I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. – 1 Timothy 2:9-10
The question of proper dress for women has been of interest to many. Actually, God’s guidelines regarding clothing and dress are very general. God expects Christian women to dress in “modest apparel, with propriety and moderation (discretion, margin) “—that is, in clothes that are not flamboyant and garish. A Christian woman should not be an “exhibitionist” in attracting undue attention to herself by wearing clothing that is provocative, suggestive, or outrageous.
As part of His God-given instructions regarding worship and honoring God, Paul expresses God’s desire that Christian women dress modestly and discreetly (i.e., properly covering rather than sensually exposing the body).
- Modesty involves dressing in such a way as to not draw undue attention to the body. It means presenting oneself in a way that is respectful to God and reflects one’s purity and honor. This principle is relevant in all situations and circumstances, especially in worship and ministry settings that are meant to draw people’s attention to God, not to each other. This principle applies to both men and women.
- The source of modesty is a person’s heart, or inner character. Modesty is the outward expression of an inward purity. While in some cultures clothing may be used as an expression of one’s individuality, that should not be the primary concern of Christ’s followers. As followers of Christ, our actions must be Christ-centered rather than self-centered. Our primary aim should never be to draw attention to ourselves, particularly in physical or sensual ways.
- Dressing in a way that could stimulate morally and spiritually impure thoughts or desires in others is as wrong as the lust that it provokes. Also, men must guard their hearts and minds by not allowing their eyes to look upon a woman with lustful thoughts.
Elaborate hairstyles and Gold
This is not a ban on jewelry or other such accessories, but rather a caution to Christians in a society where such things were signs of extravagance, luxury and pride. The elaborate hairstyles simply means the braiding and fixing of weave with gold or other articles of luxury. Again, the principle is moderation and modesty that do not draw undue attention to yourself.
By the same token, this does not mean that Christian women should be drab, colourless, or tasteless dressers. A Christian is to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16), an example of balance and good taste. We should not be so out of step with the fashions of society that we stand out like the proverbial “sore thumb.” Clothes can be fashionable without being immodest or peculiar. Apparel should be appropriate for the occasion—decent swimsuits for the beach, jeans for yard work, and usually a dress or other nicer outfit for special occasions. A Christian woman should especially strive to look nice for her husband and family.
The “meek and quiet spirit” of a truly converted Christian woman will be reflected in the kind of clothing she selects (I Peter 3:1-4). She will wear what is appropriate and stylish for any given occasion, but with proper modesty and decorum. And God will look on the heart of such a woman with approval.
3 Things About Modesty
- MODESTY IS A WAY OF LIFE
When it comes to modesty, it’s easy to gravitate toward one of two extremes. On one end are those who say that modesty doesn’t matter at all. On the other end are those who try to codify modesty into a set of very precise directives (skirts must be at least one inch below the knee, tube tops are strictly forbidden, etc.). I would venture to say that those of us in the church tend to gravitate toward the precise directives end of the scale. In an effort to keep us from immodesty, we are tempted to be prescribed with all sorts of laws about what clothes we can wear and how we should and should not look like. We need to understand that modesty is, most importantly, a way of life. True modesty is a heart disposition before it is a particular wardrobe choice. A woman with a modest heart is first and foremost concerned about serving the Lord and serving others. She will certainly make particular wardrobe choices, but those choices will flow out of a heart attitude rather than a set of arbitrary rules.
The reality is, we could follow all rules for modesty and yet still behave in a way that is both sexually alluring and sexually immoral.
Modesty is, above all else, something that is internal rather than external. It is a way of living before God. Modesty is about God before it is about us.
- MODESTY IS ABOUT SERVING GOD
In the midst of all the confusion about what articles of clothing are too short, or too tight, or too revealing, it’s easy to forget that modesty is primarily about serving God. God created us and our bodies belong to Him, and we must use our bodies in ways which honour and please Him. We are to only present ourselves as sexually alluring to our husbands. Any other attempts to be sexually alluring are not honoring to God.
Beauty is a gift from God, and we should highlight that gift without flaunting it. Presenting ourselves to the world as beautiful, feminine, smart, and attractive, without being intentionally sexually alluring is what will eventually set us apart as Christ followers.
- MODESTY IS ABOUT SERVING OTHERS
Controversial as this may sound, the reality is that if a woman dresses in a way that reveals significant portions of her body, it will tempt most men to lust after her. With this reality in mind, modesty becomes a way of serving others. Modesty is a way of treating others as we desire to be treated. Modesty is a way of demonstrating Christ-like love, which puts the interests of others above our own interests. All of which matters very much to Jesus. As Christians, we live in community with each other, and our actions directly affect those around us. Causing someone else to be tempted is serious business to Jesus. In Matthew 18:6 he says: …but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Before anything else, modesty is about serving others. It is about sacrificing our own personal preferences for the sake of those around us.
Modesty is about using our bodies to bring maximum honor and glory to God. Will we get this right every time? Of course not! We desperately need God’s grace and wisdom to navigate this issue.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Modesty is more than a fashion statement, it is a daily decision to dress like the child of God you are…
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