I have been preaching through Matthew’s gospel for several months now. This past Sunday I was in 5:27-30, that portion of the sermon on the mount where Jesus goes after the narrow, accepted standard of sexual morality. It was easy for me to apply the text to the men, knowing from experience the temptations that relentlessly come to us. But I needed some help in understanding the struggles women face in this area. My wife then stepped up and wrote an article for our church bulletin on one such temptation that women face–modesty. Below is her article for your education (men) and exhortation (women).
Summer is officially here! Our sweaters are put away and our shorts are out. In these hot Georgia summers, how do we as Christian women choose to adorn ourselves? Are we attempting to look like and fit in with the world or are we setting ourselves apart for godliness? Fashion magazines, clothing stores, television, peers, and our own desires to fit in or stand out all tell us and show us what we “need” to wear. In our culture it is becoming more and more difficult to find stylish yet modest clothing. You might ask, “Why is modesty really so important”? We all have heard teaching on modesty numerous times, but it becomes a bit more obvious every summer that we need to be more diligent in applying God’s word in this area. If modesty was an idea from man only, we could call it legalism. However, instruction for being modest and chaste is God-given, so we must pay attention. We will begin by going to the heart of modesty–our hearts!!
Modesty is the fruit of a well kept heart. In 1 Timothy 2:9 Paul states that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel” and the attitude in so doing is “with modesty and self-control”. Practically speaking, “respectable attire” would be that which is not extravagant, showy, revealing or sexually enticing. Paul’s appeal to Timothy was not a legalistic claim for women to dress in only a certain type of clothes. In the contrary, it was an appeal for those “women making a claim to godliness” (1 Tim. 2:10) to appear as such. The dress and appearance of women in the church is one way in which the church may distinguish itself from godlessness. Our hearts are the center of our being, our minds, our wills, and our desires. We have studied much in the past year about keeping our hearts with all diligence (Prov. 4:23) for “out of them spring the issues of life.” The way we choose to adorn ourselves says much about the attitude and allegiance of our hearts. Do our wardrobes communicate that we are God-fearers? Modesty as defined in the Webster’s dictionary is “freedom from vanity or conceit” and “propriety in dress, speech, or conduct”. We can say then that immodesty is the fruit of a prideful heart. Self-control is defined as “restraint over one’s impulses, emotions and desires.” Here we can apply this teaching of modesty by being self-controlled and deliberate with our attire. Even as I write this, I am praying and asking God to reveal any area of my heart or wardrobe that needs attention. We are all about this heart work together.
Modesty in our dress flows from a humble heart. Immodesty is an attempt to draw attention to myself instead of bringing glory to God. This can simply be called arrogance or pride, a matter of the heart we must consider. CJ Mahaney in his book Humility: True Greatness says, “The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.” What is my motivation, then, when I am out shopping for new clothes or at my closet door choosing what to where? Is it what will draw the most attention to me and my figure today? Is it what will turn the eyes of men? Or am I choosing modest yet attractive apparel to honor God? Our prideful hearts say our preferences are better than God’s way. Dethroning ourselves and our desires, and humbly submitting to God may require reassessing our wardrobes. Be it casual or formal wear or swimwear, and whether church friends are around or not, this is an opportunity to be intentionally counter-cultural in expressing the fear of the Lord. A wedding is an example of one such opportunity. Brides and young ladies who will one day be brides, guard your hearts in your pursuit for the perfect dress. Your wedding is a time to demonstrate the glory of God in the covenant of marriage. For the Christian bride, this is one of the holiest times of your lives as you make vows before God and the church. You are a display of the body of Christ being presented to the Groom. This day should not be one to wear the most revealing thing you’ve ever worn. You will be the center of attention. A modest, yet beautiful dress should accentuate the face and heart of a bride who loves her Lord and her husband. The same can be said for dress on Sunday mornings for worship as we gather to praise God, not one another.
Modesty is one manner in which we serve others in the body of Christ. God has created men and women very differently with tendencies towards different types of sin. As this morning’s message shows, Christian men must be constantly on their guard against the sin of lust. How women dress can effect men and cause them to sin. Even to those who are on guard and do not sin, it can be a great distraction. We, as Christian women, can show care for our brothers in Christ by dressing modestly. Church should be one place where they are protected from the sensual dress of women. In this sense, we see modesty as being a matter of responsibility not just preference. Al Mohler has this to say of men, “If it’s a male and he’s still breathing, he’s going to be struggling with visual stimulation that will lead him to sin. And you need to care for your brothers, to serve them by not allowing that to happen.”
Lastly, modesty assists in the furtherance of the gospel. As believers we are to be holy as Christ is holy. We must live in a way that is consistent with our faith. May there be no contradiction between our appearance before the world and the gospel message we proclaim. It is the glory of God at stake and the world is watching! As we live authentically, may we not tend towards self-righteousness. We must love the lost, no matter how they are dressed. Our ultimate goal is not to get them fully-dressed but to share the gospel that will save their souls.
The exhortation given to women through Paul to Timothy is to all Christian women, young and old. Even for our very young girls we have to search for modest clothing. To the older women, your instruction to younger women, daughters and granddaughters is most effective when you model modesty as well. Young women and girls, listen to the instruction of your fathers, mothers and older women in this area. Their wisdom can provide great protection.
God is the giver of all things beautiful!! The call to modesty is not a call to be unattractive or to wear only burlap sacks. We are to display the beauty and grace of womanhood that comes from a heart that finds ultimate pleasure in God. Let’s assist one another in the high calling of well-kept, humble hearts that seek to exalt Christ.
If you are interested in reading or hearing more on modesty, here are a few helpful resources: