husband and wife who love God first and then each other, who have a Biblical view of marriage and their spouse, will be affirming and uplifting, not degrading or hurtful. And so both partners should be comfortable revealing their naked bodies, without plucking, painting or primping.
So, when I am getting dressed, I try to always ask myself, “Does this honor God?” or “Will this be a tempation to someone?” In truth, these are the same questions that we should ask ourselves before every action or choice.
When it comes to dress, I don’t have any hard and fast rules that I follow, because that is to be legalistic. It is not about the rules, but where my heart is. I desire to honor God, and my husband and to avoid serving as a temptation to my brothers. God made me a woman and I believe that men and women should have distinctive clothing, as is indicated in the Old Testament, but I don’t think that it is necessarily wrong for women to wear pants, however, I choose to wear long, loose skirts almost exclusively as they are much less revealing than pants and instantly mark me as a woman. This is not true of tight or short skirts, so the issue is not pants vs skirts, but again, a matter of the heart and me desiring to dress in a way that announces to the world I am a woman without showing off the curves of my body.
My favorite tops have elbow length sleeves and a high, scoop-neck. As I am currently nursing, my solution to modest nursing on a budget is to wear a long cami with a built-in shelf bra under a regular shirt. I can then simply pull up my shirt and pull down the top of the cami to nurse without exposing my belly. When at home or just around family, I normally don’t bother with a nursing cover because my shirt can easily be pulled down to cover the tops of my breasts and the baby’s head hides everything else. I do use a nursing cover or a receiving blanket when in public, especially when getting the baby latched on as this is when I am most exposed.
As for hair, I Corinthians chapter 11 addresses this but there has been a lot of debate concerning the correct interpretation. Again, I try not to get caught up on rules and simply try to have a heart devoted to God, and dress in such a way as to reflect my inner committment. I do like to cover my hair, when I have long hair, as I feel this does set me apart from the general population and people will frequently ask me why I dress the way I do, which then give me an opportunity to “give the reason for the hope that I have” (1 Peter 3:15). I prefer long hair on women because I feel it is more feminine. However, I currently have very short hair because I cut all of mine off as a donation for Pantene Beautiful Lengths. I am growing it back out because that is what I like, not because I think women “should” have long hair. I do think that if you are prone to vainity and spending hours in front of the mirror, then perhaps you should not have long hair so as to avoid that temptation.
I do wear some jewelry on special occassions, and pretty much all that wear I received as a gift from my husband, so I know it pleases him to see me wear it. I do not wear makeup because I can’t get past the feeling that it is an act of hubris to assume that I know better than God what I should look like. I love my “lotions and potions” (as my mother says) and I try to take good care of my skin but I do not in any way alter my appearance with make up or hair-dye.
I hope that my thoughts on this topic will jump-start your own thought process and encourage you to examine why you do what you do. Respectful comments, either agreeing or disagreeing, are welcome.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
1 Cor. 6:19-20